Monday, August 29, 2011

Can You Dress Your Child For $40?

About a week and a half ago, the Patriot Ledger contacted me with an assignment.  To give you a little background, in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick and the lawmakers reduced the clothing allowance for needy children from $150 to $40 over the summer.  Obviously, I don't think anyone thinks this $40 could actually buy all the clothing needed for a child for the entire year - remember, here in Massachusetts - a child would need a coat, boots, mittens, hats, pants, shirts, shorts, PJs, and of course socks & underwear. 

So two Thursdays ago, the Patriot Ledger gave me $40 and gave me the assignment to see how much I can get for a 5 year-old boy for back-to-school clothing.  Since I was leaving Saturday morning for vacation, I was in a serious time crunch.  I didn't want to say I couldn't do it - I love this kind of stuff. 

I tried a couple of my "go-to" places for cheap clothes:  Marshalls, Old Navy, Macy's, Children's Place, etc.  Even with all the "back-to-school sales" - there really isn't any good cheap finds right now though.  Throughout the year, I've been able to find pieces of clothing under $2 at these places.  It's not unusual - but at this particular season, with everyone shopping, you aren't going to find the "great steals".  Now granted, the paper didn't say I had to find great steals - they just wanted to see how much one can get with $40.  I, unfortunately, didn't have the luxury of time.  I checked Craig's List - "free" or "cheap" clothing isn't so easy to find when you are actually looking for it.  So I had to broaden my horizons.  Here is how I did:

Total for all:  $40.67

Walmart in Weymouth

1 pair of sneakers - Clearanced for $5.00
1 6 pack of underwear - $5.27
1 new polo shirt - Clearanced for $3.00

Total:  $13.27

Goodwill in Quincy 

1 pair of jeans (The Children's Place) - $3.99
2 khakis (The Children's Place) - $1.99 ea
1 sweatshirt (Gap) - $1.99
1 button down shirt (American Eagle) - $1.99
2 long sleeve shirts - $1.99 ea

Total:  $15.93

Dollar Tree in Quincy (next to Kamman)

2 3-pair packs of socks - $1 ea
1 pair of gloves - $1
1 winter hat - $1
1 scarf - $1
4 t-shirts - $1 ea

Total:  $9.00

This brought my total to $38.20.  About two months ago, I scored a winter coat at Old Navy.  I added this in put me just over $40 (I'm not sure if the paper will feature this article of clothing since I don't have the receipt and it wasn't purchased in the time frame they gave me.)

Old Navy

1 winter coat - Reg. $29.99, Clearanced for $2.47

Total of all four purchases:  $40.67

Things I learned:

-  August is NOT a good time to go clothes shopping.  All the clearance is picked over or is non-existent. 

-  When you are on a budget, the best thing to do is make a list of essential items (kind of like a grocery list!).  That is what I first did with this assignment.  I wanted to score at least 5 pairs of socks, 5 underwear, 1 pair of sneakers, 3 pants, 3 shorts, 5 t-shirts, 5 long sleeve t-shirts, 1 sweatshirt, 1 sweater, 3 pairs of PJs, 1 coat, 1 pair of boots, 1 hat, 1 pair of gloves & 1 scarf.  To me, this just seemed like a good starting point of "essentials" for a kid.  That way, even if I found a killer deal on shirts, if I used too much of my money on shirts, I wouldn't have enough left to cover other items. 

-  Goodwill can be a good place to find some decent pieces.  For kids clothing, all jeans are $3.99 but all other pieces are $1.99.  You have to pick through the racks though as the clothing is not separated by sizes.  Some stuff is good, some stuff is gross.  Unfortunately, the pickings are slim.  I got the only three pair of pants that would fit a 5 year-old boy.  If another person went there that day or next, they probably wouldn't find any pants for a little boy.  It's really hit or miss and I got lucky. 

-  The Dollar Tree is a great place for winter garb.  It really isn't out yet.  I lucked out finding some pieces tucked away in the woman's underwear at the Quincy store.  Start looking for hats, gloves and scarves at your local Dollar Tree in October. 

-  When you want (or need) cheap/free clothes, you really can't find them.  Like most things in life - when you actually need something - it's much harder to find it when just browsing and whatnot. 

-  If you are on a budget for clothing, and have the room, I highly recommend what I do.  I have 3 big Rubbermaid containers in my attic.  Throughout the year as I find great deals, I just buy them and throw them in the bins.  Then with the change of seasons, I go through my stash (which feels like Christmas to me).  Why this works for me:  a.  Boy #1 (he's 5 now) has always been true to size.  At 6 months, he was wearing 6 month clothing, at 2 years old, he was wearing 2T.  Now at 5, he's wearing 5T and a straight 5.  Also, I have Boy #2 (who is almost 4).  He reuses all the clothes.  Although he's a year and a half younger, he's a little beefier so he's always been about 1 size below Boy #1.  b.  I have the room for this.  If you are tight on space, this might not be an option for you and that's okay.  c.  I have boys.  They don't care as much about what goes on their bodies as girls do.  As they get a little older, I'm sure they'll start developing their own opinions and whatnot and my method won't work anymore.  Why this doesn't work for me:  Since I love scooping up bargains, I find that I usually have "too much" stuff when the time comes.  As of now, I am pretty stocked up through size 6 clothing and am working on finding size 7 bargains now.  My first son won't wear these clothes for another 2 years.  A little odd, yes, but that's me. 

-  While at the Walmart in Weymouth (which is one of the smallest Walmarts I have ever seen), I noticed there was a bunch of clearance.  Kids sneakers, TONS of girl clothing, some boy clothing, a TON of baby clothing.  Then I hit up the Walmart in Quincy the next day.  The clearance rack was a joke.  It was practically non-existent.  Kids shoes:  NONE on clearance.  These two stores are maybe 3 miles apart.  I've also noticed in life - the clearance racks at all stores - in more affluent/less busy towns are much more stocked than those in the city or more middle-class towns.  For instance, when Old Navy goes clearance crazy, the store at the Hingham Shipyard is packed nicely with great finds.  I'm never disappointed there.  But if I hit up the Old Navy in Hanover - which is much more busy with mall traffic, I never find anything there. 

Well anyways, I'm done writing for now.  The paper gave 5 women all $40 to see how much kids' clothing they could get for that amount.  They gave us a set age & gender.  The story should appear in this weekend's edition.  I'll share a link when it comes out - I'm interested in seeing what the other women scored.  Oh - and all this clothing is being donated to charity.  Thanks Patriot Ledger!

So what do you think?  Can you dress your child for $40 a year?  Is this a reasonable amount set by the state to help needy children? 

1 comment:

MaryAnne said...

$40 is not much - especially if you are trying to find shoes as well as everything else. I've gotten nearly all of Emma's clothing for free from friends, but I have a feeling that happens more frequently when you are ABOVE the poverty line! I do make a point of trying to donate seasonally appropriate children's clothing throughout the year.

When Emma was a baby we were on a crazy tight budget in the UK. Clothes there aren't typically cheap, but I found a charity shop where people donated clothing and baby items were sold for roughly $.40 an outfit. A couple things even had tags on them! But I don't know of a similar place in the US - Goodwill is more expensive than that!

Do you ever shop at Kohls? They aren't good for socks and underwear, but I got Johnny new shorts for $2.40 last week - and I've found similar deals on shirts and pants in the past.