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There was a time when I considered myself a fashionista.
I was obsessed with shows like “What Not to Wear” and “Project Runway.” I would drop $200 in a shopping trip without blinking an eye. They knew me by name at Charming Charlie as I strutted through the doors with bedazzled purses and earrings the size of my fist. Because after all, I had to look fly as hell; I was a professional in the big, bad adult world. And I was on top of it.
Or so I thought.
Funny enough, this fashionista phase didn’t last very long. My first job out of college paid less than I thought it would, and $200 shopping trips quickly became the bane of my budget.
What’s a clothing connoisseur to do?
How I Save Money on Clothes
I honestly don’t spend much money on clothes nowadays. I buy maybe one piece of clothing a month. While adopting a minimalist approach to life is what ultimately got me to kick this bad habit, there are plenty of ways to save money on clothes.
1. Shop at thrift stores
And I’m not just talking about Goodwill!
Secondhand clothes have made a serious comeback with stores like Plato’s Closet and Clothes Mentor.
They don’t have the ‘ick’ factor that the category of “thrift store” has (mostly) unrightfully earned. And sure, while some thrift stores can be gross, if you know where to shop, you can have an amazing retail experience without the buyer’s remorse.
After being a diehard Kohl’s fan since my teen years, I now shop almost exclusively at Clothes Mentor.
Sure, these clothing pieces aren’t always going to be on the cutting edge of fashion. But they’re usually in great condition, are well made, and are at least half price of retail clothes. I’ve been able to find Calvin Klein dresses and Loft cardigans at Clothes Mentor for ridiculously slashed prices.
$50 at Clothes Mentor gets me about 7 pieces of clothing, whereas $50 at Kohls gets maybe 2 pieces. I focus on buying more timeless pieces instead of anything that’s trendy, so I don’t feel the pressure to replace my wardrobe regularly.
Safety Note: Don’t forget to wash all thrift store clothing before you wear it!
2. Have a capsule wardrobe
This is something that I’m currently trying and loving!
The capsule wardrobe is a great way to save money, reduce clutter, and live more simply.
It involves having collection of 30 or so clothing items and accessories—this includes scarves, shoes, and statement jewelry. With a capsule wardrobe, multiple pieces can fit together to create an endless combination of outfits.
The most successful approach to the capsule wardrobe is to have timeless, high quality pieces that will last a long time. That means spending less money in the long run, and less frantic early-morning wardrobe choice conundrums.
3. Have a smaller clothing budget
I laughed at the word “budget” when I was 21, but now I follow a budget like it’s my religion. If you can’t bear the thought of not going shopping, start keeping a budget and be mindful of your expenses.
If you usually spend $100 a month on clothes, challenge yourself to spend only $50 next month. This means that you’ll need to buy only pieces that you really, really like or that will last a long time, instead of having an expensive revolving wardrobe.
4. Have clothing exchange parties with friends
I’ve been to one clothing exchange party and it was a lot of fun!
My sorority hosted a clothing swap where each girl brought 2-10 pieces of clothing she no longer wore. In between sipping our classy mimosas, we would take turns giving and exchanging clothing. This way, we all went home with new-to-us clothes for free, while getting rid of clothes we no longer wore. If any clothing was unclaimed at the end of the swap, we donated it to charity.
This approach works best if you’re the same size as your gal pals, but it’s great for quelling a thirst for fashion if it works out for you. If you aren’t the same clothing size as your friends, you can always have an accessory swap for hats, scarves, and jewelry.
The Bottom Line
While these money-saving techniques are great, the bottom line is that we really don’t need a lot of clothes. As I’ve progressed on my financial journey, I’ve learned that simple is best. So while it’s wonderful to find ways to save money on clothes, the best method is to rarely buy clothing.
It was physically painful to give up shopping, but it’s served me very well in the long run.
Why fill up the landfills with last season’s perfectly wearable clothes? Why spend money on things that we’ll wear for two months and then give away or sell? I’m trying to focus on having a more durable, financially-conscious life, and that all starts with consuming clothes more selectively.
We want to know: How do you save money on clothes?