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Your Guide To Buying Clothes on a Budget

One way or the other, you have to spend some amount of your hard-earned money on your wardrobe..  You can’t walk around without any clothes on, after all. But figuring out which pieces to save money on and which are worth the investment can be a tricky financial path to navigate.

Timing Is Everything 

Retailers put out-of-season clothing on clearance to get rid of the stock from their stores. You can save a ton buying clothing when you don’t need them — like a winter coat in May or a swimsuit in December. Time your clothing purchases right and you can save hundreds on your clothing expenses.

January and August seem to be the best months to invest in clothing, Thursday is the best day to shop for clothes, and there are certain days of the week that might be best for specific apparel types. In general, buying off-season usually gets you better deals than buying what’s hot and trendy in the moment, price-wise.

Buy Quality Clothing

Unless it’s practically free, you’re better off buying clothing items from good brands with a reputation for well-made items. If you give me the choice between a $10 shirt that’s falling apart after a few wears or a $100 shirt that still looks good after fifty washings, I’ll take the $100 shirt any day of the week.

Wait, spend even more money on clothes? Yes, in general, you’ll get more value (or cost per wear) out of decent clothes that actually fit you and will last longer rather than doing the “fast food” approach to new clothing every year.

Cheap T-Shirts, Premium Jeans

Trendy clothes tend to cost more and have a shorter shelf life. You could spend hundreds trying to keep up with the fashion magazines, only to realize that you no longer adore that peasant skirt six months later. Stick to classic styles and basic pieces that will always be trendy. Just stack your wardrobe with t-shirts and jeans. This is what you will wear the most often.

Splurge on one or two good pairs of really nice jeans.  Opt for premium denim with an attractive dark wash, with the right amount of stretch.  They should fit far better and will last longer than a cheaper pair. On the other hand, you shouldn’t judge t-shirts by their price tag. Find a cheap off brand tee that fits nicely and buy in bulk. This is because you tend to wash them more than other clothing, and they don’t have that long of a shelf life to begin with.

Thrifty Thrift Stores

 Thrift stores sell gently used clothing at a deep discount. Many stores also have regular sales or a weekly special. For example, 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.

If you’re smart about money, clothes shopping should start at thrift stores, consignment shops, yard sales, and the like. There’s a simple reason for that – there are people who tend to basically give away much of their stuff unused or barely used, so why not take advantage of it? Sure, you might browse through a thrift store and find absolutely nothing that works for you, but so what?

You spent fifteen or twenty minutes searching for a bargain and came up empty. Move on. However, if you find even one or two items that work for your family’s needs and save 75% or more off of the original cost of the item, then the stop was well worth it.

Sell It 

If you don’t wear certain items of clothing, drop them 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. Consider going through your closet once a year. If you haven’t worn that sweater in 365 days, you probably don’t need it.

Consignment is especially good for higher-end items like leather jackets and very lightly used party dresses. Make sure you bring the items to the shop clean and pressed to give them maximum appeal. If you don’t have local consignment shops, consider online stores that do the same thing, such as ThredUP, Poshmark, and The RealReal.

On or Offline?

Consider trying to shop in retail stores versus online. Online stores can have some great deals, and for people who know their sizes, it might work out most of the time. But by the time you pay shipping, realize something doesn’t fit and then pay to have the items returned, you might find that online shopping might not be as inexpensive as you think.  Make sure that you pay attention to shipping and return fees if you think there is a chance you might want to return the item.

Online shopping for accessories, like purses, scarves, or brands that you know fit because you’ve worn them before would be your best bet. But also don’t forget the online version of your favorite local stores.  They’ve been known to also offer deep discounts and a larger selection than their brick and mortar stores on clearance items.