Who among us doesn’t pass by a store window—not intending to shop—then gets lured in and, next thing we know, we’re buying a sweater we don’t need? Plus, it’s July. I used to love to impulse shop, but once I figured out I liked the act more than actually wearing the clothes, I realized it was a waste of money.
Now I get most of my clothes at a friend’s monthly clothing swap (more on that below), Goodwill, or when brand-name stores have a super, super, duper sale, letting me get things for 10 percent of their original cost.
I’m not saying to never splurge, but here’s how you can consistently spend less on clothes. Plus, chances are you see a wide variety of people week-to-week, so, in actuality, you can wear the same outfits each week and no one will know. (Okay, maybe some co-workers will, but I even have tips below for that hurdle, too.)
1. Budget—and don’t exceed your monthly maximum of what you spend on clothes.
Make a realistic assessment of clothes you need versus clothes you want.
2. Pack a carry-on suitcase for an imaginary getaway weekend or fake business trip.
Pretend you have to pack business attire as well as after-work and more casual-wear. Once your bag is packed, assess what you put into it and then try to base your weekly wardrobe around these items (which are likely to be your favorites without your even knowing it).
3. Buy things that match or complement several of your clothing items vs. not.
For example, solids work best instead of patterns that only go with certain pants. A co-worker friend of mine once told me she wears the same pair of black pants to work every day and just switches tops or boots and no one can tell. (I never would have known!) It’s true. Try it. You’ll see. (Plus, if anyone notices, which is doubtful, they should love you for you, not your clothes.)
4. Shop by season (or months) versus weekly or impulsively.
As I mentioned in the intro of this article, yes, I’ve done it—bought a cute jacket (it was the last one and on sale and I knew I’d wear it in the Spring)—but then I spent less on my food budget (or what have you) that month. So, every time you add, be sure to subtract elsewhere to make up for it.
5. Find “quality on sale.”
This is my mom’s catchphrase (probably due growing up with Depression-era parents in Chicago). She’s infamous for shopping at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s—but waiting for the huge sales, never paying full price. (She’s also excellent at finding hidden racks of clothes that are 75 percent off, even on non-sale days, so always look around!) As a child, I never knew the value of this, but when I became older, I completely understood.
6. Befriend thrift stores.
Never underestimate the quality of clothes at thrift stores. Not only are there the Goodwills and Salvation Army stores of the world, but there’s more boutique ones, like Buffalo Exchange, and many have brand-name clothes in excellent condition. People donate clothes for a variety of reasons—not just items that are no longer in season—so go thrifting and see for yourself.
7. Visit a thrift store… to sell your clothes.
Yes, if you do not want to donate your clothes, you can try selling them at places like Buffalo Exchange and other thrift and consignment shops so you can gain money to buy new attire.
8. Go to non-thrift stores.
When I was a kid and my mom was mid-divorce, she’d take my brother and me shopping for clothes every Saturday—in the local church basement. Rich people would donate their clothes and the church would sell them for just $1 per grocery bag full. We’d see how many things we could stuff into a bag and have “new” school clothes in a matter of minutes (for one-one-hundreth of the price as our classmates’ wardrobes). So, shop around (so to speak) for other venues to find inexpensive clothes.
9. Attend (or host) clothing swaps.
That’s right, trade clothes with your friends. An L.A. friend of mine hosts these once a month and they’re amazing. About 5-10 of us brings bags of clothes we no longer wear, dump them all out, then trade. (We accompany this with food and drinks, of course, and make it into a Clothing Swap Potluck.)