I don't dress ratty, but I do have a style that I might overly kindly call, um, "flair", and that other people might describe with less flattering words. I'm not particularly good at matching colors, so I go for the "sin boldly" approach -- I tend to dress a little wild.
Here's how I conserve money on clothing.
Similarly, I get a sort of perverse thrill out of paying less than anyone I know for clothes. This year, I figure I'll spend about $150 to clothe myself and my two sons (that includes shoes, school clothes, work clothes, coats, and play clothes). With yard sale season dying out (for me, that means shopping season is nearly over), it seems like a good time to recap how I do this. I figure, if you actually know what you're doing when it comes to clothes, this approach might be even better for you!
Here's how I conserve money on clothing.
- Re-use whenever possible. Hand-me-downs are a great example of this; I've also gotten "hand-me-ups" from my teenage daughters. Many of my son's clothes for this year were clothes they wore last year; so I don't have to buy them a whole new wardrobe. As for me, I still wear one or two outfits I bought 20 year ago. If the clothes are durable and good-looking, they can serve for many years. [Money spent: $0]
- Mend clothing. My boys -- particularly my younger son -- can be really hard on the knees of pants. I've gotten good at patching these pants in ways that are reasonably good. Re-stitching a seam or a hem on my own dresses isn't hard. Thread is a lot less expensive than new clothes. [Money spent: about $0]
- Swap with friends. We have several friends who give us their used clothes; we pass along our too-small clothes to friends, as well. Some of my favorite pairs of shoes came into my home this way (I still think of them as "Jan's shoes"). As I wrote in an earlier post, I love getting clothes that have a history and a connection to our community. To me, these connections are even more valuable than the clothes. [Money spent: $0]
- Volunteer at charity events. My college hosts a yearly giant sell-off of items the departing students leave behind. I love helping out at this, on a number of levels. For one, I'm a resident expert on how to price things at yard sales, so I feel useful. But also, I can nab clothing for myself that is in style. For a few years, I got flip flops; lately, I've been picking up UnderArmor shirts. [Money spent: $0]
- Yard sales. I love yard sales! But this summer, because of rain on many weekends and obligations on other weekends, I really only went to about 4 weekends of yard sales (averaging one weekend a month). That's low for me. Still, during these 4 weekends I managed to purchase almost all of the school clothes that I'll need this year -- that's about $20 of the money that I spent. By combining techniques 1-5, I won't need to buy any more school clothes for the boys this year. But this explanation hides some important early costs. I've spent several years building up an inventory of school clothing; I've also spent several years learning how to purchase clothes at yard sales for 50¢-to-$1 a piece. I often spend closer to $50 during the summer. Like many things in life, this method gets better with practice. [Money spent: $20]
- Thrift-shop purchases. I'm one of the few people who thinks of thrift stores as "too expensive". Why pay $5-$7 for a pair of jeans when I know I can get it for $1 at a yard sale? So I use thrift stores sparingly. This year for my older son's birthday, I gave each of my sons a $25 gift certificate to Goodwill. There's a "bulk" Goodwill about 20 minutes from our home, next to the "fancy" Goodwill. At the "bulk" store, each item costs 85¢. This will allow my boys to buy non-school "fashion" clothes they want. By allowing the two boys to spend at total of $50 on whatever they want, I figure I'm spoiling them ridiculously. Just call me a softy. [Money spent: $50]
- Bulk clothes. For underwear and socks, I haven't managed to find a good hand-me-down/yard sale/thrift store solution. I go to one of those huge discount stores or go online and buy new (sigh) clothes. This accounts for the other $80 I spend (this is both for my boys and for me). I buy in bulk -- at least 12 pairs of whatever at at time. [Money spent: $80]
Here's what I don't do. I don't go to the mall. I don't go shopping (anywhere) "just for fun", unless you count the boys' birthday presents at Goodwill. I don't buy things "on sale". I'm not saying that any of those things are bad; I'm just saying I don't do them. And that's how I clothed three people for $150 this year.