Parents, I'm sure you've noticed that kids' feet grow really fast. It might seem like you just made a trip to the shoe store, and then before you know it, it's time to get yet another pair of new little shoes.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' patient education site, during the first few years of life, a toddler likely will need new, bigger shoes every two to three months. And though the pace of foot growth slows down a bit after that, it remains pretty quick until age 10 or so.
The good news, however, is that this shoe growth spurt of sorts doesn't necessarily have to be bad for your wallet. Here are seven tips for finding bigger shoes without breaking the bank.
1. Online flash sales are your friend. If you're a fan of name-brand styles, then you'll want to check out the flash sales at Zulily, a daily deal site for moms, babies and kids. Zulily has limited-time sales offering steals on brands like Puma (up to 60 percent off) Stride Rite (up to 50 percent off) and Toms (up to 40 percent off).
In addition, on any given day, you're likely to find deals on a host of stylish shoe brands, like Crocs. In addition, other flash sale sites, such as Gilt and Hautelook, have entire sections dedicated to the little ones.
2. Buy budget-friendly big shoes in bulk. When you come across a sale on a shoe brand that you like (whether at the sites mentioned above or elsewhere), stock up on sale shoes in sizes bigger than your little one's current size. I learned, and copied, this trick from my sister, who hits Zulily limited-time sales for future shoes for her daughter. Now, I similarly have a collection of toddler size 7, 8, 9 and 10 shoes waiting in a closet for my 19-month-old daughter's size-6 toes to catch up.
3. Be loyal. Many popular children's shoe stores offer rewards programs, so if you're a fan of one particular brand, joining the loyalty club can be a great way to save. Stride Rite's rewards program, for instance, offers $10 for every $75 spent as well as member-only offers. Meanwhile Pediped's program offers up to 7 percent back in rewards credit, and these are just two of the rewards programs out there.
4. Go cheap. Clearance and sale racks, whether online or in store, are worth checking out for deals, as are outlet stores. In addition, you often can find great deals on shoes at retailers like Walmart, Diapers.com, Amazon.com and Target.
5. Think one pair. Many of the kid-friendly sneaker styles out today are versatile enough to be worn for all occasions. My tot, for example, generally only has one pair of shoes at a time. Currently, she's rocking silver, sparkly Stride Rite Mary Jane style sneakers. While the nearly $40 shoes weren't cheap by little kid standards, they work great all the time, whether my daughter is just cruising to the local park or dancing at a formal party (she wore them to a Bat Mitzvah). And following tip number four above, I just scored the same shoes, but in a bigger size and only $30, for my daughter on sale at Diapers.com.
6. Try used. While you may never imagine yourself putting used shoes on your little one, a number of experts say that gently-used shoes are generally fine for little feet, assuming the shoes fit, are in good condition and have nice soft soles. The reason: Toddlers and little kids typically grow out of their shoes so fast, meaning their shoes rarely get worn out.
That means many shoes can be handed down from one child to another, you might want to opt for shoes in gender-neutral colors if you're planning to have more than one kid.
7. Skip baby shoes. Many experts recommend that babies learn to stand and walk while barefoot or in socks, assuming that the little one isn't moving around on a chilly, hot, rough or other sort of surface that would require a sturdy protective layer. This is why baby shoes are on my waste-of-money baby product list as well as similar lists by others, and you can wait to buy shoes until your little one can walk.
To be sure, many of the tips above assume that the shoes you're picking out and buying work on your child's feet. To make it more likely that this is the case, you can stick to buying styles you know will fit or stick with in-store mommy-and-me and daddy-and-me shopping.
Or, you could try a clever tip I came across online. The trick: Trace the outline of your little one's foot on a piece of paper, measure the tracing and then use those measurements to help pick out proper-sized shoes when you're shopping sans your toddler offline or online.
What did I miss? What are your tips for cutting the costs of little shoes?
Jennifer Saranow Schultz, formerly the "Bucks" blogger for The New York Times and a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, shares daily hints to help make parenting easier and cheaper at HintMama.com, on Twitter at @HintMama and on Facebook at Facebook.com/HintMama.
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