I feel like I'm constantly buying clothes, shoes, boots, jackets, hats, etc. for my kids, because they grow so fast! I try to re-use via hand-me-downs, but are there other ways I could be saving money so more of what we earn goes towards our savings rather than towards items of clothing that are worn for just a few months?
I feel the same way too! With two kids, I feel like I am spending what it would cost to run a small country just on clothes, shoes, jackets, replacing everything as it is grown out of!
A few things I do: I shop in affordable places and check out sales, and look for the cutest things I can find there in a reasonable price range. If you aren't browsing in the $60 baby dresses, you aren't tempted by them. I don't go looking at $60 shirts for my son, he's five and he doesn't need a $60 shirt. I also really only shop for him two or three times a year for clothing...back to school and early spring are the big ones. For fall I got him five pairs of jeans, maybe 8 tops, new socks, etc. I'll add in a couple of heavier sweatshirts, etc as I go, but I really don't browse for him...it's too easy to find something to buy!
I look for inexpensive lines for the things that don't really matter...bright T's for my son for summer that just get dirty and spilled on, sleepers, socks, pj's, etc. Joe Fresh, Walmart, Old Navy, Costco. Then I choose a few things that I know I want brand name or more stylish options for, and find ways to buy them more cheaply. These might be things like logo'd fleece tops, trendy jackets, things where the style is actually noticed. I buy jeans at Old Navy for my son when they are on sale, I buy Gusti/Genevieve LaPierre snowsuits at Sears when they are 40% off in Sept/Oct. The Childrens' Place has good quality, stylish clothing for kids and if you watch, they always have deals on their jeans or tops...then I stock up. And for younger kids, Old Navy and The Children's Place jeans have adjustable waistbands. I've already unrolled cuffs and let out the waist in my son's back to school jeans.
I have friends who are starting to take in bags of too-small clothing to consignment shops...if they come away with $100, it's still $100!
For preteen and teen kids who want certain brands, etc, I think it is very reasonable to say "we will pay x for each pair of jeans, or x for winter boots. If you want to throw in some babysitting/birthday money and go buy something more expensive, you are welcome to do so!" That way, you are still paying for basics, but they can feel like they aren't stuck wearing things they don't like. Tell them...you can buy 5 tops at $x each for back to school, or 10 tops at $x.
And lastly, and most sadly of all: buy less..and stop shopping. There, I said it out loud. I try to be careful of what I buy, but I still find things I bought that were never worn. Now I keep a return basket in laundry/mudroom...if I don't love it, if it seems impractical now that I got it home, if I wanted it just in case item #1 didn't work...it goes in the basket. And I return them. I suck it up, I take it with me and go get my money back. Mistakes can be fixed if the items haven't been worn or washed.
I'm all for thrift stores and yard sales. When they're littler they're more into comfort, perhaps insisting on certain colors, but somewhere around 13 they start to become more fashion conscious. If you want name brand clothes for kids, hit yard sales or consignment stores in better neighborhoods. Other places are Ross's or Marshall's. Both carry name brands. It's just you never know what they'll have. Another stategy is to buy fewer clothes. If you do laundry twice a week, you just don't need as much. Aim for mix and match. Also have play clothes for rough and tumble wear and "good" clothes for school and church. All these help keep costs down. My sister and I maintained an informal exchange between the cousins. This helped a good deal. A church in our neighborhood has a yearly clothing giveaway. That kind of thing may be an option for you as well. Or you could request needed items on Yahoo's freecycle. I see alot of clothes being given or requested on that site. I had one son who ripped out knees. Double kneed pants were a great investment. It looked like a rather large patch of fusible interfacing attached to the inside knee area. So it might work if you tried that on exisitng pants. Hope these help.
I speak as a person without kids, but I'll give this a shot anyway, using my memory of the perspective I had when I was a kid. My advice is, if the kids are young enough to not care much, don't be afraid of the thrift store. My parents got a bunch of clothes from the thrift store as I was growing up (around elementary school age) and I didn't care at all. When I got to be older, (middle school age) shopping at Target and K-mart didn't seem bad either. By the time the kids are old enough to really care beyond, they are probably old enough to get their own part-time jobs and get their own clothing.
I however, am probably naive, as I still care little for such things, and judging from popular culture, most care about them a great deal.
I look ahead for sizes. I was at the thrift store and saw a good condition, good brand winter coat that will likely fit my daughter next year, so I bought it. I also bought a snowsuit my baby can wear when he's 6 months (~5 months pregnant now). When it starts getting cold next fall, I'll be set, rather than wasting time and money running around town trying to find winter gear. This applies for any regular stores you visit (Costco, thrift stores, kids resale stores, etc): look for clearance/discounted kids clothes in the next few sizes up, even off-season. This works especially well for basics you need lots of (PJs, socks, etc) and more expensive things where you don't want to be desperate when shopping for them. You're always "buying low."