If you are like a lot of people today, the economy is putting a real drain on your budget. Even though we want to look our best, the days when we could indulge in a little impulse buying are gone, and even though they are gone, you probably have a whole closet full of clothes you probably havenât worn in years or not at all.
Styles change and we still want to look our best, but going out and buying new clothes may be out of the question. Luckily, you can look great for less. First, you can maximize your current wardrobe without spending a dime. But if something new is needed, itâs also possible to save a bundle.
Maximizing Your Current Wardrobe
The first thing to do is clean out the closet. Anything that doesnât fit any more or is way out of style needs to go. Yes, the poodle skirts and those huge shoulder pads are out. Regardless of the fond memories you may have, they arenât doing any good in your closet.
Of the clothes that still fit, you need to ask yourself: âwhen was the last time I wore this?â If you havenât worn something in over a year, get rid of it. Chances are you wonât wear it again. Of course a few items may be an exception, like formal wear.
But donât just simply throw the unwanted clothes away. Even though you may no longer have a need for these clothes, others might. Thatâs why you should consider donating the clothes to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other accepting charity. Beyond that, you might even be able to make money on those clothes. Some second-hand or consignment stores may actually pay you money for your clothes. Sure, it wonât make you rich, but emptying a closet out may provide enough money to buy a few new outfits. Now youâve killed two birds with one stoneâ’cleaned out the closet while not having to spend money on new clothes.
Finally, learn to sew. How many times have you thought a shirt or pair of jeans was ruined thanks to a small tear or undone hem? Or maybe your new diet shed a couple of pounds and now your favorite pants are a little loose. Being handy with a needle and thread can bring new life to your old clothes. If you donât know how to sew or donât want to learn, see if any of your friends know how. For just a couple of bucks they might be willing to fix you up. Iâve fixed a number of items thanks to a friend of mine who is good with a needle. Iâd rather pay two dollars to rejuvenate a pair of pants rather than blowing at least twenty on a new pair.
Shopping on a Tight Budget
Before going shopping you need to decide how much to budget for clothes and stick to that amount. If you havenât created a budget yet, you really need to because using a credit card and worrying about it later wonât do you any favors. You should also make a list of what you need. Donât be swayed by the little black dress in the window if you wonât have a need to wear it for a long time, no matter how good the deal is.
Before you hit the stores you should make a note of what you already have in your newly streamlined closet. Even better, pull some clothes out and take pictures with your cell phone. Now, only buy what already works with your closet. If you choose a new top, it should fit with many of your existing pants, skirts and jackets. One item can literally create multiple new outfits if you shop wisely. Donât waste money on a unique outfit that doesnât go with anything you already own.
Try shopping at factory outlets. Factory outlets offer a wide variety of irregular clothes, which means there may be flaws that donât meet the highest standards, but the clothes are still absolutely fine. In fact, I challenge you to find the flaws, because youâll probably not even know whatâs wrong, if thereâs anything wrong at all. In fact, many times the outlet clothes are just overstock.
Donât be afraid of the discount big box stores. Especially for undergarments. Honestly, do you need to spend $25 on a plain blue t-shirt that youâre probably only going to wear under another shirt? Of course not, so hit up your local Target or Walmart and get a shirt that looks the same, without the brand name, for less than half the price.
Try out some thrift and consignment stores. You would be surprised what you can find there. Some of it may not be the hottest new fashions, but a lot of things never go out of style, and many old styles are coming back. Just be smart and again only buy what you need, and choose items and fabrics that will last a while. Consignment stores often have newer fashions so if youâre looking for something a little more modern, this will be the place to go.
Another great way to expand and change-up your wardrobe is to organize a clothing swap with your friends. This is a great way to unload you unwanted clothes and change what you have in your closet every so often. This can also be done with childrenâs clothes, and itâs a great way to keep your kids in clothes that fit. Kids grow like weeds and it can cost a fortune to constantly buy new clothes. So, talk with your friends who also have children and you can save a ton of money. I know with our new son, we got trash bags full of 1-12 month clothes for free from a friend whose kid has since grown out of them.
In the end, you donât need to spend a fortune to look like a million bucks. By making the most of what you already have combined with some smart shopping and a tight budget you can built up your wardrobe nicely without breaking the bank.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
I love to mix and match my outfits. I know how to pull off different looks with just a few items of clothing. A think I developed because I don’t want to spend a lot on buying new clothes all the time.
I am such a hoarder of clothes thinking that I’ll go on a diet and eventually, the old ones will fit me. Haha. They ended up with my sister since they are not doing my wardrobe any good. Yeah, I donated some too. The ones I have, I make sure that they can be worn in multiple occasions. I mean why buy a dress that you can only wear once? We need to be practical here.
Hi Jeremy, Really important article. With an eye for value, sales and good prices can be found anywhere from top dept. stores, to outlets, to big box stores. Kohl's has 60-90% off racks with amazing buys.
I agree with Briana ... I'm a big fan of Ross, Marshall's & TJ Maxx. I'd also add Loehmann's, Forever 21 and H&M to the list of stores worth stopping by. Macy's also knows how to run huge sales. Marshall's and Loehmann's have shoe selections and brands that are hard to beat.
I think another big part of budgeting for your wardrobe is planning. I get a lot of wear out of my favorite outfits by simply wearing them over and over again, but in front of different people. It's great enjoying new compliments on your same ol' favorites without spending a penny more because you already own the duds!
I think way too many frown upon discount stores like Ross, Marshalls and TJ Maxx. They DON'T have out of season fashions. The commercials are true; the situations where too much inventory is ordered, or mistakes or made, the extra is sent to these stores. I've had clothes from there my entire life, and got the bulk of my compliments on those clothes. Go to your neighborhood discount store and go crazy (saving money of course)
Making sure new pieces coordinate with ones that are already in your closet is a great tip and one that has saved me quite a bit of cash over the years.
Unfortunately, most sewing (for clothes) is a skill that has always eluded me. I can hem pants but that is about it.
We just gave a bunch of clothes that our kids recently grew out of to friends who have a one year old daughter. They also go to garage sales for play clothes, where they've gotten items for as little as ten cents - quite the bargain!