23 ways to save money on clothes
Americans spend an average of $1,700 per year on clothing and accessories. But there are plenty of ways to trim the bill and still look good.
Americans spend $1,700 a year on clothing and accessories. If that seems like a typo, it’s not – it’s been backed up by studies from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bundle, a site that compiles data from credit card spending.
Here are 23 ideas on how you can dress for less.
1. Sell what you don’t wear
If you don’t wear it, drop it off at a consignment shop. When the shop sells your clothing, they’ll cut you a check for a portion of the profits. You won’t get the full amount, but you won’t have to do much work either. Stacy recommends going through your closet once a year. If you haven’t worn that sweater in 365 days, you don’t need it.
2. Shop thrift stores
In the video, Stacy found a pair of Lucky brand jeans for $12.99. Thrift stores sell gently used clothing at a deep discount. Many stores also have regular sales or a weekly special. A thrift store in my area has a “50 percent off anything with a yellow tag” sale every Wednesday. Just make sure you’re shopping at a true thrift store and not a vintage clothing store. The difference: Vintage clothing stores sell trendier older pieces at a markup. Thrift stores sell older and newer clothes at a discount.
3. Find coupons online
At Money Talks News, we don’t believe in paying retail, and you shouldn’t either. (Check out our deals page before you shop online or in-store.) On the go, use your smartphone to find clothing coupons before you check out. There are several great coupon locating apps for Androids and the iPhone. My favorites:
- Coupon Closet
- Coupon Sherpa
4. Check the tag before you buy
Read the label before you buy. If you buy a dry-clean-only silk skirt, you’ll keep paying for it every time you pull up to the cleaners. Stick to machine-washables and save.
5. Take care of your clothes
Remember that “machine-washable” doesn’t equal “indestructible.” Wash your clothes on the gentle cycle in cool water and even line-dry them – they’ll last the longest this way. For delicate items or clothes that might shrink, hand wash. Take care of your clothes and you’ll get years of use out of them.
6. Buy out of season
Retailers put out-of-season clothing on clearance to clear the stock from their stores. You can save a ton buying clothing when you don’t need it – like a coat in May or a swimsuit in December.
7. Shop online clearance sales
Don’t discount online retailers (and retailers’ websites) when you’re shopping for clothes. They follow seasons too with huge discounts – and a larger selection than most stores – on clearance items.
8. Repurpose old clothes
If you’re handy with a needle and thread – or even a pair of scissors – turn something you’re no longer wearing into something else. I cut the legs off my old jeans and turn them into shorts. My friends repurpose old shirts into tank tops and skirts. You can even make a purse out of an old sweater.
9. Don’t buy it because it’s on sale
Don’t buy clothes unless you really need them – even if they’re on sale. Thirty percent off isn’t a good deal if you don’t wear it 99 percent of the time.
10. Buy basics from generic brands
Your basics don’t need a designer label. Buy T-shirts, tank tops, and lounge wear from cheaper stores. I buy all my layering tank tops at Old Navy. My track pants I wear for errands came from Target. Simple cuts and solid colors don’t require a high-end designer.
11. Skip expensive workout clothing
Same goes for workout clothes. A pair of Puma running capris cost $55 – or you can buy them at Old Navy for $16.94. You’ll get the same workout whether you’re wearing a fancy yoga outfit or an old T-shirt and sweatpants. Check cheaper retailers like Target, Walmart, and Kohls for more affordable workout gear.
12. Proceed with caution at outlet malls
Outlet malls do have deals. They also have scams. In "5 Tips for Finding Outlet Store Deals," Brandon found that some outlet store clothing isn’t store overstock. The pieces were actually made for the outlet mall, meaning they’re lower quality. And those “75 percent off!” deals – they’re not actually 75 percent off. Read the fine print and you’ll see that is the discount on the suggested price, not the actual retail price. It’s more marketing gimmick than deal.
Check the labels on outlet store clothes. Avoid anything that says “factory line” and do the math on supposed deals before you buy.
13. Swap with friends
At the start of every season, my friends and I go through our closets and trade whatever we won’t wear. Last winter, I ended up with enough sweaters to last the entire season. Set up a trading day with your friends or family members. Then take anything you have left to a consignment shop. You’ll end up with new clothes and some extra cash.
14. Stick to simple garments
Trendy clothes cost more and have a shorter shelf life. You could spend hundreds trying to keep up with the fashion magazines, only to realize you no longer adore that peasant skirt six months later. Stick to classic styles and basic pieces that are always in style – jeans, polo shirts, T-shirts, and simple skirts.
15. Shop discount stores
I save a lot of money by shopping at T.J.Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls. Discount stores sell overstock and slightly imperfect pieces from other retailers for a fraction of their cost. Just check the clothes carefully before you buy them. I’ve lost money on spaghetti straps that ripped or buttons that popped off, but it’s rare.
16. Hem your own clothes
Tailor-shop pricing varies by area – where I live, it costs $10 to $12 to have one pair of jeans professionally hemmed. If I had all 14 pairs of my jeans professionally hemmed, I’d pay $168 on top of the cost of the clothes. Hem your clothes yourself and stop paying the professionals.
If you can’t sew, offer to swap jobs with a friend who can. I’m horrible with a needle and thread, but I can babysit. So I watch my friend’s kids for a night, and she hems my new clothes the next day.
17. Borrow what you only need once
If you only need to wear something once, borrow it from a friend or family member. You’ll save 100 percent and won’t have a useless dress or suit filling up space in your closet.
18. Don’t rent what you’ll wear more than once
If you can’t borrow it, buy it. In "Formal Wear: Rent or Own," Stacy recommends buying a tuxedo if you plan on wearing it more than twice in your lifetime. Stacy interviewed Andy Rizzi, a retail employee, and found that tuxedo rentals in his area cost $85 to $100 on average. Rent three tuxedos and you could spend $300. Buy from a discount store or resale site like Craigslist, and you could spend much less and own the tux outright.
19. Buy uniforms at discount stores
Work and school uniforms get expensive, but you can buy them at discount stores for a fraction of their cost. In my area, we have stores that sell school uniforms, scrubs, and overalls at deep discounts compared to the cost of buying them through your work or school.
20. Don’t skimp on swimsuits
When it comes to swimsuit shopping, it doesn’t pay to buy cheap knock-offs. A well-designed swimsuit will cost more upfront, but can last years. Three years ago I dropped $85 on a higher-end swimsuit. I wash it by hand and line-dry it after each use, and it still looks brand new. Check out "16 Tips to Find the Perfect Swimsuit for Less" – a complete guide to swimsuit shopping.
21. Shop the men’s and kids’ section
Women’s clothing is often priced higher than men’s and kids’ clothing. If you’re a woman looking for something universal – like a T-shirt or hoodie – check the racks in the men’s and kids’ sections first.
22. Treat clothes shopping like grocery shopping
I won’t go to the grocery store without making a list first, but I’ll blindly charge into the mall credit card in hand. That is the wrong way to go about it. The next time you shop for clothes, make a list of what you actually need and stick to it.
23. Buy clothes that fit now
Only buy something if you can wear it today. Buying something a few sizes too small because you think you’ll lose weight later is a gamble. Even if you do, you may realize you don’t like the way that shirt looks on you. Either way, you’ve wasted money.
Angela Colley is a writer for Money Talks News. This article originally appeared in Money Talks News.