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Affordable Clothing for the Homestead

by | Oct 27, 2021 | Homesteading, Household Management

Living the homesteading lifestyle is definitely harder on clothing than suburban or urban living. So how do you source high-quality clothing that can be passed down from kid to kid, or even clothing that will last adults longer while maintaining the homesteading lifestyle? We’re sharing all our best tips below.

Clothes piled all over a living room with kids and a mom looking through them.

I’ve shared before my tips for running a productive household (including my #1 secret tip), as well as many videos in my home management series, but one question that keeps coming up that I haven’t yet addressed is the big clothing swap I do twice yearly, as well as how we shop for affordable, yet high-quality clothing for our ten children, as well as for Josh and myself.

A good supply of high-quality clothing doesn’t happen overnight, and I don’t suggest going out and buying a brand new wardrobe for each member of the household.

In order to get a good stock of clothing for your kids, especially if you have multiple children, you’re going to need to buy high-quality clothing, as you’re able, starting with the oldest (or largest size) child. The goal is to buy high enough quality that you’ll be able to pass down the items to the next in line. As the oldest child grows out of them, you then buy the next size up and the previous set gets passed down from sibling to sibling.

It isn’t necessary to buy everything new, or high-quality. Some things just don’t have a lifespan of more than one kid anyway (we’re thinking things like pants for those 7-10-year-old boys who always seem to be on their knees… there’s a reason you can never find size 8 jeans at the thrift store!). But we do like to buy quality pants for the rest of the family, especially brands with reinforced knees.

Cheap vs. Quality

As homesteaders, we’re often known for our frugality and looking to live within our means in an affordable manner. But sometimes this gets confused with being “cheap”. We don’t pride ourselves on being cheap; if you buy cheap equipment for the farm, you’re going to end up spending more time and money on repairs than if you just invested in the higher quality item in the first place.

This same principle goes toward our clothing, especially for adults and older children who have learned to care for their clothing. Oftentimes the higher the quality of an item the longer the lifespan, which means it can then be handed down to multiple children, making the overall cost much more affordable (and sometimes even more affordable than the cheaper alternatives).

Girls jumping on a trampoline.

Play/Work Clothes vs. Town Clothes

We designate work/play clothes that our children wear the majority of the time. Because we homeschool and are home the majority of the time, our children are not having to get dressed and head off to school each morning. Therefore we don’t mind if they’re wearing their work clothes all day long as this allows them to school and fit chores in on their breaks.

If we head to town, church, or a play date, our kids get dressed in their “town clothes” which are nicer. Once we get home they change out of those clothes and into their work/play clothes.

A woman buried in laundry sitting in front of a washer and dryer.

How Many Clothes are Needed?

I think oftentimes parents think their children need more clothing than they really do. This might be the case if your kids are in public school, but for the average homeschooling/homesteading family that’s simply not the case.

I’ve always loved the old Amish saying, “One for wash, one for wear, one for Sunday, one for spare.”

In our family each child has the following:

  • 3 work/play outfits
  • 1 church/nice outfit
  • 1 town/playdate outfit

Once our children show they can take care of their own clothing they’re allowed a bit more, but this really helps keep drawers organized and not overcrowded and laundry going because you have to get your clothes washed right away so you have them when needed.

A dad and two sons working in the garden spreading compost onto long garden beds.

What are the Items Worth Spending Money On?

Boots

We love using Muck Boots as they last a long time and we’re able to hand them down from kid to kid. Trust us, we’ve tried the knock-off brands and they just don’t last as long.

We use our boots to their fullest extent, from mucking out barns, walking through all weather throughout the seasons, and even little boys climbing trees and riding bikes, the Mucks last the longest!

Jackets

We spend more money on jackets because, if you buy good quality such as Carhartt, they’ll last through multiple children and keep them plenty warm at the same time.

Pants

Pants that will move with you, allow you to bend down in the garden, tend to livestock, and not get ripped or worn in the process are a must.

You will end up spending more on a good quality pair of pants, but we’ve found they’ll last at least twice as long.

A little girl wearing large Muck boots.

What Clothing Can Be Purchased Cheaper?

Play Shoes

Here in North Idaho we’re pretty much wearing work boots from October-April, which is the majority of the year. For those few months where the weather is warm, our children just wear play shoes (or no shoes at all!) so we don’t buy high quality here. Something fun they pick out at the thrift store will do, plus one pair of shoes that will work as “town clothes”.

When in Doubt, Check the Thrift Store

Some families don’t have multiple children but still want high-quality clothing. Therefore you can often find very good clothes at the thrift store with a lot of life in them.

Once we do our twice-yearly clothing swap, I make a list of everything each child still needs and we head to the thrift stores before going and shopping for new.

I don’t recommend going to the thrift store without a list, because it can get too easy to forget what each child has, what didn’t fit anymore, and what’s needed.

Kids huddled in a circle bundled up outside.

Planning & Saving

In our home, we create an annual budget for clothing. Trying to figure out what each person will need, what we’ll need to buy/replace, etc., then each month a certain amount of money gets set aside into a clothing fund until it’s needed.

Let your budget determine the quality of clothing that you can afford for right now.

  • It may mean you’re driving to the next town over to hit the “good” thrift stores.
  • It may mean you need to come up with a system for passing down clothing from child to child.
  • It may mean you don’t get the highest quality jacket this year and, instead, invest in a good pair of boots.

This will look different for every family. If you only have 3-4 children, you may be able to sell the smallest size boots that all your kids have grown out of to then have some extra money for buying new items.

If you’re looking for more modest, high-quality clothing for girls, check out Classic Clothing Store for handmade clothes in the U.S.A. If you are interested in sewing or mending your own clothes, the basics of sewing with Bernadette Banner is a good place to start.

A woman holding a laundry basket.

Learn More!

Did you know that I’ve put together an entire class just on household management? I cover everything from chores for children, how to have a productive morning, and even how I organize meals on the homestead!

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– Carolyn and Josh 

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