10 Ways to Save Money on Clothes

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Clothing can be expensive, especially when you’re trying to buy quality, ethical clothing while keeping costs down! Here are 10 ways to save money on clothes. 

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.

woman's hand looking through clothing rack representing ways to save money on clothes

1. It Pays to Buy Fewer Quality Clothes

Apparently, the 80/20 rule applies to clothes 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. Save When You Buy Second-hand 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, although 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 are 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.

You might also like: How to Shop the Secondhand Stores Like an Expert.

3. Save Money When You Buy Clothes on Sale

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. Grab a Bargain by Buying 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. You Can Find Great Deals Through Store Memberships

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 Around Online – The New Way to Buy Clothes

Shopping online for clothes is becoming more and more common. On the 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. And while there is a lot of cheap clothing out there, a lot of it is fast fashion.

I’ve shopped for clothes online from several retailers 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 (‘hipsters’ 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. Quality Not Fast Fashion Will Save You Money

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 up front, you save in the long run, and you always look stylish and classy.

Not to mention that avoiding fast fashion is good for the environment.

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 top is going to do the job just as well as an Esprit one, for a small fraction of the cost. 

When searching for bargain clothes, look at the quality, even for a cheap t-shirt. If you hold it up to the light and can see through it, it’s not going to last very long. Check to see if the stitching is loose, if the hems are finished or if they look like they will unravel in the first wash. Avoid sequins and anything that will come off in the first wear. If you can, avoid polyester and other synthetic fibres which shed micro fibres into the waterways at each wash and don’t break down once they are disposed of. Natural fibres are best. 

Balance cost of timeless pieces with one or two cheaper ‘seasonal’ fashion pieces and accessories to keep things interesting.

You might also be interested in: How to Buy Sustainable Clothes on a Budget.

8. Borrow Clothes From a Mate

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.

9. Save by Having a Clothes Swap

A clothes swap can be something as simple as swapping clothes with friends who are a similar size to you. 

Even if you don’t have someone to swap your clothes with, you may know other mums to swap kids’ 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. I have a friend who attends a clothes swap party with colleagues once a month. It’s a great way to liven up your wardrobe without spending money!

10. Save by Making Your Own Clothes

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 patterns.

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!)

You can learn just about anything on YouTube for free and sewing is no exception. It is an excellent resource for beginners who don’t have the time or money for formal classes but don’t want to wing it either.

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.

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  1. Eileen Miles says:

    How many clothes you have might also be influenced by where you live and the weather conditions.It can rain solidly/or snow for a week and a half here .As you can imagine it is very difficult to get clothes dry without resorting to the dreaded dryer-even though i use a drying rack infront of our fire.We both wear thermals ,4 sets each enough t shirts and shirts for a week at least!!! and about 4-5 pairs of trousers each. plus pj’s is a complete necessity here.Forgot jumpers and thermal tops! Towels I put on another drying rack. If I don’t go outside I wear the same trousers 2-3 times but underwear and socks get changed daily. In summer even though we don’t need as much it still adds up when you have a husband who showers twice a day and changes EVERYTHING. I still can’t convince him some things can be worn more than once. Our wardrobe is also clogged with uniforms for the Volunteer Rescue Service we belong to plus Walking Out Dress clothes. So I don’t stand a chance of thinning most of our stuff out, just replacing what wears out. I hardly ever buy anything new just cause I can!

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      True re the climate! We only need clothes for one season here in QLD – we haven’t really acclimatised but locals wear more layers :).

      While we don’t have to worry about cold weather and trying to get the washing dry, in the middle of summer, when it’s really hot and it’s the wet season, I have trouble drying clothes then. Sometimes I take things to a laundromat to ‘finish them off’ in the dryer there.