Guest Post: How I Dress My Children for Free

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photo by loop oh

Guest Post by Melissa from Lake Michigan Treasures

When my son was little, I went to garage sales to buy all of his clothes. I did find some adorable clothes, but I also found many that were out of style, stained, and missing buttons. As he got older, it became harder to find clothes that looked good, and I wanted some good outfits for church, pictures, and other special events.

I began selling on eBay when he was about a year old in an attempt to make enough money so I could stay home with him. About 6 months later, I discovered Gymboree and found I loved their clothes!

However, I did not love their prices. Yet, when I went to the back of the store, I found some clothing that was discounted as much as 80%. Pants that would normally cost $28.00 were marked down to $6.99.  As I frequented Gymboree more, I learned ways to save even more which I wanted to share with you all:

::Buy only clearance items and always use coupons. (Many magazines such as Plum and Parenting Magazine offer 20% off coupons. I subscribe to the Gymbohaven Newsletter to learn what magazines are currently offering coupons.)

::Buy during Gymbucks earning time, but only buy items that are on clearance. If you purchase $50 worth of clothing during Gymbucks earning, they will give you a voucher for $25 off your $50 order during Gymbucks redemption. If you purchase $100, you will receive a voucher for $50 off your next $100 order. 

Gymboree offers Gymbucks about six times a year. Typically Gymbucks earning periods run about 6 weeks long and redemption periods run about 10-14 days. During the Gymbucks earning period, it is not unusual for Gymboree to have sales where they drop the price of shirts to $3.99, pants to $6.99, dresses to $6.99 to $9.99, and shoes to $4.99. If it is at the end of a season, I always buy my son clothes for next year in a size up from what he is currently wearing.

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::Use eBay to make money back on your kids used Gymboree clothes. Even though it is possible to dress my kids (now I have a newborn daughter to dress in their adorable clothes too), for a fraction of the cost of retail at Gymboree, it is still not that frugal until eBay is added in.

For the last few years, once my child has outgrown his Gymboree clothes, I sell them on eBay, usually for the same price I bought them for or sometimes more than I paid! For instance, when my son was two, I fell in love with a pair of black corduroy overalls with a train on the front. I bought those and a matching turtleneck and socks (both with the train image on them) and spent approximately $22 on this outfit, and he wore it for his pictures, for Christmas, and to church.

After he had outgrown it, I sold it on eBay for $24.95! Basically, he wore this adorable outfit for an entire Winter and then I got all of my money back. I dressed him for free!

A few tips for selling your children's clothing on eBay:

::When buying at Gymboree, make sure to avoid plain items. For example, I bought my son a blue striped tee shirt and khaki shorts. Even though it is cute, because it is plain, I am having a hard time selling it on eBay.

::If possible, try to buy a set of clothing. Each line of clothing that Gymboree makes has a specific theme. The overall outfit I mentioned earlier was part of a line called “All Aboard.” Because I bought all the pieces with the train on them, they were more valuable for resale on eBay.

If you can find them, try to buy the matching socks or hair accessories (or for a baby, the bib), but don’t pay more than the discounted price for them because it is not worth it to pay full price for these items. I would rather go without the accessory than to pay full or nearly full price for them.

::Be aware that eBay shoppers follow the same seasons as retail stores. So, for instance, in February and March, when it is still cold, shoppers on eBay are snatching up Spring and Summer clothes.

If you try to sell your used Summer items in May or June when kids will actually use them, you won’t make much money because most parents already have their kids’ Summer wardrobe. By July and August, they are moving on to buying Fall and Winter clothes.

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::If you have several kids, consider opening an eBay store. Part of my success comes from the fact that I have an eBay store and can just leave my son’s clothes in my store until they sell at the price I want. However, if you do open a store, there is a $15.95 a month fee, so I would only recommend this for some one who has three or more children with clothing to sell.

::If you do not want to open a store, sell your clothing at auction. Some people believe that if you start your auction at $0.99, you will get more bidders and will sell your items at a higher price. I usually do not find this to be true.

Instead, if you want to make sure you recoup the majority of your purchase price, I would recommend starting with a price of at least 50% of what you paid. So, if you bought a dress for $9.99, I would start the auction for at least $4.99 and offer a "Buy It Now" option of say, $12.99 (assuming the dress is in very good condition). 

If you want to be even safer, eBay allows you to put an item up for auction with only a "Buy It Now" option. You could put that same dress up for auction with only a "Buy It Now" price of $12.99, so you know for sure, if it sells, you will get your money back. Or, you could auction it with a "Buy It Now" price of $12.99 and also allow "Best Offers". (Allowing "Best Offers" means that potential buyers can e-mail you with the price they are willing to pay, and you can accept or reject their offer.)

::Make sure your auction description is precise.
I bought a four-piece set of Janie and Jack clothing (the upscale sister store of Gymboree owned by Gymboree) for my son off of eBay two years ago for approximately $18.00. I got it this inexpensive because there was a small hole in the knee of the pants.

I stitched up the hole, and my son wore this outfit for two Winters. I just sold it a few weeks ago for $12.99 even though I honestly stated in my auction that it had the mended hole in the knee and two small stains on the shirt (compliments of my son). Because I gave an honest description of the item, the buyer left me positive feedback and was pleased with the transaction and so was I. My son wore an outfit for two years and it only depreciated $5, despite the addition of stains.

Gymboree is not your only source for buying Gymboree clothing. I have had good success buying gently used Gymboree clothes from second hand childrens' clothing stores and then selling them on eBay after my son outgrows them. 

If you remember the buying cycle, eBay can also be a good place to pick up used Gymboree clothes, as well. I have purchased several of my son’s Summer outfits in May or June for a very reasonable price because the seller didn’t sell within the correct eBay selling season and there are just not that many buyers for Summer items sold in June.

I hope that these tips and ideas have encouraged you that it is possible to dress your child in Gymboree clothing without breaking the bank. And if you do it right, you can dress your child for free!

Melissa has owned and operated an eBay store, Lake Michigan Treasures, for the last four years. She lives with her husband and two children in the Midwest and is constantly trying to find ways to save money without skimping on quality.

Photos from Gymboree.com unless otherwise stated.

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Comments

  1. Tovah says

    I have been doing the same thing with my daughters. (5 and 15 months) I get continuous compliments on ‘how can you dress your children so adorable and still live on a budget?” Exactly as stated above. It CAN be done! One more thing I wanted to mention (for girls) is that if you are handy enough and able to make “M2M” (made 2 match) asscessory’s the items usually sell better also ~ just by adding a bow that matches. I have almost always come out on top too each season. ( I make more $$ than I buy my girls clothing for) Not too bad, huh?

  2. says

    Great tips in this post. I sell on eBay, too. Don’t forget you can now do a 30-day fixed item listing for only 35 cents. Cheaper than having an eBay store and you get good exposure.

    Also, another good source of kids used clothing is seasonal consignment sales. I find Gymboree clothes there quite often.

  3. Nicole says

    I love Gymboree and have done this same thing to afford their clothing. I used to ebay my gymboree items but having other kids now, I keep them because the clothes are such good quality, they will last and I haven’t had to buy much for my younger ones.

  4. says

    I do this for our twin boys. I love their clothes they are such nice quality and are always soooo cute! I don’t dress them for free since I keep our clothes but for very little since I shop clearance and use gymbucks.

  5. says

    We have a Gymboree outlet store at our local outlet mall and the savings are significant! I was in there a few weeks ago, and they had a ton of winter items for under $3. I stocked up for next winter…lol! We also have a Children’s Place that has fantastic sales. Last summer, I picked up the cutest sweater vests for $0.99 each and sold them on Ebay for $5! Plus my son and nephew were set for winter church clothing. So don’t forget to check out the outlet malls if you have one around. Also, I’m able to pick up a ton of name brand children’s clothes at garage sales because everyone around here shops at the outlet mall. I get name brands for $0.25 cents or less, my son wears them and then I sale them for a profit on Ebay.

  6. says

    I have twins that are 4 years old and I rarely go to Gymboree. Whenever I do go the sales prices are hardly sales and the cute items are never available or in the right size and are usually still very expensive. I have found a lot of great deals at The Children’s Place though–sometimes I found cute shirts for as low as $1 and I always have the 20% or 15% off coupons and then with the credit card you can get another 10% off. I don’t sell clothes on eBay so I don’t know what the re-sale of those clothes would be.

  7. says

    oh yes – isn’t this such fun? I just started a weekly series – the Frugal Fashionista where I am going to show how to dress with a designer wardrobe on a frugal budget – both for kids and adults. We all have such an amazing opportunity with our shopping when we take advantage of these great resources. :) Thanks for bringing it to the forefront.
    http://inpassionatepursuit.blogspot.com/2009/03/designer-wardrobe-on-frugal-budget.html

  8. Nicole says

    I dress my kids for free, by going to regular clothing swaps. I also pick up clothes for myself, my friends, and their kids.

    If you don’t have any swaps in your area, I suggest organizing some! It’s a great way to support the community :)

    Here’s the website for the swaps I go to around the Portland area: pdxswaps.com

  9. medtromom says

    One more Gymboree tip: when I buy something, I go to the website and download and save their picture of the item to use in future eBay listings. Generally, the professional photos that they have taken show the items better and more clearly and I think they end up helping generate higher bids on eBay (I also include my own photos so people can see the item in its used state but I try to use an actual Gymboree photo for the gallery)

  10. blessed-with-3 says

    medtromom: If you are not already aware, using Gymboree website photos in your ebay listing is against ebay policy and can/will result in your auction being cancelled. Just wanted to share what I learned in case you weren’t aware.

  11. says

    I do something similiar, I buy huge lots of gymboree clothes on ebay, let my son wear them, then when the season rolls back around I sell them for MORE than I bought them for on Craigslist! I have made over $400 and I have only been doing it recently :)

  12. Karen says

    If you have trouble finding sizes in the store, find what you want online, print out the item numbers, take it to the store, and the store can have it shipped there. Then you won’t have to pay shipping.

    My oldest daughter’s Gymboree clothes go through her, through two younger cousins, and then back to us for my younger daughter, and are still in great shape. I have found few other brands that hold up as well.

  13. Jennifer says

    Thanks so much for the post. I have done this for years by buying at a goodwill outlet that sells clothes by the pound. If you buy 50 lbs at a time, it’s .59 a pound. I wash the clothes and then have sold some on ebay, some to consignment, and kept some for my kiddos. Have never been able to figure out the gymboree system so this was a great help. Thanks!

  14. says

    This is inspiring to finally get around to posting some clothes on EBay. I do wonderful BUYING at a big local consignment event, but obviously not so great SELLING THERE.
    So is now the time to sell for summer? I have some really cute Gymbo infant dresses.

  15. says

    I have a question for Melissa (I hope it wasn’t already answered in the comments and I missed it) – when you sell your Gymboree on eBay do you use the collection name in the title? If so, where do you find the collection names for lines from previous years (for things that you picked up at consignment or on clearance)?

    I love Gymboree and try to do these same things to keep my kiddos clothed in their stuff. In fact, I’ve considered working part-time just to get the discount. ;-)

  16. says

    this is such wonderful information. thank you so much. i will have to try this. i have been wondering how i can save money on kids clothes.

  17. Melanie Hammann says

    I do buy Gymboree clothing for my kids. I usually catch their sales and I always have a coupon. I agree with the comment about the clearance racks and when they go on sale. They are usually sold out in one piece of your outfit and or more expensive then right now with the Spring Break sale. The new stuff is cheaper than the sales rack stuff. I also wanted to comment about the person that said they will call online for you and have it shipped to your house free. They will only do this on stuff that is full price or the deals they have going on like the Spring Break sale. They won’t do it if is just on the sale rack.

  18. Melissa says

    Carrie–You should be able to still sell girl’s summer dresses, but the season is winding down, so I would only list them as Buy It Now or start the auction at a price you would be happy with.

    Jana–I do list the line names in every auction. I use a site called GymboHaven (www.gymbohaven.com). There you can find all of the line names with pictures of the items. It is organized by year. (Look at the year on the tag of your clothing. If it says 2007, the item was sold in 2008, so look at 2008’s lines on GymboHaven. The item is usually made the year before it is sold.)

  19. says

    Thanks Melissa and Christy! I always try to list the line name when I sell (which I don’t sell a whole lot since we plan to have more children), but I had trouble finding the names of lines from the past. Very good info to know!

  20. Emily says

    Hello – great post. Gymboree is certainly a hot ticket on EBay. I have been doing this for a couple years now – buying end of season clearance with gymbucks for the following year. Sometimes I get embarassed because people comment – woooow, that is a cute outfit… is that all Gymboree???’ My hubby was concerned about the risk of buying a year in advance however I figure if she doesn’t fit them… maybe her sister will… and if she doesn’t fit them – someone will buy them on EBay for probably more than I paid for them.
    I did however end up buying all Osh Kosh this year – couldn’t find any good deals on Gym this year…

  21. Kristin says

    A couple of questions – 1) Do you find you do better with selling things in lots rather than individual pieces? and 2) Do people really buy things with stains?

  22. says

    Great tips…I’ve never tried to sell kids clothes on Ebay…just getting ready for a consignment sale next weekend.

    I left an award for you on my blog. Have a great weekend!

  23. Melissa says

    Kristin–Yes, selling a whole outfit does better than just an individual piece, but if the lot gets too big, maybe 6 pieces from one line, they don’t sell for as much. And yes, if they are small stains and you are honest about them, it is still possible to sell the item, though you probably won’t make a profit on it.

  24. Bethany Henderson says

    My favorite thing to do is to go to thrift stores on dollar days and buy gymboree and boutique lines for a dollar. I got a Baby LuLu shirt for my daughter last week, and It should make great money on ebay! I love thrift stores and garage sales, once my girls get older, and I’m done having kids, I’m planning on making great money by selling all their stuff!

  25. says

    Thanks for the great information. I love buying kids clothes on clearance, but I always skip Gymborie because I thought it was too expensive. I’m also getting very tired of my kids clothes getting/looking old worn fast, and have been contemplating buying higher quality. You post will really help me–thanks!
    Jen

  26. says

    This a great idea! I like my kids to have nice stuff, too. We have a bi-annual consignment sale here and this month I was able to buy most of both of my kids summer wardrobes (including shoes) for $139 and made $135 selling – not bad for $4! I will have to try to hit gymboree and those stores more at clearance time. Now that they are getting bigger, it’s hard to predict what next year’s size will be. I also have a problem because my kids are skinny but tall, so they take a smaller size on the bottom for the waist and a bigger size on top for the length…it’s hard to then sell something as a matched set.
    Heather

  27. Renee says

    Great post. I’ve wondered about this before. Here are my questions.
    – My little guy does best in a 2T top and a 18-24 month bottom. Will that reduce the resale amount?
    – I have a 20 month old son and another boy on the way. Their birthdays will be two months apart. Is is better to save their clothes and let two kids wear (hoping they wear the same sizes in the right seasons) or just sell after one is done and buy again for the next
    – What percentage off do you wait for when buying during earning gymbucks time? I assume 40% off isn’t enough (even with a 20% coupon). Is there a way to know when they mark down a certain line without going to the store to check?
    Thanks for the information!

  28. says

    Renee–Hi. If I had two kids that close together, I would let both boys wear the outfits. That way you save even more money. True, you may not make as much when you resell them, but you were able to dress both boys! I subscribe to the Gymbohaven newsletter (www.gymbohaven.com). She usually includes information about current markdowns and sales. I just went shopping last week and bought some items for my daughter off their rock bottom clearance rack–tops for $2.99 and $3.99, pants for $6.99. Plus, I used a 20% off coupon and got Gymbucks! (By the way, since I wrote this article, I created a new blog–www.momsplans.blogspot.com).

  29. says

    My question is how do you not spend $6-$10 on shipping your item when using ebay? Every time I have sold stuff on ebay, I have spent so much money on shipping and tracking my package that it has hardly been worth selling the item. What is the best way to ship items on ebay? Thanks so much!

  30. Amanda says

    Great post! I always avoided that store because of the cost, but after I read this, I stopped at the mall with my 20%off coupon. HELLO! I had no idea what I’d been missing! Racks of 50-60% off, plus 20% off, plus Gymbucks. I know I went overboard, but it was too cute!