Baby’s first year can cost you thousands of dollars, and where you can really do some damage is on cute, adorable, irresistible baby clothes. So, this post isn’t for everyone, because it takes a lot of patience and self-control not to go shopping for baby shoes and socks and barrettes and dresses on a whim. It was so hard to resist taking baby girl shopping just for the memory of the experience that I decided to use my savings to start a college fund for baby girl, because the only thing that kept me motivated enough not to spend money on little mod sundresses was the knowledge that I will be able to help my little girl go to college by controlling my impulse spending now. So….
How did I spend negative 57 cents on my baby girl’s first year wardrobe (through 18 months, actually)?
Freecycle was a big part of it. If you have read my previous posts, you know that Freecycle is a collection of local email groups that allow members to post messages whenever they have something to offer for free that would otherwise be thrown away, or whenever they are looking for an item they don’t want to buy new. Freecycle is a brilliant way to get baby clothes, if you don’t mind hand-me-downs, because it’s all free, and there is nothing wrong with cherrypicking a lot of clothes you accept and then re-Freecycling what you don’t want. I felt guilty about doing this at first, but the truth is that most Freecyclers REQUIRE you to accept the whole lot of whatever they are giving away and to re-Freecycle what you don’t want, and they will include this instruction in their post. And I quickly discovered that there was always someone who wanted the leftovers, so nothing ever went to waste. It’s also win-win: Freecycle is a great way to get rid of all your kid’s old clothes at one time without having to put in a lot of effort: you just put the clothes in garbage bags and leave them on the porch for whoever you decided to give them to, and they disappear (ideally) within a day or two. Perfect for busy moms!
"... received several Baby Soy shirt and pants outfits as gifts... "
At first I thought Freecycle could be a huge waste of time, but then I realized you could set distance limits when you posted a want ad on Freecycle, so no one would respond if they were too far away. I simply posted “WANTED: Baby girls clothes 3-6 months, My City +10 miles,” and anyone within that radius would respond who had something to give away. Please be careful to follow basic safety precautions when you use Freecycle, just like you would with Craigslist, so someone knows where you are going when you pick up a load of Freecycle items. You can also arrange to meet people in public places if they are open to the suggestion. This was important to me when I was pregnant, especially.
Freecycle is a strategy best pursued when you still have time to build up a stash of baby clothes slowly. Sometimes you only find a dozen usable items in a bag of stuff, but once I went several miles out of my way to pick up 4 whole bags of baby girl and toddler clothes, only to discover that my willingness to drive to the boonies for that one paid off bigtime. The WHOLE LOT was designer clothes, and included a nice jacket and fleece in every size from 2T through 8! That alone saved me a bundle, but there were also Ralph Lauren corduroys, Baby Gap khakis, pretty sundresses and designer t-shirts. That was a good Freecycle day, and may you have similar luck. :)
If this sounds like hoarding to you, please know that this technique has netted me so many extra clothes that I have been able to give away nearly 15 grocery bags of clothes to friends who needed them and didn’t have time for Freecycle. It feels good to know that I saved one friend so much time and money while I was doing the same for myself. With Freecycle, there’s enough bounty to share and then some!
Another big haul came when I watched a large lot of baby girls’ clothes on Craigslist sit and sit. They were affordably priced, but I was looking for a deal so good that I could recoup all my costs on whatever I resold from the lot. Then, the price was suddenly cut in half because the sellers were moving to Europe the next week. Time to move in! I claimed the lot and picked it up the next day. I only used about half of it, but at the price I paid it came out to about 25-50 cents per item (it doesn’t get better than that!), and then I resold a few hardly worn items I didn’t want, such as jeans with leopard print trim (um…) and a few gaudy shirts to a consignment shop. I packaged the leftovers into a lot and resold them on Craigslist for half what I paid for them, to make them an irresistible deal for someone looking for play clothes. Sure enough, someone happily took those off my hands, and I came out even on the deal. Half a wardrobe for free. The real price was the time I spent going to pick up the clothes, taking them to a consignment shop, and then taking pictures of the leftovers to sell them on Craigslist. It was a little bit of an effort, but at that point it had turned into a game for me.
What if you don’t want used clothes for your princess? Well, then you may not do quite as well as I did, but you can still save an impressive amount, by shopping sales. Amazon and JCPenney have regular clearance sales with basic items such as onesies and pants costing just a few dollars–the same price you’d pay for used items at a consignment shop. Just make sure you find a way to get free shipping or prices so low that shipping is a negligible add-on. Also, remember what I told you last week about combining sales? When you find a good sale at a department store or major baby chain, you can look online for promo codes to combine with the sale, AND you might even be able to buy a discounted gift card in the amount you want to spend so your dollars stretch even further. If you found a great after-Christmas sale on baby clothes at Macy’s, you could quick check for a promo code to sweeten the deal and then head to a gift card rescue site to buy a gift card in the denomination you want to spend: so you purchase a $50 gift card for $40, and you get $80 worth of stuff because it’s all on sale and your promo code gives you an extra %15 off. Just be aware that gift card rescue sites sometimes take a while to send you your card, so you might want to skip this step if the sale ends soon….
By Laura K. Cowan, founder of 29Diapers.com, author of EcoFrugal Baby: How To Save 70% Off Baby’s First Year
To read more tips like these, visit Laura Cowan’s blog 29Diapers.com or purchase a copy of her book that teaches new parents how to save 70%, or $7,000, off the average cost of baby’s first year while going green.