Buying new clothes is typically one of the worst money decisions a parent with a small child, under 5 or so, can make. There are two main reasons why new clothes have one of the worst Returns on Investments of all purchases a parent will be tempted to make.
The first reason is that a small child will get very little use out of whatever clothes they wear. When they are very small, under 1, they will seem to stay in any given size for a matter of weeks and this only improves to a season at best by age 5. So there is a very small window when any given outfit will meet the needs of your child. Given this short window I have found that by the time my children have outgrown an outfit, the outfit looks identical to when it was new. I also attribute this to the fact that pre-school aged children seem to generally cause less wear to their clothes than order more active kids do. These two factors lead directly into my next reason for not buying new clothes.
The second reason is that high quality gently used clothes are easily attainable for a fraction of the cost of new clothes and in many cases for completely FREE. The large supply of new clothes is due to the fact that most parents don’t want to throw away clothes that are still in great shape and made their son or daughter look so “cute” for any number of occasions (family pictures, holidays, etc.). On the other hand, most parents don’t have the room to keep all of these old clothes as the storage space is needed for clothes in the current size of their kid/s. This lends itself to a large market for used children’s clothes which includes: 2nd Hand Stores, Mom to Mom sales, Garage sales and Online sales (especially Facebook Marketplace). All of these venues offer opportunities to buy “like new” clothes for a very large discount.
I have also found that there are many opportunities to get free clothes. Whether it be family, friends, neighbors or coworkers, any number of people in your life might be looking to get rid of clothing for kids that they no longer need. In some of these cases they may not want the clothes at all and in some cases they may be willing to let you borrow them as they won’t need that size again until their next child grows into it. My wife and I have been able to pass clothes back and forth with various friends as our children moved into and out of various sizes.
The last way to get free clothes is that no matter how much you tell people (family and friends) to not buy your children presents, clothing included, THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU. I find this to be especially true for grandparents who are completely incapable of spoiling their grandchildren. I am completely grateful for their love and support, but it seems like every time we see them we come home with new outfits for the kids. These clothes alone cover a huge portion of the clothing needs for my children in their current sizes.
As explored above, the supply of high quality used kid’s clothing is sky high and the utility that they provide children is very low base on the short time period they will wear them. This makes new clothing a very poor investment relative to used clothing for parents in most situations. Since parents working towards Financial Independence are looking for the best “bang for their bucks”, buying new clothes for their children should be avoided at all costs.