How to save money on stuff for your kids

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Let’s face it: Kids can be expensive. The cost of raising a child for 18 years is about a quarter of a million dollars, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent study. That’s about $13,000 a year for a middle income family. But it doesn’t have to cost that much. There are ways you can save along the way.

Parents often overspend on kids even though they’re worried about spoiling them, according to a study by T.Rowe Price. Fifty-seven percent of parents say they spend too much on things their kids don’t need, while 46% have gone into debt to pay for something their kids wanted.

That’s one reason I started Just Between Friends Children’s Consignment in 1997 with my fellow frugal mom and co-founder, Daven Tackett. We wanted to help families save and make money on children’s items ‘ clothing, toys, equipment, gear and much more. In fact, consignment is one of my top tricks and tips for parents to save money.

Say ‘yes’ to your kids more often without spending a fortune   

Shop consignment and resale

Children’s consignment events are one of the best deals around because you can buy gently used clothing, toys, electronics, books and furniture at a fraction of the cost of new. At the same time, you can sell your child’s old items and make money. Consignment also allows you to see and feel what you’re buying and make sure that clothing fits.

For a list of events, check out Consignment Mommies You can also find local consignment stores and estate sales that cater to children’s clothing and furniture. For estate, tag and auction sales nearby, visit

Clothing swap

Swapping clothes with other kids is a great way to get like-new things without spending any money. Instead of exchanging money, parents bring about 15 articles of clothing or children’s items that are in good to great condition. Then, participants can take an item and leave an item. You can organize, advertise and find a clothing swap in your area at Meetup.

Online services

Search online sites like Facebook, Varagesale, Garage Sales Tracker and Yard Sale Search to find parents nearby selling used children’s items, especially books and toys. If you want the convenience of using the web, check out, Craigslist and Varagesale, a family-friendly app that allows you to buy and sell new and used items locally. If you’d rather go in person, garage sales and yard sales are a great way to find gently used kids clothing, books and toys for next to nothing. You can also hold a sale or ask a neighbor to join their yard sale, and recoup money from your child’s old things.

Retail clearance sales

Check out the clearance sales at stores like Target, Kohls, and Walmart. Skip the new clothes in the front and head to the back of the store for the clearance racks. Stock up on items for next summer by buying a size or two larger, and look for last season’s reduced fall and winter clothes. Combine that clearance price with coupons and specials when you sign up for store memberships and download their apps. Stores like Target also have a $1 section where you can stock up on coloring books, school supplies and summer toys.

Thrift stores

If you have time to sift through the racks, you can find some great deals on clothing at thrift stores. They also have  books, purses, jewelry and shoes for the kids. In addition, they’re great places for special occasion outfits like weddings, Halloween and other holidays when children may only wear something once.

Sporting goods and equipment

You can find great deals on used equipment and even trade-up gear at stores such as Play It Again Sports, SwapMeSports and eBay.



Finding the best electronics for kids can drive up the budget. Check out sites like Amazon, which often sells refurbished laptops and gaming devices. Best Buy has an online outlet where you can find refurbished and open-box deals. You can also find some discounted electronics in local pawn shops. Be sure to check out what your neighbors are selling on

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Shannon Wilburn is the CEO & Co-founder of Just Between Friends Franchise Systems, Inc. (JBF), North America’s leading children’s & maternity consignment event. JBF has more than 150 franchises in 30 states and Canada.

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