I'm that mom. The one who’d rather leave her kid in a diaper all day rather than put non-matching clothes on him. The one who complains when relatives buy "the cutest little train sweater" because it's not hip enough for her posh baby. Yes, that’s me.

Honestly, I never thought I'd be like this. But I'm interested in fashion, for myself, so why wouldn't I want the same hot styles for the favorite little human in my life? It makes sense.

There is one teensy problem, though—I'm really broke and fashion is expensive.

So how do I fulfill my need to have the cutest dressed baby around AND not break my bank? Here are my four tips for fashionably dressing your kiddo on a tight budget.

1. Shop the "family days" at the Salvation Army or other donation centers.

In my area, the Salvation Army has 50% family days every Wednesday, as does a local donation store. You have to set aside some time to look through every item, but a few things make it faster:

  • Go in with a list and look for specific items.
  • Go every week so you know what was already there and what’s new.
  • Shop off-season.
  • Don't be disappointed with only getting one or two items. It's still worth it!

Avoid: Consignment sales for clothes. The items will be more expensive than items at a donation center because there’s usually a fee for consigners. Unless it's publicized that they go through inventory to check for stains and rips, assume anything goes. At the more expensive price-point, it's not worth searching through the bad clothes.

My Sully in his favorite Salvation Army find—I paid $2.00 for it:

2. Shop bulk clothes lots on Craigslist or at yard sales.

A lot of times you can find a mom who has a similar style (I'm always looking for OshKosh B’gosh) and then a lot of the clothes will already fit your cuteness requirements.

Make sure to think about these things:

  • Seasons need to match up with the age of your kiddo in a bulk lot (with infant all the way up to toddler years and beyond).
  • Look for items from smoke-free and pet-free homes, and also check out what the clothes have been stored in. Plastic tubs are what you want.
  • Don't be afraid to donate or resell what you don't like (or what doesn’t fit). My little guy grew out of many in his bulk lot clothes (purchased for only $40!) before he could wear them at all. Depending on the price of the lot, only keeping 5-10 things might get your money’s worth.

3. If you’re going to buy new—just buy solids and basics.

This comes right from the adult style handbook. When you own solid colors, they can be worn more often and in more combinations with accessories to really get a personalized look.

Some things to stock up on:

  • Always keep the most current size plain white onesies around. They go with everything and when it's cold out, they’re great to layer under a long sleeve shirt to keep it from riding up. They’re also great for photos because they can go with any theme and skin tone—who doesn't love a kid in a onesie just being cute on the grass?
  • Shop seasonal solid colors or simple prints. I stock up on navy blue, burnt orange, and maroon long sleeves for fall and winter—and then white, pastel, and fun neons for spring and summer.
  • Stick with versatile colors for pants and leggings. Navy, gray, and denim look great with everything. For girls, there's a little more color flexibility in leggings, but black, white, and gray are great go-tos for most outfits.

Avoid: Outfits with cheesy sayings like "Daddy's little helper" or "Mommy's happy camper." Some of these are hilarious, but only if someone is seeing it for the first time.

Here is one of Sully’s classic looks—his white onesie:

4. Accessorize outside-the-box!

So many cute accessories can actually be found in novelty shops, rather than at expensive kid boutiques. Originally meant to be funny, but paired with the right things, a pair of skull suspenders from Spencer's, or a little vest from a part of a Halloween costume can look adorable. For the most unique look, make it yourself!

Here are some ideas:

  • Remember the "cute irony" factor comes from adult-like looks in baby-size proportions—think belts, hair accessories, socks, grown-up prints, hats, and glasses.
  • A snap-on bowtie is much easier to make than you might think, and the good news is that you can keep changing out the onesie as your little man grows, without needing to remake the bowties! Find out how to make one here.
  • A no-sew tutu, like this one, is great for all sorts of events!
  • A headband can be made all sorts of ways, but one of the most common styles is with some crinkly flowers like with this one.
  • Skip the shoes! If your kiddo isn't walking yet, you don't need them. Cute socks or bare feet are more comfortable and still look cute! If you have a walker, find one (or one neutral) pair that are supportive and won't show wear easily. Odds are—they’re more likely to be off than on anyway.

Sully’s great hat find (originally part of a costume!):

Important Note: An accessory doesn't always have to serve a function to be worn by a kiddo, but it DOES always have to be safe! Think about what your child will be doing while wearing, and never choose fashion over safety!

Hopefully, with these tips you can embrace your inner stylist without wasting time and money on things you might only see on your little one one time. Fortunately, now every time can be trendy and fashionable.

This is a guest post by Emilie from Camp Hill, PA.

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