Gear Up for Spring With Cheap Kids' Clothes

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Warm-weather clothes shopping is currently on many families' agendas, so set out to identify sources for high quality, yet cheap kids' clothes. The 2014 Consumer Expenditure Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that average annual spending on apparel and related services by a two-parent family with the oldest child aged 6 to 17 hit $650 for boys and $973 for girls, with another $557 allocated to footwear. That's a hefty chunk of change.

Our research found that there's no need to spend a small fortune on the clothes and shoes portion of your must-have spring shopping list. By making the rounds at Walmart, for example, you can buy all the necessary attire for two kids, ages 7 to 10, for less than $200. We also found that certain stores offer the best values on particular types of clothing, such as J.C. Penney for school uniforms (keep this in mind come August).


We checked out the wares in seven stores and filled a virtual shopping cart with the items most youngsters need for the warmer months: shorts, jeans, T-shirts and hoodies, socks, underwear, pajamas, and sneakers; boys' dress pants, polo shirts, button-down shirts, and belts; girls' dresses, skirts, fashion tops, dress shoes, and accessories like belts, hair ties, and jewelry. Of course, you may not need everything on this list or you may need multiples of some items, so your kids' clothes shopping list and final tally may vary from our findings.

Frugal consumers might be interested in some strategic shopping advice from Jene Luciani, a style correspondent with NBC. She recommends investing in good footwear while spending less on other clothing. And, she points out, choosing items you can mix, match, and layer yields the best bang for your buck.


Our comparison shopping expedition landed us at Walmart, Target, Kmart, Sears, Old Navy, J.C. Penney, and Kohl's. We found the cheapest kids' clothes at Walmart, where the shopping cart total hit $175, and the most expensive at Kohl's, where the bill just passed $600 (all totals exclude sales tax, coupons, promotions, and discounts).

When coupons, promotions, and sales are factored in, however, Kohl's looks much more affordable. This retailer seems to offer the most sales and promotions, as well as a consistent volley of coupons. Kohl's card holders receive mailed coupons on a regular basis and if none are available they can scratch off coupons at the register for additional discounts.

If you prefer to shop exclusively in a brick-and-mortar store, Sears is the best one-stop shop. Although it falls in the middle of the price pack at about $450, Sears is the only store with everything on our list.


Spring apparel is already flooding store shelves and aisles right now, and if you didn't cash in on end-of-season sales last year, now is the moment. Retailers are already looking forward to summer, so prices are starting to slide on clothing meant for this transitional season.


As every parent knows, it's hard to keep spending under control with the kids in tow. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Shop with a budget in hand and stick to it. Luciani is OK with letting a child have one "splurge" item they've been clamoring for -- if you can afford it -- as long as you, alone, make the rest of the spending decisions. Two other tactics for frugal shopping include recycling clothes from older children to younger siblings/cousins/friends and scouring second-hand stores and discount retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.


Even bargain hunters want quality kids' clothes. Here, our research found that Kohl's scored high points across the board with shoppers while Target's Basic Editions jeans for both boys and girls passed extensive durability testing conducted by Good Housekeeping. To make your own quality assessment of kids' clothes, Luciani says to look for garments that are 100 percent cotton or made from non-synthetic blends.


Other useful results from our foray into the world of quality, but inexpensive, kids' clothes:Kohl's has the best return policy of the seven stores we visited.The best selection and lowest prices on pajamas and underwear is at Walmart.Pants and dresses are available in the widest variety and with the highest perceived quality at Kohl's and Walmart.Old Navy has the most stylish options, the lowest prices, and the best quality in outerwear and tops.Target boasts the largest selection of low-priced shoes for different occasions.The best place to buy back-to-school uniforms is J.C. Penney, where the selection is impressive and prices are fair.