Friday, November 18, 2011

25 Ways to Save Money on Clothes

As I'm sitting here in my new (to me) Levis that I got at the Goodwill yesterday, it hit me that there are quite a few things you can do with clothes to save money (food and clothing being the biggest controllable expenses in our budget).  Here's some ideas:
  1. I buy all identical sox.  I used to have a whole collection of sox. Short sox, long sox, pink sox, blue sox (sounds like the beginning of a children's book doesn't it...).  Now I buy all black, short sox of the same type and brand.  This way if I lose one sock, all of the rest will still match so I don't have to throw out the mate to the lost sock.
  2. I shop thrift stores for certain items: jeans, t shirts, and hoodies being staple items that I love to buy already warn (saves me from washing them 25 times to get the desired comfort level).
  3. I splurge on shoes, kind of.  I don't like cheap shoes--they are generally made of plastic instead of leather and don't wear very well.  I don't, however, pay full retail for them.  Usually I can find some great deals on Ecco, Privo, Keens, and other good brands at Ross and TJ Maxx.  Then I wear them forever.
  4. I don't have many clothes.  Pareto's Principal states that you wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time.  So I try to pare out the 80% and only keep the clothes that I find myself always wearing.  Which is much better than having a closet stuffed full of things you hardly ever wear.
  5. I mend and dye my clothes when necessary.  I have some friends who throw out clothes as soon as a seam starts to ravel.  It's easy enough to make small repairs to your favorite clothes so that you can keep on wearing them.  Ditto for redying clothes that are starting to look faded out (usually I throw all of my black clothes into the wash with a dye packet and they all come out looking like new), and using a bit of shoe polish on scuffed shoes.
  6. I buy simple clothes.  Unfortunately I won't (ever) be the trendy person but that's OK.  I generally only buy--and wear--basic staples such as jeans, slacks, t shirt, and sweaters.
  7. I tend to "dress up" with accessories.  On those (now rare) occasions when I need to dress up, I can change a plain black dress or slacks and a sweater to something more interesting with a nice scarf, cute earrings, nice heels, chunky bracelets, etc.
  8. I like hand-me-downs.  Years ago I wouldn't have been caught dead in a thrift store or, horrors, accepting hand-me-down clothing.  Now I let people know that if they are cleaning out their closets I would be happy to take their cast offs (generally I take what I like then donate the rest to the local thrift shop).
  9. You can get some pretty good basics at Walmart.  Again, back in the day, I would have NEVER shopped at Walmart or KMart but I have found some great basics (t shirts, tank tops, etc) at these stores.
  10. I ALWAYS shop the clearance racks.  I can't remember the last time I paid full retail for an item of clothing.  These days I head straight for the clearance racks of any store I go into.  Even better are the days when the store has 50% off clearance sales.  Heaven!
  11. When I shop for clothes I always pay with cash.  Even though I don't use credit cards, using debt cards is similar enough that I can be tempted to buy a little more than I want to spend, but handing over cold, hard cash for clothes makes me really stop and evaluate whether or not I need the extra items or not.
  12. Although I don't sew very well, I don't hesitate to buy deeply discounted clothes then add a few special touches to them myself (I've made capris out of trousers, make a long sleeved shirt into a short sleeved shirt, etc).  If it turns out badly, at least the clothes were so cheap to begin with that it won't bother me to toss them out.
  13. A good tailor can be your best friend.  Fortunately hubby is a pro at hemming pants (I am short so the pants I buy usually always need to be hemmed).  Also, as suit styles change over the years, hubby has had his suits altered at a local tailor to keep them looking at the height of style.
  14. I always check the tags on clothes that I buy and if it says linen or dry clean only I put it back on the rack immediately.  I never buy clothes that won't survive the washer/dryer test so that I won't have to pay each time I want them cleaned and have to take them to the dry cleaner.
  15. I try to always buy pieces that go together so I don't end up with a closet that looks like a rainbow.  Again, you won't find me at the height of fashion and I am sure my clothes look pretty bland (nearly everything is in black, brown, sage, and cream) but my clothes always look well put together because I am not trying to match a half dozen different colors.
  16. Sometimes I will even ask for discounts on discounted clothes.  If I find a clearance item that has a stain on it or a raveling seam, I always ask for an additional discount since I will have to fix the item myself before it is wearable.
  17. The judicious use of a stain lifter and iron will do wonders for your clothes.  Even if your clothes aren't the most fashionable, they will still look a lot better if they are clean, don't have holes, don't have stains, and are ironed (yes, I do iron every piece of clothing that I wear...every day.  People find this odd).
  18. I extend the seasonable-ness of my clothes.  For example, I wear my tank tops under sweaters in the fall and winter and my form-fitting capri jeans now fit well into my knee-high boots (people will never guess that these were the same capris I wore all summer as they look like regular-length jeans when stuffed into my boots).
  19. I shop maybe once or twice a month for clothes.  In years past, it was quite common that the girls and I would hit the mall on our lunch break (multiple times a week) in order to shop.  Needless to say you can spend A LOT of money when you shop nearly every day.
  20. Trade or borrow clothes if necessary.  Back when I had formal events to go to, I had a couple of nice formal gowns.  The secret to hitting a lot of formal events with only a couple of gowns is to borrow and lend your gowns to your friends so everyone always shows up in something "new" to them.
  21. Splurge on a couple of nice items.  Since I don't want to feel totally destitute and I do really love name brand items, I tend to splurge on a few name-brand items, namely Coach purses and North Face jackets (of course I buy these items on sale and at the outlet mall).
  22. I sign up for store promos when possible (ie: I gave Victoria Secret my email address and at least once a year I get a coupon for a free pair of undies).  I also use store coupons and rebates occasionally (but only if I can use the coupons or rebates on items that are already on sale).
  23. I don't buy cheap quality clothing.  I think most polyester and acrylic clothing should be banned but that is just me.  There is a lot of clothes you will run across at discount stores that will be cheaply made and made of cheap material.  I will happily spend a bit more to buy a cotton or wool sweater instead of an acrylic sweater.
  24. I avoid "specialized" clothes no matter how popular.  Unless you are a logger, you really don't need Carhartt clothing.  Unless you are a marathon runner, you really don't need a $100 running jacket that has everything but mechanical air conditioning.  Unless you are ascending Mt Everest, you really don't need a parka rated at -45 degrees.
  25. Some other ways to save money on clothes that I haven't tried: shopping online, shopping at garage sales, sewing my own clothes, shopping at consignment shops, buying clothes at military surplus stores, etc.


  1. Re: #5. Could you please tell me more about throwing a black dye packet into the wash? The thought of doing this terrifies me. My husband wears black polos to work every day. As soon as they are faded, he gives them to the SA and buys new ones. Dying them can save money, but I've never done that before. The dye doesn't ruin your washer? Also, what kind of stores carry dye?

  2. Hi Lorraine, To dye clothes I just throw all of my black clothes into the washer, and use this kind of dye which you can find at Walmart ( then follow the instructions (ie: add water first then the dye) then wash. It doesn't hurt the washer at all but after dyeing clothes I usually do another load of darker colored clothes or cleaning rags just to make sure there is dye left behind before I do a load of whites.

  3. These are great ideas! Here is a tip to help extend the life of your jeans, and in turn save some money. Turn your jeans inside out and wash/rinse them in cold water on the delicate cycle. Hot water causes the dye to fade and normal washing will loosen the fabric, leading to premature fraying and/or holes.
    Boston Laundry Care