How I Save a Ton of Money on Clothes (Not So Much Car Insurance)

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While at PTP, I attended a lecture entitled, “How to Buy Clothes on a Budget” delivered by the lovely Jennifer Webster.  I was thrilled to discover that most of the things she suggested, I already do! Then it occurred to me—I bet a lot of wives and moms on a budget out there would be interested in a few suggestions to save big on clothes. Obviously, I see my quest for deals as a way to honor my husband by saving for our family, but I also see it as a hobby because it’s just so much fun. It is an absolute rush to spend half or a quarter of the amount something is worth or even less sometimes because you’re a deal savvy diva.  People ask me all the time where I got an outfit and are shocked when I tell them.

So, if your husband is a heart surgeon or a criminal law attorney, you might not want to bother with this article. But if your husband is a preacher or something else that pays so royally (I kid, obviously), you might want to read this. So, at the potential risk of sounding like the biggest cheapskate on the planet, here are my tips (and Jennifer’s!):

1.    If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

Figure out with your husband exactly what your budget is for clothes and stick to it. My husband and I loosely follow the Dave Ramsey system with different envelopes for different things, and when the cash is gone, it’s absolutely gone until next month. This makes it easier for me to say no to things I don’t need.

2.    If you have to, spend money on quality classic pieces that go with everything.

Bargain shop for everything else, but when it comes to key items that you will seriously wear all the time, it’s okay to splurge a little to make sure the item is going to last a long time. I’m thinking of things like a black skirt, black pants, one good pair of jeans, one good pair of tennis shoes, a denim jacket that you’ll wear with about every skirt and dress you own, etc. These are the only items on which I will spend the full-price amount, and these occasions are rare.

3.    Frequent Thrift Stores

Don’t laugh—some of my most coveted brand name items came from thrift stores, and if I were to sell some of them, would be worth at least $50 more than what I spent for them. I’m talking brands like Vera Bradley, Free People, Anthropologie, White House Black Market, GAP, Ann Taylor, and lots more for $5 or less a piece.  With many items you find there, as long as you wash them when you get home, they truly are just like new. My favorite thrift store I’ve ever been to is America’s Thrift Store, but I’ve only seen them in Alabama and Georgia, so here in Louisville, my thrift store of choice is Goodwill. I like Goodwill because they have set prices. $3 for tops and $5 for pants and dresses. Even if it’s an item I would pay over $100 for in the store. There’s no discrimination here between Abercrombie and Walmart. Always $5. Jennifer brought up the point that you should go at night, because at night is when they put out all their new merchandise and if you’re there at the right time, you can get to it first.  Also, keep in mind, if you find something that would be expensive, but it’s not in your size, buy it anyway because you can sell it on Ebay and make a killin’.

4.    Frequent Yard Sales.

Ah, my favorite way to save big. You have to get up early on Saturdays to do this right (I like to leave home at 7:30 am—some leave earlier to see if they can find any that welcome early birds), but the rewards are often phenomenal. I’m the girl who found a never-used Heavy Duty Kitchen Aid Mixer for $10, a new large pool table with all the pieces for $50, an almost new large Keureg for $15, almost new, clean Vera Bradley’s for $1, new board games with all the pieces for $1, and many, many amazing clothing finds. Unless the item is like 25 cents, don’t easily settle for whatever the price is on it. Offer something less. The more you do this, the more you’ll become a pro at it. It will feel uncomfortable at first to say things like, “Will you take $3 for all of these items?,” when each of the 5 items is $1, or offering $5 when the item says $10. Sometimes they’ll say no and you can work your way up, but almost always, they’ll agree. Also, keep in mind that people will be much more likely to come off the price when it’s later in the morning—10 am and after. By this point, people just want to get rid of stuff. After 10am, I start looking for big boxes of books that people still haven’t sold. While the books may be priced 25 cents a book, I’ll offer $3 for the whole box at the end of the day, and many times, people will take it. At that point, I take that whole box of books to Half Price Books, a bookstore in Louisville that buys used books, and I’ll sell the whole box for $20. Just like that, I’ve made $17 easy. And as you know, I can get quite a lot of clothes at Goodwill for $17! Even if you don’t have a Half-Price Books, it’s likely that you live near a bookstore that is similar and will buy your books off of you.  The selling books idea brings me to my next point….

5.    Sell your clothes.

If you take good care of your clothes (don’t put your nicest items in the dryer), you’ll be able to sell them easily if you so desire. I often sell clothes to a local consignment shop here in Louisville, but if it’s a highly valuable item, I can usually make more by selling it on Ebay. Every now and then, purge your closet of all the things you don’t wear, and get rid of them either by donating or selling.

6.    Get on the email list of all your favorite stores.

When you do this, you get coupons sent to you and you will always be notified when there is an amazing sale about to hit your favorite store, so that, if you’re like me, you can sometimes justify shopping in a “real” store. (I’m not as crazy as I sound, I promise!).  P.S. We do this with all our favorite restaurants, too, and only go to them when we receive a coupon—which is often!

7.    Download “RetailMeNot” or something similar as an app on your phone so that whenever you go into a store, you can look up coupons easily.

Most stores will accept the coupon just by showing them your phone—no printing or clipping necessary.

8.    Use Ebay.

If there is a particular brand or item that you just really want, use Ebay to get it for half the price you’d spend in the store. I just bought my first pair of Chaco’s on Ebay for half of their retail price. I wanted that particular brand of sandals because I’ve heard rave reviews about how good they are for walking, and I thought that’d be a good idea for my Africa trip in a week. If I decide I don’t like them, I can easily sell them on Ebay for possibly even more than I spent for them. Jennifer advised, “Don’t buy from anyone who doesn’t have a 100% rating” and I tend to agree with her. Play it safe and you’ll save big.

I could keep going and make this list an even 10, but because it’s already so long (and because my to-do list for today is kind of ridiculously long), I’m going to put a peg there and ask you ladies the question:

What do you do to save money on clothes? How have you saved your family money?

I look forward to your responses!