It’s been quite a while since I’ve spent any considerable amount of money on clothing. Some of this is because I’m a software engineer and it’s perfectly normal to wear an old T-shirt. (One person in my office has a T-shirt from a sporting event 20 years ago that I’d really like to forget.) However, if you need to maintain some kind of appearance it doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank. Here are some ideas I had on how to save money on clothing:
- Buy clothes at a discount store. I know this is obvious, but some people overlook it. I used to buy stuff at Macy’s, but I’ve found that TJ Maxx has better deals if you are willing to do a little more hunting and pecking. I find the search for new clothing fun. Once again, I know I’m weird. You might also want to check out Marshall’s and maybe Ross or Kohl’s, but I never seemed to have as much luck there.
- Consider buying “pre-worn” clothes at thrift stores. I say consider because many people have an extreme aversion to this. On the other hand, other people consider vintage clothing to be a great style.
- If you travel in circles where everyone has designer threads, there are savings to be found at Bluefly.com. If you aren’t careful you can still spend a pretty penny there, but in general it should be a lot cheaper than usual.
- Buy clothes off-season. I often buy my summer clothes in August/September and my winter clothes in February/March. There are many discounts to be had as merchants try to free up shelf space.
- From my wife: If you think your clothing might possibly shrink don’t put it in the dryer. She says that anything cheap is a danger here.
- Another one from my wife: Borrow clothing from a friend. Of course you need to have friends of similar sizes to take full advantage of the swap.
- From Lazy Man and Health: Maintain a healthy weight. If you pack on a pile of pounds, you’ll out-grow all the clothing you currently have. You’ll also be spending money on food and, very likely, health procedures later on in life – but that’s a topic for another day.
- Search for coupon codes online before you pay. There are plenty of promotion codes available online which can easily save your money. For example, I’m told that in the UK, EverydaySale is a good site to find those codes.
[Each Monday for the next couple months, I’m write about how to save money. I recommend reading the whole Save Money series. Last week we looked at how to save money on the web.]
The Financial Blogger says
I always buy my stuff off season or during January and February. Last year, I bought 3 nice suits for the price of one. After Xmas, stores are craving for money as nobody wants to get inside and shop.
Mrs. Micah says
Great point, Financial Blogger about January-type sales. I’ve gotten some good stuff then.
Hang-drying clothes, whether on a line or a drying rack also makes them last longer because they don’t get mussed in the dryer.
We got a good pair of jeans for Mr. Micah from Marshalls. Very cheap but also just what he needed. He’ll wear them out in the crotch anyway (for some reason) so it’s not worth investing on nicer ones…they all go that way.
Being aware of which clothes you’ll need to replace/buy is also good, so that if you happen to see them on sale you can buy and save them.
I actually wrote a post on building a frugal business wardrobe (for the style-impaired or curious) posted on Rather Be Shopping: http://www.rather-be-shopping.com/blog/2007/10/01/frugal-wardrobes/
for anyone living in an apartment and have to pay for shared laundry, here is a good product I used to use when I was in that situation
it takes some work to get your clothes clean, but my dollars and quarters racked up after some time
I’m not picky so I have actually shopped at TJ Maxx a number of times. Apart from overstock items, they also have some items marked “irregular” that have been discounted further.
TJ Maxx is pretty nice, and I bought a thing or two at Marshalls. Annie Sez occasionally has good things too. Syms, Lohemanns are other places one can get good quality clothes for less.
I wouldn’t totally discount fancier stores like Macy’s and Ann Taylor. They may be expensive, but they have terrific sales. I bought some stuff in Ann Taylor at the same price as in TJ Maxx or below, just by waiting. We have an Ann Taylor around here, in our little town. I visit, notice a couple of items I like, come back in a few weeks. If they are gone – ok, great, I saved money. Chances are one or two of them will be on sale. If I like the price, I buy. If not, I may come in a couple more weeks to see if they discounted it further. They usually have many things I like, but as I need only one, even if most of them disappear, there is still something good left.
I am a software engineer too, but I like to dress up even if I don’t have to.
As to thrift stores – you can get amazing stuff there, especially in expensive areas like this one. When I just started working, there was this young woman in my building, she’d always been dressed so well. One time a friend of mine asked her – “where do you get your clothes, they are so stylish”. She answer – “you won’t believe me – at thrift stores”. I had a few things from there during my first few years in the US. I don’t do it anymore – there are people who need it more, but I donated some really good stuff. Especially in the periods of time when I was gaining weight and loosing weight.
I end up getting a lot of free t-shirts from vendors at conferences and things. It’s a great way to build up a cheap wardrobe. Companies love for you to be a free billboard for them.
TJ Maxx, Marshalls …etc those discount stores are nice. however if you are like size 0 or size 2, it’s next to impossible to find anything. my strategy is to use coupons (from friends, websites or newspapers) and buy off season clothing. but even that, its still tough for me to buy cheap clothes. so i usually buy clothes that can last at least a few years without being ‘old fashion’.
Hmmmm. Sporting event from 20 years ago, you used to live on the East coast, but now live on the West coast… I would have to say a certain playoff series between the A’s and Red Sox, but I could be wrong (I believe that was in ’88). I loved the Bash Brothers! ;)
Unfortunately maintaining a healthy weight also works in reverse. Now my pants don’t fit!!!
If you have kids, shop the sale racks (on or offline) and buy for the following year. For example, in August/September I saved 60%-70% at some pretty fancy kiddie boutiques and old standards like BabyGap/Gap Kids by purchasing clothes that will fit my baby girl next summer. Sometimes it’s hard to plan and spend that far ahead, but hey, cute and under $10 is my cup of tea.
Kyle @ Rather-Be-Shopping says
Great points. Along the lines with your wife’s tip, my wife trades maternity clothes and kids clothes with her friends all the time. Great way to save money. One kid outgrows it and another is growing right into those threads.
i’ve rummage hand-me-downs from my family’s coworkers and my sister’s donation bag! and i found several skirts from both sides that have served me well and only needed minor alterations.
it’s much easier for a guy to buy clothes at ross or tjmaxx. the sizes aren’t so difficult to find. i’m short and small and most of the clothes at the off-price stores are large and require too much hemming.
i’ll stick to banana republic sales!
Paul's Travel Pictures says
Thanks for all the advice. I rarely go clothing shopping so I’d like to get more outfits with the money I have budgeted for shopping. I think today I’ll hit up the TJMaxx nearby.
I’m not sure I’m ready for the thrift stores just yet though. :)
Worn clothes can be fashionable and look good.
Chris @ How We Save Money says
I like to shop at the goodwill. I always end up leaving with something. Usually a button down shirt, pair of pants etc. I can almost guarantee that any clothing I get at the Goodwill are dry cleaned. So I get a new shirt already dry cleaned for less than I can get a shirt dry cleaned. $3.25. Can’t beat a Goodwill deal, and all the proceeds are going to a good cause.