Clothing can take up a big chunk of the family budget, especially if you have a weak spot for buying new clothes.
New clothes aren’t just a matter of practicality – a new top or dress can make you feel like a million dollars, even if it only cost you five.
And the fashion we wear is a way of broadcasting our inner personality.
Fashion doesn’t have to break the budget though. Here are 10 ways to save money on clothing and still look and feel great.
1. BUY LESS
Apparently the 80/20 rule applies to clothing also: we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time.
The rest sits wasted in the wardrobe.
Like the box of clothes that I’ll ‘one day’ fit into again.
Time to pare down the wardrobe.
Besides saving you money, having fewer clothes may actually help you to be more successful .
According to Business Insider, having a small selection of clothes and wearing them over and over saves you the mental energy of deciding what to wear every day. You avoid decision fatigue and because you’ve saved brain effort, you will enjoy greater productivity during the day.
How many shoes do you need? How many pants? Or tops?
According to the ‘capsule wardrobe’ principle, you only need about 30 – 40 clothing items each season. I admit to having less, but I’m a fashion failure.
How do you put the ‘buy less’ principle into practice if buying clothes is your ‘one weakness’?
First, create a list of essential wardrobe items and must haves for the season and stick to that list.
If temptation is too great, avoid the shops or shop without your credit card.
The flip side to buying fewer clothes is that you have to take care of them so they last. Read the care label as wash accordingly and avoid the dryer if possible.
Replace buttons, darn socks, stitch up small tears and holes and otherwise mend your clothes so they last longer.
2. BUY SECOND-HAND
I admit, I’m not the biggest fan of op-shopping for clothes. Some people have a real talent for spotting op-shop bargains and looking fabulous for less. I have been lucky enough to snag a few bargains, like a top that I wore to death that only cost me 50 cents, but my specialty lies elsewhere (I’m good with second-hand books and kitchen items).
When shopping for clothes in op-shops a two-pronged approach is needed.
First, keep a list of things that you need (Evernote is great for this) so that you can keep an eye out for those items. Know that it may take you some time to find just the item you’re looking for.
Second, browse and be prepared to make the most of serendipitous surprises and unexpected bargains.
If you check out Pinterest, there’s hundreds of inspiring ideas for upcycling second-hand clothes, but the Renegade Seamstress deserves a special mention because the repurposed garments she makes are AMAZING – she’s a very talented lady.
Garage sales, local ‘buy, swap and sell’ Facebook pages and eBay are also great places to pick up a bargain on second-hand clothes.
3. BUY IN THE SALES
With shops in constant sales cycles these days, there’s no reason to pay full price for anything.
Again, keep a list of things you need (and in what sizes if you’re shopping for the whole family) and keep an eye out for when they go on sale.
Keep a special eye out for in between season bargains when clothes are a percentage off the already reduced price. This is when you can really bag a bargain sometimes up to 90% off the original price.
But remember the motto: ‘a bargain isn’t a bargain unless you need it.’
4. BUY FACTORY SECONDS
Buying factory seconds can be as hit and miss as buying second-hand. Sometimes you can pick up amazing bargains and other times, it’s slim pickings.
You will often find designer label seconds, so if you’re into labels, you can save money, but it’s possible to still pay a small fortune compared to ‘no-brand’ clothing.
On the other hand, buying quality ‘timeless’ pieces at a discount, and which will last a long time is a smart strategy compared to buying cheap clothes that fall apart after a few wears.
Clothes in factory outlets can be off-season; again, it’s a good idea to go prepared with a list of things you need, especially if you’re going to be buying next season’s clothing.
Before shopping in outlet stores, check to see if the clothes are made for the outlet. In other words, is the clothing discontinued lines, or was it made specifically for the outlet store using lower quality fabrics? Also, check the original prices online to make sure you’re really getting a bargain.
5. SIGN UP FOR STORE CARDS TO GET THEIR SPECIAL OFFERS
If there are brands or stores that you particularly like, sign up for their membership cards or get onto their email list to receive special offers.
I’m a strong believer that a bargain isn’t a bargain if you don’t need it, but occasionally the planets align and a sale falls at a time when you do actually need something. Membership to certain stores keeps you informed as to when these special sales occur.
6. SHOP ONLINE
Shopping online for clothes is becoming more and more common. On one hand, it’s more convenient shopping from the comfort of your home. On the other hand, it can be less convenient not being able to try clothes on before you buy.
I’ve shopped for clothes online from several retailers (like Katies*) with mixed success. My biggest tip is to read the reviews for the items you want to buy. While sizing charts work well, if there are a bunch of reviews that say something like: “large cut, went down a size for a better fit,” you can take that into account when ordering.
Here are a few other tips for shopping for clothes online:
- Take your body measurements accurately (get a friend to help you) and look at clothing measurements rather than sizes, particularly if you are buying clothing from overseas.
- Styles and cuts matter as much as sizes. Depending on your body shape, you may be able to fit into a pair of shorts in a size 12 in one style and need a size 16 in another (story of my life – ‘hipsters’ and me are not friends). Make sure you understand the style and cut as well as the measurements before purchasing.
- Look for sites that have lots of pictures as well as a full description of each item.
- The type of fabric used will affect the look and drape of a piece of clothing. So will lining or the absence of lining. Compare the fabric with other items you have in your wardrobe or other items in the store to get an idea of how the fabric choice of an item will affect it’s fit.
- Save on shipping by buying several items from the same store or buying on free shipping days.
- Understand the returns policy before purchasing.
- Sign up to get the emails from your favourite online retailers to find out when they have sales.
7. BUY QUALITY WHEN IT COUNTS
I’m a big fan of purchasing quality items in ‘timeless’ styles that are going to last a few years, like a good pair of jeans. Even though you may spend more upfront, you save in the long run you always look stylish and classy.
On the other hand, you can get good clothes from discount retail stores much cheaper than ‘brand’ clothes. If you’re after a plain t-shirt, for instance, a Target or Big W top is going to do the job just as well as an Esprit one, for a small fraction of the cost.
So create a wardrobe based on classic quality pieces and mix it up with a few cheaper ‘seasonal’ fashion pieces and accessories to keep things interesting.
Do people still borrow clothes?
I have a friend who offers to lend me outfits for special occasions like weddings. It makes sense to borrow an item if you’re only going to wear it once.
Just make sure to take extra special care of it if you’re borrowing clothes from someone else.
A clothes swap can be something as simple as swapping clothes with friends who are a similar size as you. Even if you don’t have someone to swap your clothes with, you may know other mums to swap kid’s clothes with!
Or you could participate in a more organised group swap, either run with your friends or through a formal organisation like a community group.
10. MAKE YOUR OWN
Sewing your own clothes isn’t time-saving, but it can be money saving if you buy fabric when it’s discounted and reuse patterns or even make your own.
I’m not a seamstress, but I’m gradually improving my skills with each garment I make. I made a lovely top out of Japanese Lawn that I picked up for $3 a metre from Spotlight on sale using this pattern (I LOVE the SIS BOOM patterns!)
If you’re just learning to sew or you want to take it to the next level, Craftsy has a whole range of sewing classes including sewing with knits, patternmaking (this would save heaps on sewing and your clothes would fit perfectly), sewing pants, sewing underwear…you can learn just about anything.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a fashionable wardrobe. Savvy shopping and knowing what you will need before you need it, giving you plenty of time to shop around, will save you from paying full retail price ever again.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.