13 Ways to Save Big Cash on Clothing

Are clothing costs gouging your budget? You can probably do a lot better.

From shopping at thrift stores to taking better care of clothing, there are many ways to trim apparel costs.

Check out these ways to pare down this expense:

1. Sell what you don’t wear

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Go through your closet once a year. If you haven’t worn that sweater in 365 days, you don’t need it. So, drop it off at a consignment shop.

When the shop sells your clothing, it will 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.

Consignment is especially good for higher-end items like leather jackets and very lightly used party dresses. If you don’t have local consignment shops, consider online stores that do the same thing, such as ThredUP, Poshmark and The RealReal.

2. Shop thrift stores

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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. Shop online clearance sales

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Don’t forget online retailers — and retailers’ websites — when you’re shopping for clothes. They also offer deep discounts — and a larger selection than most stores — on clearance items.

4. Shop discount stores

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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.

5. Proceed with caution at outlet malls

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Outlet malls have deals, but they also have scams. Read the fine print, and you’ll see that the price is often a 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,” which indicates it was produced specifically for outlet sales, and do the math on alleged deals before you buy.

For more tips, check out “10 Tips to Get the Best Deals from Outlet Shopping.”

6. Check the tag before you buy

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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.

7. Take care of your clothes

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Remember that “machine washable” doesn’t equal “indestructible.” Wash your clothes on the gentle cycle in cool water and 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 wear out of them.

8. Swap with friends

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At the start of every season, my friends and I go through our closets and trade whatever we won’t be wearing. 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.

9. Stick to simple garments

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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 always work.

10. Hem your own clothes

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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 the 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 baby-sit. So, I watch my friend’s kids for a night, and she hems my new clothes the next day.

11. Borrow what you plan to wear once

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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.

12. Shop the men’s and kids’ sections

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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.

13. Treat clothes shopping like grocery shopping

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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 need and stick to it.

What’s your favorite way to save on clothes? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Christina Majeski contributed to this post.

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