I love clothes. I love shopping, and I love dressing my little girls. If there's a holiday or an event, you’d better believe we will all be coordinating, and our outfits will be planned way ahead of time! The only thing I love more than clothes is…saving money! We are a family on a budget…a major budget. So how do we wear brand-name, new clothes when our clothes budget is $40 a month? (That's not $40 each—that's $40 for all four of us.) Here's how I do it!

1. Fashion frequency

I love getting a great deal, and I'm not really a shy person. I get to know people where I shop and because our Gap is small; product turns over at an incredibly fast rate. I go frequently, as in twice a week, to scope out the current prices. The sales people know me, and know what sizes I’m looking for; they often help me find the lowest-priced items in the store!

I write down every style I like for my girls, my husband and myself, and we try them on before they go on sale. I watch the clearance prices and only buy when prices are marked "FINAL SALE". By trying on and knowing which items we want, it works great, because final sale items are non-returnable. I also wait for the twice yearly times when Gap marks down their clearance and then offers an additional 50% off. In-store ends up being much cheaper than online, since you don't pay shipping, and stores are more likely to be clearing out inventory (This shirt is the one I mention below, and it's $19.99 online). After Christmas and towards the first of the year, some stores do an extra 60-75% off as well! Here's how that broke down for me recently:

Purchased:

  • Infant fleece suit. Marked at final sale for $13.97. Received 60% off marked = $5.58
  • Toddler cardigan. Marked at final sale for $6.97. Received 60% off marked = $2.78
  • Men's button down. Marked at final sale for $12.97. Received 60% off marked = $5.18

Total: $13.54 with an extra 10% off using my Gap Card (Gap is the only store we have a store credit card with; we are a cash-only family but pay it off the day we use it to get the extra 10% off on Tuesdays).

Amount paid: $12.19

2. Every dollar in equals a dollar out…or more!

Gymboree is one of my all-time favorites for my girls! They are very expensive at full retail price. I buy a year or even two years ahead if I find good deals. Recently, in store, I scored these pumpkin cardigans for $5.99! As you can see, they are $9.99, so I saved almost 50% by going in store. Obviously, prices vary from region to region.

I hear people say that going to thrift stores saves tons of money…and it does. I shop Goodwill from time to time, but our Goodwill charges $3.99 for a cardigan for my toddler and I won't get a name brand that will hold up in the wash. Best of all, Gymboree has incredible retail value. I’m part of a Facebook page where you can buy and sell used children's clothes, and I often make back every dollar I spend on my family by reselling the clothes my girls outgrow! The pumpkin cardigans above will resell for around $5 each! That money goes straight back into the clothing fund.

Here are some examples of Facebook resale sites. (Beware of sites that ask you to wire money or anything of that nature, since they are rampant with scammers!)

  • This group specializes in brand-name-only, used clothes. This is where I get the most bang for my buck. I post a photo of my item with a description, price and my location (don't ever list your address or phone number). Obviously, this group is local to me, so search Facebook for your area and find one near you (groups don’t ship)!
  • This is another great example of a group that is just for moms. I find these types of groups tend to be safer, less stressful and more productive. Try search terms "Mom to mom" or "mom's resell groups" to track one down.

3. Wearing new, wearing quick

As I mentioned above, we resell everything that is outgrown, or the wrong season. Since we have a small house and tiny closets, we can't afford a ton of excess. Plus, selling items when they’re still in style means I’ll get a higher value of the item than I would selling it a year or two later. I bought a skirt at JCrew (shop their factory site for the cheapest items: they also resell at extremely high values) for $16.99 with free shipping. To be honest, $16.99 is a great deal for JCrew, but steep for us since that's almost half my budget for the month! I wore the skirt to a nice event, and then turned around and resold it for $15, bringing my out-of-pocket back down to $1.99! I keep many of the items I buy, but when I know they are fancier or less practical for my everyday use, reselling is a great option.

4. Real life

Often people think this sounds great but still don't understand how this works practically. Here's how our budget broke down in real life this past month.

Purchased:

  • Two holiday dresses at Gymboree for a total of $11.98
  • One men's dress shirt at Gap on final sale—plus 50% off for a total of $6.49
  • One women's dress at Old Navy for $9.08 on an online sale with free ship
  • Two Gymboree everyday dresses for $11.98 on sale

Amount paid: $39.53 (Barely made it under $40!)

Re-sold:

  • One Gymboree cardigan that was too small for my youngest: $5
  • One Gap skinny pant $5

Additional clothing income for next month: $10.00

As you can see, it’s possible to wear new, name-brand items when you're on a steep budget. Prices like this do exist when you're willing to look for them, and by being careful and patient, you can save your family tons of money and keep them looking sharp!

This is a guest post from Grace A. from Medford, Oregon

How a Family of 4 Lives on a Clothing Budget of $40 a Month