For many people, clothing is a favorite purchase, and shopping for new looks is practically a hobby. Fashion is a way to express your personal style; a new pair of jeans or boots can be a major mood-lifter.
But let’s face it, clothes can be expensive. If fashion is your weakness, it can take a big bite out of your budget. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends $1,754 a year on apparel and related services. A survey by Credit Donkey found women spend an average of $571 per year on clothing, compared to men who spend an average of $323 per year.
But some people spend considerably more, ringing up bigger bills by buying the latest handbag or designer clothes that can add the equivalent of a student loan payment to your monthly bills.
These purchases can add up over time and feel like a waste of money of your hard-earned cash. So here, learn some ways to reduce the amount you spend on garments, including:
• How to save money on clothes
• How to know when to shop to get the best deals
• How to trade what you own (but are tired of) for new gear
• How to care for your clothing so it lasts longer.
Money-Saving Tips for Buying Clothes
There are ways you can cut down on your clothing expenses but still score some pieces you can’t wait to wear. Here’s 15 suggestions on how you can save money on clothes without feeling deprived or out of sync with the latest styles.
1. Shop the End-of-Season Sales
Ever notice how spring and summer clothing seems to go on sale in June or July? Or fall and winter clothes in January? The reason is because stores need to sell that merchandise so they can make room for next season’s items. Time it right, and you can scoop up current seasonal clothing at steep discounts. Just don’t go shopping the second that next season’s looks hit the racks.
2. Host a Clothing Swap
You know the saying, someone else’s trash might be your treasure. A cost-free way to get some new pieces is by arranging a clothing swap. The ground rules: Everyone brings clean, gently used clothes they’re looking to unload, and attendees get to sift through other’s clothing and add to their wardrobe for free.
A clothing swap is a great way to combine socializing and “shopping.” If you want to host one, heed this advice:
Make sure you’ve got a big enough space where everyone can comfortably peruse and try on items.
• Invite people who are roughly the same clothing size.
• Set a minimum number of pieces they need to bring.
• Don’t feel like being the coordinator? Check out Meetup.com and Eventbrite.com to find swaps near you.
3. Ask for a Discount on Damaged Clothing
Here’s how to save money when shopping for clothes: If you find something you love but notice slight imperfections such as a small tear, loose thread, or a flaw in the fabric, bring it to the attention of a store employee. You might be able to get some dollars knocked off the retail price. If the salesperson doesn’t offer this, you can politely ask if the price can be lowered to reflect the garment’s condition.
Think it’s not worth the trouble? Remember why saving money is important. Every little bit of extra cash you sock away can be used to pay down debts or go towards a goal like funding a summer vacation.
4. Look for Coupon or Promo Codes
Before making a purchase, search the internet to see if the retailer offers a store coupon or promo code you can use when shopping online. You can find available coupon or discount codes at sites such as Retailmenot.com, Rakuten.com and BeFrugal.com, which all offer cash back for purchases made. Many times, if you are a first-time customer, you can snag a discount and/or free shipping by signing up for email announcements.
Quick Money Tip:Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts will pay you a bit and help your money grow. An online bank account is more likely than brick-and-mortar to offer you the best rates.
5. Mend Your Clothes
Are there things hanging in your closet you’re not wearing simply because a button is missing or the garment has a small hole? Instead of taking it to a tailor, buying something new, or avoiding it altogether because it needs repair, try fixing it on your own. Basic mending doesn’t require a lot of tools and is pretty easy.
As long as you’ve got the basics such as a needle, thread, scissors, or buttons if needed, you’re good to go. If you’re not sure about your hand sewing skills, you can find a slew of how-to videos on YouTube.com. Also check out Japanese mending, which elevates visible mending into an art form.
5. Buy Generic Brands for the Basics
When it comes to certain articles of clothing, purchasing a generic brand over a name or designer one can save you money without jeopardizing your style. Any item you wear under something, like a tank top or a tee shirt, doesn’t need a fancy label to serve the purpose. Why buy a white tee at a high-priced store for $50 or $90 when a similar one at a national chain retailer costs only $5?
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6. Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Having a capsule wardrobe means you’ve created a streamlined clothing collection that features well-made, non-trendy pieces that can all be mixed and matched. The idea is to spend a little more on the items initially. In the long run, however, you save money because these higher quality garments will last longer and not have to be replaced every few months.
A capsule wardrobe also offers timeless, versatile clothing choices instead of a closet full of flash-in-the-pan styles. Not having a large wardrobe may also benefit your overall wellness. One study found 37% of people said minimizing their wardrobe would reduce the stress of getting ready every day.
7. Wash Your Clothes Properly
Laundry mistakes can damage your clothes. For instance, washing certain fabrics in hot water can cause shrinkage, fading, and wrinkling, as well as can trigger dye to run. However, using cold water is much more clothing-friendly so you won’t be in danger of destroying a garment. You can also save on your gas or electric bill since an estimated 75% to 90% of all of the energy used in your washer goes to heating up the water.
Another way to extend the life of your clothes is by not washing every single item after one wear, with the exception of course, of underwear and socks. Why? Each time you wash your clothes, you’re putting stress on the fabric. By wearing your clothes a few times before washing, you can minimize any damage. Doing so will not only save your clothes, but you’ll also spend less on laundry detergent.
8. Borrow from a Friend
Going to a gala event or attending a wedding but can’t afford to buy anything? Consider asking that generous, stylish friend if you might be able to borrow from their closet. This can spare your bank account and allow you to get dressed up in something new and fresh to you. The only cost you might incur is taking the garment to the dry cleaners after.
Don’t have a friend with a fab wardrobe? Consider renting an outfit for your big night out.
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9. Figure Out Cost Per Wear
Looking for more ideas for how to save money on clothes? Maybe it’s time for a bit of easy math. Since you likely want to feel as if you’re getting your money’s worth when you buy an article of clothing, pay attention to how often things get worn. If a piece is costly and you’ve only worn it once, you’re not reaping its full value.
You can figure out if your money was well spent by calculating the cost-per-wear ratio. Just divide the item’s cost by how many times you wear it. For example, if you buy a coat for $100 and wear it 100 times, your cost per wear is $1. On the flip side, if you’ve only worn it five times, each wear is equivalent to $20 which probably hasn’t given you the most bang for your buck. Before you buy the clothing, take time to do the math to assess how many times you realistically expect to wear it.
10. Upcycle Your Clothes
Upcycling clothing is taking something old, recycling it, and making it into something new to wear. Repurposing clothing is one of the many interesting ways you can save money.
Upcycling clothes can include sewing, cutting, dyeing, or even updating a cardigan with new buttons. Fun examples of upcycling include hand-painting a jean jacket, cutting a pair of jeans into shorts, creating a tote bag from a sweatshirt, or transforming a wool blanket into an autumn coat or cape.
Upcycling is also eco-friendly. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year. Not only does upcycling help you buy less and keep excess fabric out of landfills, it’s a way to save money and live sustainably.
11. Retool Your Clothing Budget
One way to stop overspending on clothing is to figure out how much you’re actually shelling out each month and then set a limit. There are several different budgeting techniques, such as the 50-30-20 rule. This divides your take home money into three categories: needs (50%), wants (30%) and savings and debt repayment (20%). ****
The needs category encompasses expenses you can’t avoid like groceries, housing, and utilities. Generally clothes fall into the discretionary wants group along with entertainment, dining out, monthly subscription expenses. Some financial experts suggest limiting clothing spending to 2 to 2.5% of your take-home pay which equals between 6 to 8% of the 30% of non-essential purchases. If you make $4,000 a month, 30% of that amount equals $1,200. 6 to 8% of that figure equals an allotment of $72 to $96 a month for apparel. If that doesn’t sound like enough, you’ll want to see what other non-essentials in the wants category you can scale back.
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12. Go Shopping in Your Own Closet
Do you really know what’s in your closet or tucked into all your dresser drawers? Go through your entire wardrobe, and you might find things you forgot you had or thought you got rid of years ago. Unearthing items you haven’t seen or worn in awhile can spark creativity with clothing combinations and stretch your wardrobe.
On the other hand, you may realize some pieces lingering in the corners of your closet hold no interest. If that’s the case, keep reading for details on how you might get some money for it.
13. Buy and Sell Used Clothing
There’s no question you can save money by shopping for second-hand clothing. You can find bargains at a variety of places including thrift stores, consignment shops, garage, yard, or stoop sales, and even for free through community groups such as Buy Nothing. Two sites, among others, where you can sell your old stuff are Poshmark.com and Depop.com. Both are great for finding brand-name and designer garb for cheap.
And, the pickings are plentiful since secondhand shopping is at an all time-high with 82% of Americans buying or selling used goods, according to OfferUp’s Recommerce Report.
What’s more, some vintage and used clothing shops also buy from people like you. Check out Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads Trading; you might get cash for your gear or be able to swap it for pieces you love.
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14. Don’t Give into Temptation
One way to curb clothes spending is to put a temporary kibosh on shopping for these items. Try not to put yourself in situations where you may feel the urge to buy clothing. For instance, many people spend money when bored. Instead of going shopping when you have an unplanned afternoon, perhaps you could explore new hobbies.
Also, when you find yourself with the urge to shop, stop and ask yourself, “Do I truly need this or do I simply want it?”
You can also commit to a 30-day no-spending challenge on shopping for anything to wear. You may notice you have more money, less credit card debt, and don’t feel the need to buy unnecessary clothing items after you see the rewards of this month of not buying.
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15. Learn When Retailers Have Their Biggest Sales
Start paying attention and you’ll see a pattern as to when major retailers host their big sales. Holiday weekends such as Martin Luther King Jr.’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July are popular times for stores to feature great buys along with Black Friday. For online shopping, check out deals on Cyber Monday (the Monday right after Thanksgiving) and Amazon Prime Day.
You can also ask a salesperson at your favorite stores to give you the inside scoop on when certain items might be going on sale.
Clothes shopping can be fun and an ego boost, but if you’re not mindful, it’s easy to rack up the bills and possibly find yourself mired in unnecessary debt. Many times, there are ways to cut back on buying clothes, make the pieces you have last longer, and breathe new life into your wardrobe without going broke. With creativity, knowledge, and some smart moves, you can still feel good about what you wear without spending as much.
How can I stop spending money on clothes?
One of the best ways is to simply remove the temptation, especially if you’re prone to impulse spending. If you like to shop online, unsubscribe from retailer emails so you won’t be alerted to new items and sales. Feel the itch while scrolling your phone? Put it down; pick up a book, or watch a movie instead. When you’re out and about, resist going into your favorite stores. Vow to commit to a 30-day shopping sabbatical and see how much money you’re able to save as a result.
Are there ways I can take better care of my clothing so they’ll last longer?
Yes. Follow the washing instructions carefully, let items air-dry when possible (instead of exposing them to a hot dryer), and store them in a cool, clean, and dry environment out of the sunlight, which can cause fading. Also fold heavy sweaters instead of hanging them to prevent the fabric from stretching.
Should I only buy cheaper clothes?
No. Sometimes spending more means you’ll get a well-made, high-quality garment that will last for years. Look for these pieces on sale at major department stores and at discount retailers such as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.
Photo credit: iStock/Phiwath Jittamas
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