How to Buy Sustainable Kids Clothing on a Budget

Last Updated on December 28, 2023

Tips for making an eco-friendly children’s wardrobe more affordable

There’s no denying sustainable and ethically made clothing is more expensive. We all get sticker shock if you’re used to fast fashion prices and start to look at more conscious brands. However, don’t automatically assume that these brands are out of budget for you! There are many ways to buy clothing more sustainably and affordably.

People often assume that I have a lot of disposable income and a large clothing budget because of the sustainable brands I own, but that isn’t the case. Last year, we spent around $650 on clothing for my toddler, which is 25% less than the average Canadian parents spend on clothing for one child. While we don’t have a large budget for my daughter’s clothing, we’re still able to have an eco-friendly wardrobe and support some great sustainable brands! Here are my tips for making sustainable children’s clothing budget-friendly.

1. Prioritize Secondhand Clothing and Use New Products to Fill in the Gaps.

Secondhand clothing is the best for both sustainability and affordability.

Whether it’s hand-me-downs, freecycling, or thrifting (here are some great places to shop secondhand online), getting the majority of kids clothes secondhand is a great way to save money and waste. It can also allow you to budget more for a few new sustainable items.

2. Build a Capsule Wardrobe.

Just like adults, most children have way more clothing than they actually use and need! The capsule wardrobe concept is fantastic for kids and allows you to have a functional wardrobe with lots of outfit combinations from a minimal number of items. We plan to have enough clothes for a week plus a few extras for changes, accidents, spills, etc.

Buying fewer clothes overall saves a lot of money and means you can budget more for each item.

Check out my child’s capsule wardrobes for some examples.

3. Consider Quality & Resale.

Investing in better-quality pieces and caring for them means you can often sell them when they’re outgrown and use the money towards new clothes. Kids can be hard on clothes, but there are some things you can do to increase the chances of keeping items in good shape:

  • Look for durable fabrics.
  • Have your child wear an apron or specific clothes for messy activities — we love using a “shirt” apron which also covers the sleeves.
  • Treat stains as soon as you can.
  • Learn from your child. For example, if they always have issues with knees wearing out, it’s probably good to buy secondhand pants vs. buying expensive organic pants (unless they are designed to be very durable and reinforced).

3. Choose the Right Items to Invest In.

It will depend on your child and lifestyle, but there are always some items that are better to invest in than others. Generally, staple items that your child can fit into and wear for a long time are going to be far better investments than seasonal or specific items they might only wear a few times. Think about the “cost per wear” of what you’re buying.

One of our best investment pieces and something we got amazing cost-per-wear from is Pure Colour Baby’s organic pullover. The “grow-with-me” design has allowed my daughter to wear it for a year and a half already, and it still fits great! I think we’ll probably get a solid 2 years from it which is very rare with toddler clothing.

“Grow with me” pullover, adjustable romper and secondhand sweater

4. Wait for Sales…

If you can’t afford a brand at full price, sign up to their newsletter, follow them on social media, or check back for sales. Some brands (like Hanna Andersson, Pact, and Frugi) have big sales during the year (typically in the summer, January, and around Black Friday) and it’s a great time to stock up on items.

…And Shop Out-of-Season.

It’s good to plan ahead with sales, because typically they happen at the end of the season. When fall/winter stock goes on sale, plan your child’s wardrobe for next fall. For example, even though we’re going into spring, I just purchased a bunch of organic cotton long-sleeve tops and warm leggings for next fall/winter during a great Hanna Andersson sale (Tip for Canadian customers: if you keep your order under $150 there’s no duty charges). Since it was clearance stock, they were about $10-$13 CAD each for good quality, organic kids clothing.

Do you have any other tips for finding sustainable kids clothing on a budget?

Follow Verena Erin:
Verena Erin Polowy has been advocating for sustainable and slow fashion practices for over 10 years. With a Bachelor's in Fashion Design & Technology and unique experience in the industry Erin has created 500+ videos and articles educating and supporting conscious consumers, students, business owners, and industry members. Erin volunteers on the executive team of Fashion Revolution Canada and offers digital marketing consulting to triple-bottom-line small businesses.

  1. Kristofer Van Wagner
    | Reply

    My sister just gave birth recently and I am planning to get her some baby clothes. I appreciate that this post encouraged us to consider quality when purchasing children’s clothes as well as to consider resale or secondhand to be cost-effective and sustainable. I will definitely look for shops that sell resales or secondhand clothes for a start.

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