10 ways to dress your teens for cheap

Cheap clothes for teens

photo by Hunter Gillman

Last week, I wrote about dressing kids for cheap. Even though kids go through clothes every time you turn around, dressing kids for cheap isn’t that hard. After all, you are in control. Even though your four-year-old wants to go out the door wearing a neon orange shirt with olive polka dot leggings, you are still pick what goes into the closet.

However, when your kids gets to be pre-teens and older, they start to balk at Mommy picking clothes for them. They’ll want the latest looks that their friends are wearing, and that can cost. A lot.

Thankfully I’m here to help.

For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to refer to your little fashionista as a her, although I know plenty of young men (fashionistos?) that this post would apply to. I’ve got a very fashion-forward, trendy It girl for a daughter.

Here’s how I afford it:

1. Start ’em young

Start training your teens to shop with an eye for savings while they are still little. I know, the thought of dragging little ones clothes shopping may cause you to shudder. But the best way to teach is to take them out with you when you pick up clothes. You can make it a special one-on-one time with your kid. Take your little one to garage sales and thrift stores. Let her pick out an outfit or give her a few dollars to go shopping for herself. This can be empowering and reinforces the idea of finding a bargain. When looking at the clearance racks of a department store, point out the difference between the markdown and the full price. She’ll learn to appreciate low prices.

This training helps when your kids become more independent and start having more input on what they wear. “I would never spend more than ten dollars on a top,” says my fashionista. I silently cheer her reverse-price snobbery.

2. Embrace the look, not the label

Your fashionista is going to want to dress like her friends. That’s okay. She’s trying to find her own identity, and a big part of what girls wear identify where she wants to belong. As long as her choices meet your minimum family and school standards for dress, you should let her go for it.

That said, you need to start working with your girl on finding the look for less. If she admires a certain item from a pricey label, see if you can find the same style elsewhere. Stores like Forever 21  and Wet Seal specialize in discount teen fashion. By hitting the sales and combining purchases with coupons, you can get items for just a few dollars. My fashionista nabbed a $20 coupon for one store and applied it to a pair of boots that were on sale for $19.99. Free boots! She’s worn them for the last two years and loves them.

3. Combine sales online

Subscribe to discount newsletters that alert you when clothes are on sale and get on email lists for stores that you like to frequent. I like the Pinching Your Pennies newsletter, but there are many sites out there that alert you to the best deals. The nice thing about shopping online for teens is that those junior sizes tend to be discounted pretty quickly. Make sure that you get shipping for free or cheap, so you don’t have your savings eaten up by shipping costs.

I once found jeans for $12, which I thought was a pretty good deal, so I grabbed a few for my fashionista’s Christmas present. When the package arrived, my girl freaked. Apparently, I had snagged Rock & Republic jeans–tony luxury jeans that normally sell for $70.

4. Trade with friends

Let your fashionista swap clothes with her friends. You should have an open closet policy. Teen girls love to swap sweaters and shirts. Frankly, half of the clothes in my daughter’s closet are from her friend, and she’s got items at half a dozen friends’ homes.

You could also let your girl rummage through your closet, although I’m too uncool for my fashionista to borrow from.

5. Hit electronic garage sales

My fashionista still goes to the thrift stores for items. But she’s more comfortable with buying and selling her clothes online.

Oh course, eBay is the granddaddy of the electronic garage sale. But there are numerous sales sites, many with mobile apps that allow you to access the sites directly. My fashionista uses Poshmark and Mercari. She’s been able to snag name brand items for just a few dollars. Even with shipping costs, it can be a significant savings. This is a great option to find items that are tougher to locate in a thrift store, like semi-formals for dances.

6. Swap online

I mentioned in my last post the idea of arranging for a larger organized swap. This is still a good option for teens. Organizations like schools could run the swap. My church did a swap with their youth group that was a hit with the group.

However, you can also swap clothes online. For sites like Poshmark and Mercari, you can list your item with a $0 cost, and when you’re contacted by someone who wants to trade, you exchange addresses and ship your items at your own cost. There is a risk, since you’re not protected when you bypass the site instead of brokering through the website. However, my fashionista has been very happy with the trades that she’s arranged.

7. Alter current clothing

In my post about kids’ clothes for cheap, I tell you about altering existing articles for clothing to create new pieces. This is even more important for teens, since their tastes change so quickly. Let your fashionista go wild. Mine took a five dollar backpack, and with 99 cent acrylic paints, transformed that backpack into a gorgeous galaxy backpack, such this one  sold for $70 on etsy.

Let her look over Pinterest and pick a tutorial to alter an item that she doesn’t care for anymore. Just by searching Pinterest for DIY altered Tshirts, I found ways to:

8. Sewing

I am sewing-impaired. I would love to whip up a prom dress like Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, but it would look like a lopsided pillowcase. But you can still get the benefit of home sewing without having to do all the work.

Instead of sewing items, let your fashionista start sewing clothing for herself. Believe it or not, there are still Home Ec courses that teach sewing.  Your fashionista might love the control of creating a skirt with the EXACT color and  pattern that she wants. Sewing may turn into a great  hobby, allowing her to start making her own creations. This would be fantastic for more expensive items, like prom dresses or business suits.

9. Become a fashion model

This option won’t work for everyone, but I felt I had to mention it, since it works so well for us. Have your fashionista get clothes from clothing manufacturers, take pictures modelling them, and share the pictures on social media.

See the title picture at the top of the post? It’s from one of these modelling sessions.

Here’s how it works for us:

My fashionista’s friend, Hunter, is a budding photographer. He has over 18,000 followers on Instagram. Because he has so many followers, clothing manufacturers contact Hunter and offer him free items to shoot. So Hunter gets together with my fashionista and they have a photo shoot with the item. Fashionista gets to keep the item, and the clothing manufacturer gets cheap exposure on social media. Win for everyone!

That’s how fashionista got the Indy sweatshirt in the above photo for free.

This only works if someone has a lot of followers on social media. This is advertising, after all. And if you are uncomfortable with having your fashionista on social media, this won’t work for you.

10. Compromise

This is my least favorite option, but sometimes your fashionista wants an item that you can’t get with the other options listed above. If there is an must-have item that your fashionista wants, you can split the cost with her. Offer to have her put up half her own money. If she doesn’t have money, have her earn the item through working around the house over and above her regular chores. Make sure that you get her to work before you pick up the item! (I’ve dealt with far too many promises with no follow-through.) We did this with a pair of Converse sneakers that fashionista wanted. Again, this should be your last option.

You notice that throughout this post, I keep referring to your fashionista using these tips to save money, not you. This is deliberate. Not only does this give your fashionista more control, it’s perfect life training for your fashionista to manage her money. The clothing may be temporary, but the life skills learned will last forever.

What are your favorite ways to save on teens’ clothes?
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Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack


Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack - from strawberry container to lettuce keeper

Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack

I had just finished washing and prepping some strawberries to eat. And I was left with that empty plastic clamshell that the strawberries come in.

Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hack -from strawberry container to lettuce keeper

Don’t you hate that thing? Sure, it does a fine job of holding strawberries. But once it’s empty, it’s just one more plastic item to add to the landfill.

Then I read this post from thekitchn.com about how to keep lettuce and salad greens fresh. We Tried 3 Ways to Store Salad Greens .

The post details ways to store lettuce in plastic bags and plastic containers with paper towels. These methods keep lettuce fresh and ready to eat for over a week.

And as I stared at the empty strawberry clamshell container, it hit me: Why not use the empty strawberry container for lettuce storage?

Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hack


So I washed the lettuce and dried it carefully. I layered the lettuce in the clamshell container with paper towels, and refrigerated the container.

And it worked!

Looking back, it seems like a no-brainer. After all, you can buy delicate greens and spinach in plastic clamshells.


I’m sure that if you wanted to be a super recycler, you could wrap the lettuce in a clean dish towel. Either way, I’ll be sure to save my strawberry containers this spring!

What disposable items have you given a new life in your kitchen? Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hackThis post was featured on:



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7 ways to dress your kids for cheap

 Save hundreds of dollars on your kids' clothes


It happens: You bring your sweet little bundle of joy home, in the cute outfit that still has the new creases in it. Then the blowout occurs.

And your child’s clothes will never be the same again.

It’s not just the stains. Your little one will triple in size in the first year.

Didn’t know you would be raising a baby Hulk, did you?

And your little one keeps growing, and growing, and growing, and. . .

You can spend a mint on those little outfits that they only wear once. But there are ways to save hundreds of dollars on dressing your kids:

1. Shop garage and yard sales

Along with sagging couches and mismatched dishware, you can find mountains and mountains of gently used kids’ clothing at garage and yard sales. You can even find name brand clothes for cheap. During the summer months, I’ll stop at yard sales and spend a few minutes browsing the piles for an outfit or two. I’ve gotten shirts for as low as 25 and 50 cents and jeans for one or two dollars. Remember, you can always pick up items that are too big and store for another season.

2. Hit the clearance racks for out of season clothes


Stores start marking down clothing in the middle of a season to make room for the new arrivals. This makes January and July great times to search through the clearance racks for clothes at a deep discount. The best deals are for the very seasonal clothes, like winter gloves and swimsuits. Just the other day, I found knit gloves 2 for 50 cents and knit hats for a dollar.

The nice thing about clearance clothes is that your kids can wear them during the same season for a few months. You can also buy a size larger and store the clothes for next year.

3. Shop thrift stores on the discount days

When I was a kid, thrift stores were where Grandma’s clothes went to die. You only shopped there if you needed a polyester jumpsuit for Halloween. Now there are tons of gently used clothes to sort through.

Problem is, the markup on thrift store clothing is higher than I’d like. That’s why I listed this option behind garage sales and clearance racks. Usually the prices are the same as new clothes marked down for discount. However, the thrift store I frequent has certain discount days during the week. I’ll look for  A few times a year the store have 50% off the entire store. That’s when I stock up.

 4. Arrange for an informal swap

When my kids outgrow their clothes, I pass them along to friends that have younger kids than mine. My friends do the same with their older kids’ clothes. We pass along what we can’t use and keep what we can. I find that kids hate hand-me-downs only when they don’t have a voice in what we keep or not. If an outfit doesn’t appeal to them, I donate it. Clothes that are too worn get re-purposed to something else. My nieces LOVE the outfits my fashionista passes down, and since my guy has grown 10 inches (!) this last year, it’s been nice to swap his too short pants with pairs I’ve had waiting for him.

5. Participate in a larger swap

You can also widen your circle of people to swap outfits with. It takes a little more work, but you can arrange a formal clothing swap with a church group, school PTSA, or neighborhood. All you need is an area with tables, some flyers to advertise the event, and a date. Every one brings clothes that they want to get rid of. At the end of the night, bag up any leftovers, and take them to the thrift store to donate. Win for everyone!

6. Dress up existing articles of clothes

One way to keep clothes lasting longer is by modifying kids’ clothes as they get stained or outgrown. Here are some ideas that I’ve used:

  • Slap an applique or fabric paint on a shirt to cover a stain
  • Add a ruffle to a too short shirt or skirt
  • Make shorts out of too short pants and jeans with torn knees
  • Turing too short pants into long sleeves, as shown on The Refab Diaries
  • Making old T shirts into dresses, as shown on I Am Momma – Hear Me Roar

 7. Sew Complete Outfits

My kids cringe when I get near a sewing machine. But if you’ve got the talent, you can create some cute outfits. It often takes less than a yard to make a shirt or skirt. Check out the cute shirt that my friend Zina made up for her son:

zina kid shirt
Isn’t that the most adorable little hedgehog? I just love the running stitch on the collar.

Even though I don’t sew, I’ll often peek in at the blog Running With Scissors with serious sewing envy. You should check it out for inspiration.

Treat kids’ clothes as disposable; when you use these 7 solutions for getting kids’ clothes for cheap, you can save hundreds of dollars as well as your sanity!

What are your favorite ways to save on kids’ clothes?

Next week, I’ll tackle the even harder challenge of dressing teens for cheap.

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Bountiful Baskets — Is it worth it?

boutiful baskets-title


This is the first in a series of articles where I’ll examine common cost cutting methods and see how they stack up.

The setup: Bountiful Baskets is a non-profit cooperative available in 24 states, mostly in the West and the South. At the beginning of the week, you order a basket for $15 (plus $2.50 handling fee) — an assortment of fruits and vegetables that Bountiful Baskets selects for you. You select a pickup location and on Saturday, pick up the produce (bring your own box). The produce is not strictly local, like a CSA. You can pay extra for an organic basket, as well as add-on specialty items. For more information, see www.bountifulbaskets.org .

I had heard about Bountiful Baskets for a while. People kept telling me how much they save with participating with Bountiful Baskets.

I was skeptical. “Really?” I thought. “There’s no way that a single cooperative could beat my produce prices.” I tend to shop a number of stores, and buy my produce during peak season to save the most money.

But I figured I’d give it a shot. I ordered a basket, brought it home, weighed, and counted the produce. Then I compared the produce to the prices I usually pay. First I figured the lowest price that I like to pay for my fruits and vegetables. Next I wrote down the price of the produce that I found in the stores for that week.

Here are my totals:


Bountiful Baskets Price Comparison
Produce Quantity Bountiful Baskets Grocery Sale Price Grocery Average Price
green grapes 2 lbs .99/lb 1.99/lb
pineapple 2 lbs .75/lb 1.25/lb
apricots 4.2 lbs free 1.99/lb
baby watermelon 3 lbs .25/lb .75/lb
plums 2.3 lbs 1.49/lb 1.99/lb
bananas 2lb 10oz lbs .33/lb .50/lb
potatoes 5 lbs .99/lb .99/lb
romaine 1 head .88/lb 1.25/lb
spaghetti squash 1 lb 8.4oz .99/lb 1.49/lb
mushrooms 8 oz 1.49/lb 2.50/lb
cucumbers 2 3/1 .79
Total 17.50 28.67 35.25


Wow. As you can see, there’s quite a difference between the cost of the basket and the individual prices of the items — even when I buy them at the lowest sales price that I can get.

The nice thing about Bountiful Baskets is that, unlike a CSA, you are not committed to purchasing a basket each week. During the summer months, when our garden is producing more than we can eat in a week, we don’t participate as often.

Bountiful Baskets may not be for everyone, however. You won’t find Bountiful Baskets an excellent deal if:

  • You don’t eat a lot of vegetables – Well, of course, if you are not willing to prepare and eat the fruits and vegetables, you’ll waste a lot of produce.
  • You must have perfect vegetables – I haven’t had a big problem with the quality of produce, but because it’s packed and distributed by volunteers, some items may not be as picture perfect as found in the supermarket. Be sure to inspect your basket when you receive it.
  • You are uncomfortable with trying new items – We’ve found lots of interesting vegetables in our box, such as: multi-colored carrots, fennel, chayote, and parsnips. I’ve had to Google items a few times to figure out how to prepare and cook an odd fruit or vegetables.

Fortunately, Bountiful Baskets also has a great Pinterest board where participants post recipes. I’ll also post a weekly menu plan using your basket items, so you can figure out what to do with all that produce!

What’s your experience with Bountiful Baskets?

Bountiful Baskets did not pay or reimburse me for this post, and the links are not affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

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7 ways to use old citrus

7 ways to use old citrus


It happens to all of us. Maybe you vowed that this was the year that you’d eat half a grapefruit for breakfast every day. Maybe you saw that gorgeous stack of oranges at the grocery store and had to have some.

So you end up with surplus citrus. And sometimes you might end up with an orange or lime that’s a little bit old. Not moldy or gross, mind you. But just a little. . . sad. When we have fruit that starts to look this way, everyone in the family shuns it.

But there’s still a way to salvage it. Here are seven ways to use up your old citrus:


Juice your citrus. Then toss chicken breasts in a freezer bag and the squeezed juice. Freeze for later thawing and grilling. Some flavor combinations that I love:

  • Grapefruit juice, a few sprigs of rosemary, and a garlic clove
  • Lime juice, sliced onion, chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lemon juice, lemon zest, and thyme

Freezer meals

But why limit the juice to marinades? You can make some great freezer meals from fresh-squeezed juice.

Try either the Orange Ginger Chicken or Lemon Pepper Chicken from New Leaf Wellness:

6 Crockpot Freezer Chicken Meals

Fresh-squeezed orange juice tends to be sweeter than concentrate, so if you make this yummy recipe from Freezer Meals For Us, taste the orange sauce before adding the brown sugar and adjust to taste.

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

Drink spritzes

You can’t get more than a half-cup of juice from most citrus, making it tough to get a good fresh-squeezed glass of OJ from one orange. However, you can use a splash of squeezed juice to freshen up a drink. Freeze the juice in ice-cube trays. When frozen, you can drop a cube in plain water. The juice cubes can add zing to other drinks too. I once put a blood tangerine cube in a Diet Coke. . .ah heaven!
Beats Diet Coke and lime any day.


This works best with oranges, of course. Peel the oranges and lay the segments on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze and pop the frozen segments into  a freezer bag for use. These make the freshest tasting Orange Julius!

Green cleaner

You can also take citrus peels and steep them in vinegar. Strain the liquid after a few weeks and pour it into a clean spray bottle. There are lots of how-tos on the Internet, such as this one from  the Shabby Creek  Cottage. Just remember, you can use more than orange peels. Lemons, limes, and grapefruit peels also make a nice natural cleaner.

Sometimes the citrus is just too far gone to be edible. Don’t worry. You can still squeeze some life out of it before tossing.

Air freshener

Cut up your citrus and toss the pieces into a slow cooker or pot of simmering water. You can also add aromatic herbs and spices, like rosemary and cinnamon sticks. It’s especially great to get rid of those musty late-winter house odors.

Disposal cleaner

Finally you can always use it as a disposal cleaner. Cut up the citrus and toss a few slices in the disposal along with a few ice cubes. Grind them up. This is a great way to clean the disposal and keep it fresh. I know that many people like to freeze slices in chunks like hockey pucks, but I’d rather keep my freezer free for other things.

What’s your favorite way to deal with old citrus?


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5 Minute, No-Measure Crockpot Soup

5 Minute No Measure Crockpot Soup leftovers

Crockpot soups are soooo nice to come home to. They’re warm, comforting, and easy.
But trying to follow a recipe at seven in the morning is a little too much effort for me.
I know, I know. You can put all the ingredients in the crock pot the night before and refrigerate the crockpot until morning.
But that involves planning. And some days, that’s more planning than I want to deal with.

For those days when mornings are hectic, I rely upon the 5 minute, no-measure crockpot soup.

You can throw together this soup in five minutes, plug in the crockpot, and leave it to simmer. Come back — instant dinner.

Carl Weathers Baby you got a stew going on

Carl Weathers would approve

To make 5 minute, no-measure crockpot soup, just follow the chart below. Start with a liquid, like chicken broth, add a few vegetables from column A, protein from column B, add some spices. And baby, you got a soup going on!

I’m serious about the no measuring. . .you just eyeball everything. And this recipe scales — you can make it in a small 4 quart crockpot enough for two with leftovers, or feed the block with an 8 quart crockpot. Just follow the ratios: 1/2 liquid, 1/4 vegetables, 1/4 protein.

Crockpot soup is very forgiving. Here are the details:

Liquids – Pick the flavor you want and fill the crockpot up half way. Spaghetti sauce is good for minestrone type soups, milk for chowders, and clear broths for almost anything. If using milk, be sure to use skim or 2% milk. Higher-fat milks tend to curdle.


tomatoVegetables – You can fill the crockpot 1/4 full with bite size chopped vegetables. Frozen vegetables work great, as well as leftover vegetables from the night before. Limit it to three kinds of vegetables to avoid weird combinations.



Meats and other proteins – I always have a few bags of precooked chicken or hamburger stashed in the freezer. Cans of beans are even easier to add to your soup.  Just dump your protein in, filling up the crockpot, leaving 1-2 inches headspace.


spicesYou can be a lot less exact with spices than other types of cooking. Toss in a chopped onion, some minced garlic, and some celery. Feel free to leave out the onion or garlic if you don’t like. Toss in the other spices, a good pinch, depending upon how you want the soup to turn out. I just grab a small spoon from the silverware drawer and use it to add the spices.

I like to salt the soup just before eating. It’s lots easier to adjust salt and heat at the end of the cooking time.


cheeseThese are the finishing touches that really makes the soup. Add them just before serving. You can stir them in or top your soup with them.


And finally, give your soup a good stir before leaving it unattended. I confess, I tend to forget this last step. Often I’ve come home and lifted the lid to view an island of dried out vegetables and meat in a pool of liquid.


Here’s your handy chart:

crockpot, leftover magic, soups, freezer cooking








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Minecraft patch from upcycled T shirt

upcycled tshirt to minecraft patch title






So, for the past six months, my kid’s been obsessed with this:

Minecraft up cycle from old tshirt | 15 minute cheapskate
A red pixelated turd










For those whose kids are NOT obsessed with Minecraft, this is a Redstone. Redstones are items used in the Minecraft video game to transmit “power.”

Minecraft up cycle from old tshirt | 15 minute cheapskate
So it’s a magical pixelated turd











And this is what he wanted on his blanket for Christmas. I couldn’t find any Redstone blankets.

So I created one.

I had an old stained and torn t shirt that I sacrificed for the project.

minecraft 1



I printed the Redstone graphic on computer iron-on paper.


upcycle, minecraft, iron on, sewing, appliqué, Tshirt





Depending on what kind and brand of iron-on paper you use, you may need to reverse the image when printing it out

Leaving about a 1/4 inch around the image, I cut out the image and ironed it on the shirt.

Cut out the patch and started sewing. I set my sewing machine for a close zig zag stitch and started stitching the patch on.

The patch has a nice vinyl-like feel. I didn’t want to pin the patch onto the blanket, and poke holes in the patch.


As I’m sewing, I’m thinking, “This Redstone is suspiciously looking more brown than red.”

upcycle, minecraft, recycle, sewing, kids
And the fact that the red pixels now appear yellow certainly didn’t help


I don’t know if it was the mindless zigzagging around the patch, or the color, but I got distracted and screwed up. Because I didn’t tack down the patch before hand, the patch shifted position and I accidentally created a gap.

minecraft 5






There was no way I was going to pick out all those stitches and risk tearing the patch or putting unnecessary holes in the blanket.

Did I mention that this was happening two days before Christmas?

Ping! Idea struck!

I took the leftover t shirt, cut a few 1 inch strips of material, and stuffed the patch. Gave the patch a nice puffy appearance.

Laziness + time deadlines = innovation!

I finished sewing on the patch. It didn’t look half bad.

Next time I use this technique, I’ll tack the patch down with fabric glue before sewing. Even hot glue or spray on glue would be okay, since it’s temporary.

I wouldn’t use fusible interfacing or tape because I don’t know if the iron-on patch would peel or scorch due to additional applied heat.

Ta da! And how did the blanket go over?

He’s happy

What do you think?



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