When you have your first child, it’s common for the family income to shrink, as one parent becomes the stay at home carer. The reality of less money means most parents search for creative ways to save, including buying baby clothes on a budget. I should tell you from the outset, that I’m a bit ‘tight’ when it comes to money. So…you may be surprised to read about what I discovered living on a limited budget as a first time mum.
When I was a first time mum, I fell in love with all the gorgeous baby clothing that was available, but being on a tight budget was frustrating. To satisfy my love and need for baby clothing, I opted for buying cheap baby clothes. After all, I could find plenty of clothes in a range of colours and styles, and they didn’t cost a lot.
I always chose the cheaper item over the more expensive one, because I was concerned not to spend too much. Also baby clothing gets stained and dirty, so why waste precious money paying more.
Like many new mums, I looked for ways to create more order in my home, find more quality time and have less stress, when I felt things were getting too hectic. I began to have doubts about how I was shopping, because I felt it was taking up too much time and my budget buying wasn’t saving me money. It was time to take stock and look at what I was doing more closely. So I did a bit of an audit and this is what I found.
I spent a lot of time shopping. Every time I was out, I was always looking for new items of clothing as a replacement for something that had worn out, or I was hoping to find a better version of what I already had. There were also so many other things I wanted to be doing instead of shopping. I had enough things to worry about when I was a first time mum. I didn’t want the hassle of additional shopping trips cluttering up my day.
I never had a shortage of baby clothes when I shopped for cheap baby clothes. Instead, I had a ton of budget baby clothing, that I was continually washing, folding and sorting, but nothing that I really liked or stayed looking good. I found myself continually looking at a baby tee or bodysuit that I’d only bought a month ago and asking myself whether it would last another wash, or whether I should just chuck it out. The reality of cheap clothes, I discovered, is that they simply don’t last.
I was always on the lookout for newer, better quality clothing. This meant there was always a reason to drive to the shops to spend more money. I was continually buying, washing, discarding, and buying again. As someone that cares about the environment, continually discarding clothing also really started to bother me.
When I calculated how much I was spending, I was disappointed to find it was more than I expected. I was buying cheap baby clothes so I’d stopped paying much attention to the cost. It seemed crazy to be spending money on clothing I didn’t really value.
As soon as I realised that I wasn’t saving money, my budget conscious mentality kicked in and I was ready to take a different approach to buying baby clothes on a budget.
If buying the cheapest baby clothes I could find didn’t work, then maybe it was worth testing to see whether buying better quality clothing would help my dollar go further.Eureka!
So that is what I did. And it worked! I halved the amount of time I spent shopping. But not only that!
I had a eureka moment when I realised that as soon as I spent more I started paying more attention to what I was buying. I was much more selective. I bought essentials that I thought would get good wear and were practical and I bought fewer items. I also made sure I shopped at all the sales to get further reductions.
My new approach to shopping was a winner all round. As a manufacturer of clothing, I naturally gravitated to better quality fabrics and finishes anyway, and I now spent a lot less time shopping. In fact, most of my shopping now happened online.
There are so many challenges when you’re a new parent. Any little change that can make things easier was really important to me when I was sleep deprived and time-poor. This really was one of those habit changes that made a difference. It made me feel more in control of my time and my budget. And that was a big deal back then.
Here are a couple of my tips to get you started if the budget buying just isn’t working and you want to try the approach I took. Buying quality baby clothes on a budget is still possible, if you stick to a few guidelines.
Know what you need. Before you shop, know exactly what you are looking for.
Be disciplined. Don’t browse aimlessly. If you’re not sure of what you see, take some time and go back tomorrow. Never impulse buy.
Understand quality. In order to buy quality, you need to know what to look for. There are a few things to look for in clothing:
Know your fabric – is it cotton, wool, poly/cotton, viscose or nylon? Learn about how different fabrics wear. Quality natural fabrics are usually durable and wear well. Polyester and viscose fabrics tend to look pretty bad after only a few washes .
Fabric weight – this is the thickness of weave (GSM) and you can feel it. How well insulating is it? How does it hang?
Seam & stitch quality – check for the quality of seams. Look for puckering and pulling.
Detailing – this includes the quality of button holes, zips and embellishments. Remember the more embellishment and detail on a garment, the more expensive the item is likely to be.
For more tips on shopping for quality, see our blog on how to spot poor quality clothing.
I love hearing about the creative ways that mums budget. Whether it’s a great strategy you know about or your own DIY tips, let me know in the comments below.