Our house was built in the mid-seventies, and while it has a decent footprint for a family of five, it’s broken up into a lot of little rooms. Last summer, my husband demolished a wall between the office and a bedroom, turning my three foot by four foot office into a positively palatial space 15 feet by four and six feet.
However, our renovation budget for this project was nil. As in, nothing. Not $500, or $50 or even $5. So instead of a stylish office with matching magazine holders and symmetrical cabinets, I’ve literally scavenged through the rest of the house to find items I could use to create a functional room to work and scrapbook in.
So I’m stuck with an office with a strip of cement where the carpet is missing, exposed studs from where the wall was ripped out, and decidedly down market décor. Nevertheless, I love my ugly office, and its flaws haven’t detracted from my bliss at having a roomy space to work and scrap in with friends.
Often when I’m out with my three small girls, I get asked, “Are they all yours?” To which I reply, “Yup! Lucky eh?” I’m not being a smart ass – I love having three girls. The "frugalista" in me is thrilled to have three kids of the same gender, merely for the wardrobe savings.
The average Canadian family spends approximately $500 per year, per child on clothing. Us? I spend less than $150 per year to clothe all three of my kids, including clothing, footwear, and snowsuits. Here’s how I do it:
Lowered standards. When my eldest was born, I loved dressing her in the most adorable outfits possible. Two months old and she’s sporting Guess jeans and a Roxy hoodie. The jeans were a gift, but the hoodie was $18 on a clearance rack. Now, I can’t fathom spending $18 on any piece of clothing for any of my kids, much less a baby! We’re a ‘get dirty’ kind of family – we craft, play at the park, hunt for worms, dig in the dirt. And I’m horrible at remembering to switch my kids between their ‘nice’ clothes and ‘play clothes’. And even when I think we’re being really careful with something, they inevitable ruin it somehow. So I’ve given up caring if they look like they just stepped out of a Gap commercial. They wear clothes they can get dirty, and clothes they’re comfortable in.
Ask friends for freebies and cheapies. I’ve got friends whose kids hit growth spurts and shot out of certain sizes in no time. If the clothing isn’t good enough for them to make some cash selling it at a consignment store, I’ll happily take their outgrown stuff for free, or cheap. And I pay it forward with many things we outgrow too (or never wear – who knew ALL of my kids would refuse to wear denim?). It’s a lot of work to list those slightly scuffed winter boots on a buy and sell website or move them at a garage sale – you’ll find people are happy to have someone take something off their hands for free if they know it’s appreciated.
Shop used. Find the good consignment, thrift and resale shops in your area and check in regularly. This is where I often find swimsuits or sleepers in good shape that I don’t seem to find as easily at garage sales. Speaking of garage sales, love them! Pajamas for 50 cents? Water shoes for 25 cents? Yes please! I scored two Gap snow suits last year in larger sizes than we need right now, for $7 each. These deals are out there – you just have to look for them.
Be an off season shopper. Nearly 80% of my kids wardrobe comes from Children’s Place. Three to four times a year they’ll have sales where they have racks of clothing for $0.49 - $2.99 a piece. Hoodies for $1.99. Skirts for $1.99. Tank tops for $0.99. It’s insane. I keep a list on my phone that tells me what I need for each size. For instance, in the size 7 clothing bin I need summer stuff - shorts and t shirts and lightweight long sleeved shirts. In August, I’ll get what I need to complete that bin for under $30.
Get organized. If you’re not organized, you’ll have to buy things at full price, and you’ll buy too much of one thing on sale and not enough of something else. I keep my kids clothing sorted in clear plastic bins in the shed (bought at a garage sale!), clearly labeled. As we move through seasons and sizes, items come out or go back in to the appropriate tub.
A tip I learned quickly was not to bring out every shirt in size 5, or every pair of pants in size 4. If everything is a certain size is hanging in the closet, everything will get moderately stained, and the second and third child will never have official ‘nice’ clothes. I hold back a good enough so each child will not have a 100% hand me down wardrobe.
Do the math. When a grocery store nearby was renovating and rebranding, they sold their panties and socks and socks for $1 a package (already usually inexpensive at $7 for a set of 5). I spent $60 on panties and socks. It might seem like a lot, but each child will now always have new socks and new panties as they grow, from age two to 10. That works out to $7.50 a year on undergarments for all three kids – or $2.50 a year per kid. Were I to buy new constantly at regular price, I could easily spend $30 per kid a year on these items - $90 versus $7.50.
There is so much more I want to do with the money I’m saving on kids clothing – family vacations, RESPs. Hell, maybe it’s the leather jacket for me I’ve had my eye on at Danier!
My daughter turned six in May, and I was really excited to present her with her birthday gift – a bedroom makeover. She’s been bunking with her three-year-old sister while our 21-month-old had her own room. We moved the two little ones in together, and Kate got a room of her own.
Kate's Room Before
I knew she’d prefer an older theme than generic pink princess, so I thought back to what I had always wanted as a kid – a New Kids on the Block themed room. Since she’s a huge Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana fan, I decided to makeover her room with her favourite pop stars.
Six months before the makeover, I started searching for themed items, visiting websites like Kijiji.ca and usedcalgary.com every few days and searching for Justin Bieber or Hannah Montana items. I hit pay dirt in the form of a listing for everything you needed to have a Hannah Montana room for just $50! Comforter, sheets, rug, huge framed posters, pillows – a show home was changing the décor and was selling everything for $50, unused. I was thrilled and snapped it up.
A few weeks later I was at the paint depot recycling some old paint cans when I noticed a gallon with a smear of the perfect deep purple colour on the top. I lifted the can and discovered it was 80% full – so I took it home to see if it was in good shape, and it was. I bought a gallon more of a light purple for $30 at Totem for the other walls.
I thought about doing my own extreme makeover while Kate was at school, but decided it would be more fun to enlist her help. So the day after her birthday party we set to work, painting, hanging photos, and relocating and repurposing furniture from other rooms in the house. A stereo bought at a garage sale for $5 is her favourite addition (along with the two Justin Bieber CDs she received from friends for her birthday).
Kate's Room After