How to Save Money Buying Clothing

save money buying clothingClothing is one of those overlooked expenses because we tend to buy over a long period of time rather than all at once. It’s a major reason why people run up credit card bills to unsustainable levels. Over the course of a year a family can easily spend thousands of dollars on clothing.

After years of raising our kids, my wife and I have discovered that the best way to save money on clothing is by not being locked into buying from a single source or from a very narrow selection of stores. It’s not a matter of either buying cheap, or buying better quality that will last, but about identifying when to do either.

Buying the basics

This takes in a large swath of your clothing collection, and fortunately it’s also generally the least visible part of your wardrobe. For this reason you can be aggressive about saving money in this category.

Socks, underwear, tee-shirts, pajamas, sweat suits, etc

The big box discount retailers, like Target and Wal-Mart, are probably the best stores to buy these at, especially when you can get them on sale. There’s no point paying premium prices for any of these because it’s extremely unlikely you’ll have any of them one year from now. The best quality socks and underwear probably won’t last much longer than the cheapest ones you can buy, and you probably won’t want them when they’re that old any way. Think throw-away here, because that’s what you’ll be doing soon enough.

Romp around clothes

We all have clothing we wear just to hang around the house or when we’re working at home. None of it needs to be designer quality with designer prices. You can get some really good knock around clothes at thrift shops for not a lot of moneyâ”in fact substantially less even than what you’d pay at the big box discounters. For three, four or five dollars you can buy a shirt or a pair of pants, some of them designer quality (but of course, used) and wear them until they wear out. You’re not trying to make a fashion statement, you’re just looking for clothes to hang out in when no one is looking.

Clothing for young children

When our kids were young (especially in elementary school and earlier) we bought their clothes either at the big box discounters or at thrift stores. Here’s the thingâ”when kids are young two things are happening: they’re staining/tearing/shredding their clothes, or they’re growing out of themâ”usually in a few months. There’s no point in paying high prices for clothing that will be put through that kind of routine. Once again, think throw-away, because that’s exactly what will happen.

Your operating clothing inventoryâ

This is that portion of your wardrobe that you need for your public face. Think business casual, or going out clothes. You’re not going for formal wear, but it has to be as step above complete casual.

Work clothes

The work wardrobe today is commonly business casual. That means something less than dresses and three piece business suits, but more than weekend wear. You want to look good and have decent quality clothing, but it also needs to be comfortable and practical. And since you work at least five days per week, it’s totally predictable that you’ll need to recycle your work wardrobe on a regular basis. That makes a strong case for shopping at moderately priced retailers, like Kohl’s and JC Penny. The clothes have to be average quality or better, but at the same time with the understanding that you probably will discard them in a year or two. That makes a strong case against buying them a premium retailers.

Tween/teen clothing

Tweens and teens can blow through clothing almost as quickly as younger children but there’s an added element: peer pressure. You want to buy better clothing than you can get at discount retailers, but at the same time to recognize that styles change rapidly in this age group, so once again, none of these clothes will remain in your teen’s inventory for very long. The moderately priced retailers are, on balance, the best places to shop. Yes, your teen will probably want to get her clothing at high end stores, but if there’s a budget concern you’ll have to go down a step to keep up.

Friday/Saturday night wear

This is the clothing you’d wear to go out on a Friday or Saturday night, or to visit family or friends. It isn’t business casual, but it’s generally nicer than casual-casual. You’ll want these to look nice, but you probably won’t wear them nearly as much as your work clothesâ”which is to say that you won’t have to replace them nearly as fast. This once again points to moderately priced retailers.

The higher end part of your wardrobe

There are parts of your wardrobe that you’ll want to last longer, and that will mean better quality and the higher prices that go with them.

Suits for special occasions

Everyone needs to have an outfit or two that can be worn to the occasional wedding or funeral. While business casual is completely accepted nearly everywhere else, these are the few remaining events where formal is still the expected norm. Since these events tend to be few and far betweenâ”and since you’ll want to put your best foot forward when you’re thereâ”it can warrant spending extra at a premium retailer for a good outfit that will not only last many years but also look good in the meantime.

Clothing for important work/business events

 There are events related to work that require something more than business casual (but generally less than true formal). Those events can include visits by company higher-ups, meetings with important clients, or major corporate functions. These are usually high profile events where looking your best is important to your job and for that reason higher end clothing may be required. Again, since you need to look good but you won’t be buying these clothes often, paying a little more for better clothes at high end retailers may be the way to go.

Winter coats

For an adult, a good winter coat can look good and work well for many years, so it can actually be more cost effective to buy one that will last rather than a series of cheaper ones that have to be replaced every couple of years. Good winter coats don’t generally go out of style, and that can justify paying a higher price for better quality.

You can save money buying quality clothingâ”if it’s the kind of clothing that can be expected to last for many years. But you can also save money by buying at the least expensive level the clothing that naturally won’t be expected to last more than a year or two, and sometimes just a few months.
What methods do you use to limit your clothing budgetâ”especially if you have children?

photo by wonderlane