It doesn’t matter if you wear $30 jeans or carry a $200 handbag. If you’re reading this, you probably wish you’d spent a little less on clothes and accessories.
Fortunately, Money Talks News savings expert Stacy Johnson is here with some tips to help you do exactly that. Watch the video below for Stacy’s tips, and then keep reading for more advice on how to dress for less.
1. Start by getting cash for your old duds
Before you even think about buying new clothes, you need to empty your closet and fill your wallet. I’m talking about getting rid of the outfit you bought for the special occasion that happened three years ago, letting go of the jeans you got in anticipation of the weight loss that never happened and saying goodbye to the items leftover from your punk phase, which unfortunately did happen.
Anything that hasn’t graced your body in the last year should head out the door. Where to, you ask? My vote is the local consignment shop, assuming your clothes are in good condition and don’t look like something Austin Powers would try to save the world in.
If the consignment shop won’t take them, you could try holding a garage sale. And if that doesn’t work, you could give them away to your local thrift store. However, you presumably spent good money on those clothes, so try to recoup some of the cost if you can.
2. Next, head to the thrift stores and consignment shops
When it’s time to buy, I want you to again head to the consignment shops and thrift stores. Yes, I know these are the same places you just unloaded your collection of circa 1990 paisley blazers, but not everyone dumps their unwanted cast-offs there.
Some people don’t want to hassle with selling their goods. Some people donate really nice stuff to thrift stores. I mean, really nice stuff.
So don’t turn your nose up at your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or mission store. Instead, walk in with an open mind and see what they have to offer. (For more on thrift store treasures, check out this article: “Not Your Grandma’s Goodwill.”)
You can also go to consignment shops where you’re practically guaranteed to find a better selection of more stylish clothes, but you’re practically guaranteed to pay more, too.
3. Then check out eBay
I must admit this isn’t my first choice for clothes shopping because you’re relying on the seller’s description and photos that may or may not show all the details. Plus, you have to throw in shipping for some auctions, and return policies may be non-existent for some purchases.
That said, I’ve had good luck scoring bargain baby clothes on eBay, and I’ve also seen some good deals on designer clothes. If you do shop on eBay, pay careful attention to descriptions and seller feedback. When in doubt, ask questions. If the seller’s response doesn’t put you at ease, walk — er, click — away.
4. Don’t forget to look at garage sales
A final secondhand option to getting cheap clothes is garage sales. Depending on your region, that may mean you’ll have only a few prime weeks in the spring to scout out these clothing bargains.
You may have to weed through a lot of undesirable items to find the gems, but they’re there. If you don’t relish the hunt, you can try online garage sale boards through Facebook instead.
5. Shop at the end of seasons
But let’s say none of those secondhand options turn up what you want. Or maybe you can’t bring yourself to wear other people’s old clothes.
In that case, you’ll be stuck buying new clothes. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be stuck buying overpriced new clothes.
Your first strategy to save in the stores is to buy at the end of the season when items are being cleared out. There’s something of an art to this. Buy too early at a clearance sale, and you’ll pay more than you might later. Wait too long, and you could miss out on the item you’re coveting.
I had this problem recently with winter coats. By the time I decided to buy, my son’s size was long gone. On the plus side, I did manage to score an $8 winter coat for his little sister.
6. Find coupons or wait for a sale
Sometimes you can’t wait until the end of the season. If it’s 20 degrees out in November, you need a winter coat in November. For most people, there’s no waiting until February.
In that case, you need to at least look for a sale. Now, in our hypothetical it’s-freezing-in-November scenario, maybe you can hold out until Black Friday when you can get some of the best pricing of the year.
If your timing isn’t so good, do a search at RetailMeNot to see if the store you’re considering has any coupons available.
7. Compare prices online
Before you log off your computer, go to a shopping comparison site to see if you can find the same clothes at a cheaper price somewhere else. PriceGrabber is one option, or you can simply type the item and its brand name into your favorite search engine and see what comes up.
8. Check out discount retailers
Another way to get brand name items for less is to shop at discount stores such as TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross Dress for Less.
These stores stock overruns or other items they have acquired at a deep discount. You never know what you’re going to get when you walk in the door, which is part of the fun for those who love bargain shopping.
Although you can get deep discounts at these stores, they can also be fertile ground for impulse purchases and overspending. Make a list of what you need before leaving home, and promise yourself you’ll stick to the list regardless of what non-essential amazing deal catches your eye.
(For some more tips on sticking to your shopping list, read “20 Surefire Ways to Slam the Breaks on Impulse Buying.”)
9. Adopt a personal uniform
Sometimes, the best way to save money is to simply not buy so much. You can do this by adopting a personal uniform. Have a go-to outfit that you wear everyday or, at least, stick to a variation of it. Building your wardrobe on only a few foundational pieces ensures everything you own matches seamlessly.
In addition to saving you money, some people suggest a personal uniform could make you more successful. Lest you think a personal uniform has to be modeled after Steve Jobs and his turtlenecks, I’ll let one of my favorite bloggers explain how it can work for the ladies.
10. Baby everything you buy
Finally, you can spend less on clothes if you take better care of what you own.
That means no more walking over the week’s laundry that was left on the floor. That means not letting your dog use your dirty clothes as a bed. That means hanging something back up in the closet after you wore it for 20 minutes rather than throwing it in the wash.
Also, launder your clothes as directed by the label. And avoid the dryer if possible. The high heat can dramatically shorten the lifespan of some fabrics.
How else can you save on clothes? Share your ideas in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
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