Friday, March 15, 2013

Tips for Saving Money on Children’s Clothes

As a mother of two, I understand how expensive it can be to buy clothes for kids, especially since I have a boy and a girl and I can't just dress my daughter in my son's old clothes.  Over the years, I have found many ways to save on clothes for my kids without having to shop at places like Walmart or Kid-to-Kid, although I do occasionally buy from these stores; they're just not usually my first choice.

Email Lists

This is the number one thing I tell all my family and friends: sign up for emails from all your favorite stores.  And this doesn't just apply to children's clothes.  I do this for all the stores I love to shop at for me and my husband as well.  When you sign up for a company's email list, you're automatically put on a customer loyalty list and every time you shop from them and reenter your email, it increases the amount of coupons and deals that they will notify you about because it shows them that you are good business.  You are someone who loves their product and wants to buy from them, so they will be inclined to give you the better deals.  I have never once paid full price for any of my kids clothes (or mine over the past 5+ plus years) and it's because of email lists.  Worried about giving out your email?  Companies don't sell your information (usually, especially with large corporations like Old Navy or Gymboree), so the only emails you'll be receiving will be from them and it's easy to just delete the ones that you don't want.  If you previously signed up from emails thinking you were interested, but then later decided you're not, in every email you receive, there is always an "Unsubscribe" option down at the bottom.  All you have to do is click on it and follow the directions.  Your email is usually removed from their list within 48 hours.  If you decide later on that you want to be on their email list again, sign up just as you did before.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to do this, so if you have kids, are expecting, or just want to save money on your own clothing, go sign up now.  A lot of companies will even send you a special discount (usually around 10-20%) just for signing up.

Reward Programs

Reward programs are another great way to save money, but I wouldn't solely rely on them because they do require you to spend money to earn points or rewards.  Usually reward programs work on a point to dollar scale.  For example, the Children's Place reward program earns you 5 points for every $1 you spend at their store, whether it's at their retail or outlet locations or online.  Their rewards are also good to use at either retail or outlet locations and if you spend $250, you're promoted to their Gold Status, which earns you an additional 1 extra point per dollar for a total of 6.  If you decide to apply for their credit card and are approved, you still get the 5 (or 6 for Gold Status) points per dollar, plus an extra 20 points per transaction as well as 5% off your total purchase.  Some companies offer rewards programs with their credit cards, but I'll address that in a minute.

Online Shopping

I am a huge fan of online shopping.  I can browse at my own pace and leisure and I get to do it without my kids in tow.  Actually, one of my favorite things to do while I'm nursing my daughter is to online window shop right from my smart phone, even if I'm not looking to purchase.  It's just fun to see what the new styles and trends are, since they change so frequently.  Often times, companies will have sales and promotions that are exclusive to their website and you don't even have to be signed up for their email list to enjoy these perks.  If they have any deals going on, they'll be advertised right at the top of the page.  Many companies offer free shipping if you spend over a certain amount and my philosophy on online shopping is to never pay shipping unless there is no way to avoid it, even if that means having to go to the actual store, kids in tow.  Of course, you have to weigh the pros and cons with this.  My advice to avoid shipping is to at least spend the minimum amount.  Never buy just one or even two small, inexpensive items from a company's website.  Even if you end up returning them, you never get the money you paid in shipping refunded.  There have been times when I've needed to shop for something online (especially when we lived in Hawaii, with no car, an hour and half from town) and my total would be around $13 dollars under the minimum purchase for free shipping.  Rather than spend the $7 on shipping, I will shop around for anything else that I, my husband, or my son or daughter might need that I forgot about.  I will spend that extra $13 and get my free shipping because if I receive the items and decide that we don't actually need that last one, I can return it and get my money back.

Search for Promo Codes

There have been many times when I've shopped online and didn't have any email coupons to use.  Before I complete the checkout process, I always search for promo codes.  RetailMeNot is a great tool that I have used time and time again.  Their coupons are uploaded by fellow consumers and a lot of the time, you can find coupons that were only handed out in store but are also good to use online.  They even have coupons for groceries, so if you're into that, it's a good place to look.  You can also join their email list and receive updates about coupons and deals right to your inbox.

Outlet Stores

This might seem like a no-brainer, but many times people forget that they even exist.  Outlet stores are a great place to save money, especially when you have no coupons, because everything is sold at a percentage rate less than their retail store counterparts.  In addition to that, you get a wider selection of products because outlet stores carry different items than the retail stores do and I love being able to find things that are a little more unique so my kids aren't dressed exactly the same as their friends and neighbors.  Most companies don't offer their outlet products online, but J.Crew is an exception.  And when you sign up for email lists, that usually includes coupons and deal alerts for their outlet stores as well.  You can always check the fine print to see if the coupons are accepted at the outlets; it will usually say in the first paragraph, within the first sentence or two.

Clearance Racks

Clearance racks can be a huge money saver and are usually worth the headache they are to search through them.  Most companies will offer a percentage off their clearance racks as well, just double check to see if it's "price as marked" or an extra amount taken off at the register.  They can be kind of tricky like that, but either way, it's better than paying full price.  Another tip is to buy a season ahead, but I'm not the best at doing that because I worry I won't get the size right.  You can never be too sure on how fast or slow your kids are going to grow into something and I would hate to buy a sweater for my son, only to have him grow into (and out of) it during the summer.  My mom was always really good about this, so maybe it's just a thing you have to have the knack for.

Credit Cards

My first and possibly most important advice about credit cards it to use them sparingly.  It's not worth it to get into debt over clothes or anything really (except maybe a house, car, school - but that's not the issue here).  There have been two times in my time as a mom that I have applied for a credit card.  Both times I saved a huge amount of money and one of them I ended up closing as soon as I paid it off.  I'll share my experience at Kohls.  My husband and I were shopping for some winter clothes for our son and we had a gift card for $30.  When we got to the register, we had about $75 worth of stuff.  I was ready with my gift card and coupon (I don't remember how much it was for) and the cashier told us we could save 30% off our purchase just for applying for the card.  So we did and we were approved.  After the 30%, my coupon and our gift card, our total ended up being about $12 and change.  Best experience ever and we were able to pay off the card as soon as it came and then promptly close the account.  Since we hardly ever shop at Kohls, it wasn't worth it for us to keep the account open.  My second piece of advice is to never use your credit card unless you have the money in your checking account that day to pay off what you spend right away.  Another bonus to credit cards is the rewards program that often companies offer only with their cards.  For example, Gap offers 5 points for every $1 you spend at any of their stores (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, and Athleta) as well as 1 point for every $1 you spend everywhere else.  They'll do special discounts for just their cardholders, like 30 or even 40% off, and they'll occasionally do deals with their points system.  This year they're doing from January 1st to March 31st, 3x rewards on all purchases made outside their stores.  It's a great way to earn rewards on everyday purchases like gas or groceries, and yes I am speaking from experience.  I love my Gap card but use it very rarely and only when I can pay it off right away.  For more information on their rewards program, go here.

I hope this helps all you shoppers out there.  Remember, savvy shopping takes time, patience, and it gets better and easier with experience, just ask all those women who the grocery coupons.  But it's worth it to save money and to never have to pay full price for anything, ever.

*all views expressed in this post are my own; I was not paid by any companies mentioned for my opinions*