need to learn how to shop best for the whole family
September 16, 2012 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Ask advice from Moms (could be dads) who do clothes shopping for the whole family (kids, yourself, spouse). If you don't have a lot of time to shop and you want to try to find good deals, how do you do it?

Do you go to outlet stores a few times a year to stock up for everybody? Do you shop online, do you use coupons from email or txt subscriptions? I am new to this task. I have recently visited a outlet store that's one hour drive away, I bought really nice things, but I found that to take the kids to go shopping is boring for them and tiring for me. Shopping at outlets also takes so much time. Maybe I should try to order online instead. But if it doesn't fit, then return would be a hassle, right? You expert shoppers, can you share some tips for me to get started? The other thing is to keep track and budget your spending on clothes/shoes. Do you do it? how? Thanks
posted by akomom to Shopping (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The Visa I use is from Old Navy because it gives me ridiculous discounts on jeans & other things my boys wear. Much better than airline miles I'd never use. Department stores like JCPenney have pretty steep markdowns. And of course Goodwill/thrift stores. I have not found outlets to be good bargains at all.

I buy my boys' shoes online, now that they've settled into their favorite brands/styles & their feet have stopped growing. My feet are wonky so I don't buy mine online. I wouldn't shop online randomly, only once you know sizes/styles.

Budgeting, not so much. It's part of the larger budget. My boys go through shoes like water though, the shoe budget is the biggest part of clothes for us. Santa brings socks & underwear every Christmas :) but I buy it year-round when it's on sale.
posted by headnsouth at 6:46 PM on September 16, 2012

Well I don't have a whole family to shop for but I tend to so my shopping in bulk anyway because I'm not a huge fan of shopping. Two of the main things I do for staples:

Wait until Old Navy have at 30% off coupon and then go online and get a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff (buying things in multiple sizes). Free shipping to my house, I try everything on. The stuff that doesn't fit or a I don't like I return in store (they have a restocking fee for mailed in returns).

Or I hit Target and basically do the same thing, especially if the clearance racks were just filled. I buy a bunch of stuff and take it home then return the stuff I don't want/doesn't fit.

That covers about 90% of what I wear.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:47 PM on September 16, 2012

Yeah, Target for most stuff and The Children's Place for the rest. They have $5 shipping and crazy good sales often. If you can get away on a lunch break, that's a good time to go. I end up dragging the kids with me to buy their clothes but it's just about impossible for me to get my own stuff with them in tow.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:50 PM on September 16, 2012

I watch for sales at our favorite stores and stock up when there are good deals (almost exclusively online). My kid prefers Gymboree underwear. During big sales, I buy for 2 sizes ahead.

At the end of spring/summer, I buy shorts for next year. If it is an awesome deal, I'll buy 2 years ahead. It took a long time of watching to figure out what a good deal is.

This doesn't work well with shoes and coats if they're growing a lot, but if I see a good deal, I'll buy ahead and sell on local listserv if it didn't work out.

NewDayNewDeal on Facebook is good for watching for sales.
posted by k8t at 8:08 PM on September 16, 2012

I think you have to spend a little bit of time figuring out which stores work best for your style, budget, body type. For example, I'm short, but not terribly thin and trying to buy clothes at cheaper stores is an exercise in futility for me. I've figured out what stores work best for me, know their prices and then keep an eye on their sales through email, etc. For my son (who's only 18 months, so not as picky), I shop at Kohls, where you can get great deals - i.e. this morning with a couple coupons I got 7 items of summer clothing that will hopefully work for the rest of the season here (it'll be summery for another month or so) and next summer for $9, I can't do that well at goodwill or the consignment stores. If I had a Kohl's charge card it would have been even cheaper.

I find outlet stores to be really hit or miss, the merchandise is not always the same as the regular store, and the sales are often not that great, if you know what the price might be at a dept store, etc. Plus they are so far away usually that you can't return anything. Online, I only shop for clothes where shipping and returns are free/next to free, or I can return to a store for free - in additon to the stores mentioned above: Nordstrom, Zappos, Endless, Gap (some items) , Amazon (sometimes), Land's End (returned to Sears)
posted by snowymorninblues at 8:27 PM on September 16, 2012

For my teenage daughter's clothes, I love Plato's closet. Instead of searching all over the mall for the one pair of the right kind of shorts I end up finding, she can just go to the shorts section and try on everything in the right size that looks like it goes to her knee. She likes thrift stores, too. For my son, I go to thrift stores for the same reason. All the boys jeans are together on one rack and I can just look for all the 12 regulars with the elastic that buttons in the waist. I can usually find him 4 pairs of shorts or jeans at once for $4 or $5 each and they'll all be kind of different. At a normal store, there tends to be one or two styles that work and if you want to do the shopping in one day, they're going to have to settle for 4 identical pairs of pants. I can get my husband thrift store clothes too since men's clothing sizes are standard enough. For my four year old, that size clothing is usually pretty destroyed/faded in the thrift stores I go to, so I usually end up at target or old navy. I just mostly buy t-shirts and make myself skirts, so I have no tips for buying women's clothes. Also, my kids and husband are rather geeky, so checking woot or tee fury gets them piles of tee shirts that they love. The problem with that is when they all want the same one and I have to read the tags to figure out whose Dr Who tee shirt is whose.
posted by artychoke at 8:36 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

For my kids, who are still growing pretty fast, I buy cheap and cheerful stuff from Target or Old Navy. Their sizes are relatively predictable, so I don't need them to try anything on.

I buy lots of it online, using coupon codes the stores email to me, or I google for codes ( is pretty reliable). If I shop in person I can just grab stuff straight off the rack since I know what size will fit. I can shop the sale racks without them there too. I buy their shoes online, at - free shipping both ways so I order best guess size, and just send it back and re-order if the size is wrong. I work full time so online shopping is the best for me, I can do it at 11pm when everyone is asleep.

My partner is more stylish than me, and buys his own clothes. I hate shopping, but buy my own clothes in spending sprees when I spend an afternoon shopping without the kids, and buy a whole bunch at the same time, allowing me to try stuff on.
posted by Joh at 11:13 PM on September 16, 2012

I measure the kids every 6-8 months (height, weight, waist, inseam, feet (bare and sock-footed)... everything), then buy online from LL Bean and Land's End, whose sizing charts are fairly detailed. I buy at key times of the year, like mid-August/early September for fall, winter, and "dress" things, and then a small supplement around June for swimsuits or crocs if needed. I buy multiple sizes of the same items if I have doubts. Kids try on everything at home and it's sooo much easier than in-store. I and send back whatever doesn't fit. I find the returns process for those places very easy. I keep all the original plastic and boxes and just put them back in as the kids try stuff on. Then I print out a label online from the returns area of the site. USPS will pick up from home, or I drop it at a UPS satellite shop.

For shoes I use Zappos because it's fast, returns are simple, and they've got such a wide selection. I choose 3-4 options for each kids and then let them choose two to try on at home. Once at home they get to keep one and the other gets returned (unless fit or quality is a huge problem and they're both returned for another round). I can get two rounds of shoe fittings done in one week if I have to.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:19 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Before the children reach an age to care I go to Ebay and type in "age/size of child, gender of child, lot" I end up getting clothes from people who are literally clearing out closets of clothes for cheap. The shipping is the largest part of the cost but seriously, I get clothes for less than two dollars a piece. The pricing using this method is less than any thrift store I have gone through. The only things that I buy new for the children are underwear and shoes (my children are brutal on shoes).

Uniforms for children can be gotten in a combination of landsend sales with Walmart.

If I am at the mall and gymboree or Children's place are having a 40% sale than complete ensembles for special occasions can be had in a reasonable range.
posted by jadepearl at 5:02 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a good general rule to keep in mind (for shopping for clothes and many other projects): the three factors are speed, quality, and price. You can generally have any two of those three things.

So, for example, if you want good things at a low price, be prepared to invest a lot of time (searching the circulars for sales, watching stores for end-of-season mark-downs, being willing to repackage online purchases for returns, etc.). If you want to spend less time and still save money, then there are stores that sell lots of inexpensive things, where you can load up, but maybe not have the strongest materials or most edgy fashions. If you want nice things but not to spend a lot of time, then you have to be willing to pay higher prices (maybe to well-established brands or via catalog shopping you can do while watching TV). None of these solutions is either right or wrong, but you have to rank the factors in their importance to you, and set your expectations accordingly.

Good luck!
posted by acm at 7:13 AM on September 17, 2012

Have a list of what you need for each kid. Stick to the list, it makes outlet malls less crazy as you are not having to look at everything just what you need.

You can shop online at most major stores but return to the nearest store to make exchanges/returns easier and that is how I do a lot of my shopping. Buy it online, have it shipped for free to my nearest store and either take it home and try it on or try it on in the store, and then return/exchange what doesn't fit at the physical store. It means you kids and you won't have to do all the boring looking at clothes there and then, they are in the change room, in and out of all the clothing in a few minutes and out of there. Or you can take it home (or pay postage for home shipping if that's easier for you), and try them on when the kids are in a good mood and return/exchange at the nearest store when you are kid free.
posted by wwax at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2012

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