Some people spend a lot of money on their clothing expenses. Others, like myself, don’t really spend that much.
The general guideline is that you shouldn’t spend more than 5% of your disposable income on clothing each month.
So if your net income is $2,000 a month, you’re clothing budget should be $100 per month, or $1,200 per year.
Whether you love fashion or only buy what you need, if you’re living on a budget there is not a lot you can do with only a hundred dollars. Or is there?
There are many creative ways to stretch a dollar and save big on your clothing expenses.
Change Your Shopping Habits
With a limited budget, changing your shopping habits is a smart and straight-forward way to avoid racking up huge balances on your credit card. Small, simple changes – like the ones included in this post – and little self discipline is all it takes.
Change Where You Shop
Changing your shopping habits might include changing where you shop.
People often flock to outlet malls to find the best deals, but shop carefully if you do. According to a CBC Market Investigation, outlet malls are cheaper because their products are cheaper quality-wise compared to products sold in retail shops. So you may not actually be getting a bargain.
You’re probably better off shopping at thrift stores or discount department stores, instead.
More and more people are turning to the Internet to do their clothes shopping. There are a lot of good reasons why. It can be more convenient to shop whenever you want, from wherever you want. And if you live in a smaller community like I do, it might be the only way to access certain stores or brands.
It also means you can take your time. You can shop around to find the best deals, use browser extensions like Honey to find deals for you, or use coupon apps or cashback sites like Swagbucks to save a little more.
Sort “Low to High” Online
If you’re an online shopper, sort those pages from “Priced low to high” right off the bat. That way you’ll see the sales and discounted items first. And hopefully you’ll find what you’re looking for that also fits your budget.
Better yet, when shopping online, find those sales, deals, promotions or clearance links and click there first. Then also sort “Price low to high”.
As you scroll, pay attention to the price point you’re at and stop when you reach your budgeted amount. For example, if you only have $100 to spend, once you reach items that are $100 each stop scrolling. You can’t afford them right now!
Some retailers will let you stack offers, meaning you can get something from the clearance section and also use a “buy one get one free” deal, for example. You can save a lot of money on your clothing expenses this way.
My husband actually discovered this trick online and paid $300 for over $1,100 worth of clothing – including 13 pairs of pants, 2 winter jackets, a t-shirt, a belt, a hat and a pair of winter boots! All delivered straight to our door, too.
For those of you that shop in person, the same general advice applies. Find those clearance and sales racks, and start there. Clarify with store staff what the terms of the sales or promotions are so you can find the best deal.
Buy Last Season’s Clothes
A lot of what you’ll find on sale or in those clearance sections will be last season’s clothing. But because retailers are often months ahead with their products (such as putting out all those Christmas decorations in October), “last season” for a store is usually still the current season for us consumers.
Meaning you can find deals on winter clothes in January, and deals on summer clothes in August.
So no, I’m not suggesting you wear shorts in the middle of winter just to save some money. (But that’s entirely up to you if you want to!)
If you are more fashionable and worried about being behind the trends, stick to buying basics and classic pieces that don’t go out of style.
Abandon Your Online Cart
This trick isn’t exactly new, but it might be new to you, so I wanted to include it.
When shopping online, log into your account and purposely leave items in your shopping cart. Typically in a couple of days, you’ll get a “reminder” email from that company that usually includes a discount code to entice you to actually make the purchase.
This may not work every time or with every retailer, and won’t work if you’re shopping as a “guest” on their site. But it’s worth a shot!
As an added bonus, waiting 24-72 hours before making a purchase is highly recommended in the personal finance world. Especially if you’re an impulse shopper. It gives you enough time to think about whether you actually need or want that new item or not. You may decide not to make the purchase after all, which is a great way to save!
Shop in the Men’s or Children’s Sections
Women’s clothing always seems to cost more. (Thank you, pink tax.) So why not shop in the men’s or kid’s clothing sections to try to save some money?
There isn’t much size difference between a boy’s large shirt and a women’s small, after all. Now I’m not suggesting that we should all go out and buy ourselves Minecraft or Marvel comic graphic tees (again, that is unless you want to!). But there are plenty of basics available in the children’s section.
But it’s not just people who buy women’s clothes that can benefit from shopping in other sections of the store. For example, accessories like hats and scarves from the kid’s sections usually fit adults, too.
This might be a little harder to do online, but most retailers have a sizing chart that should give you a good starting point.
Who knows? Depending on your body shape, you might find that the clothes in another section actually fit you and your needs better.
For one of my previous jobs, I had to carry around a set of about a dozen keys. But as anyone in woman’s fashion knows, women’s pants almost never have pockets. Or if they do, they are so small you can barely fit a quarter in there, let alone a set of keys. After wasting far too much time searching for a pair of women’s pants with pockets, I found dozens in the men’s clothing section. And for a lot cheaper.
The whole concept of gender is changing and it’s only a matter of time before that’s further reflected in the clothing industry, too.
As long as it fits you, who cares what the tag says!
Which brings me to my next point.
Try Everything On Before Buying
There is little to no consistency in sizes between the different brands and companies. You could be a size 6 at one store, and a size 12 at another. It’s so frustrating!
Which is why I learned the hard way to try everything on before buying it.
(Especially when it comes to pants. For whatever reason, I have a hard time finding pants that fit. Even within the same store. Why does the boot-cut fit, but the straight-leg doesn’t?!)
For you online shoppers, be sure to try on your new clothes within the first few days of getting them. If it doesn’t fit right or isn’t what you were hoping for, return it!
Each online store will have their own return policies. Some you can return in-store (if there is a physical store near-by), others you’ll have to ship back. Some will give you lots of time to make a return, others might only give you a few days. Don’t waste your money by letting an unwanted item sit there rather than returning it. Yes, returning unwanted items can be a pain, but that’s the reality of online shopping.
Follow the “One In, One Out” Rule
One of the best ways to keep your clothing expenses in check is to follow the “one in, one out” rule. If you’re not familiar, it simply means for every new item of clothing you buy or bring “in”, one item has to go “out”. It could be donated, sold, repurposed, or thrown away.
This is a great strategy for a lot of reasons. It keeps you better aware of what clothes you already own. It helps you control the clutter, as you purge the clothes that you no longer need or want. And makes you more mindful of your shopping habits, knowing that if you do buy 12 new shirts, you’ll have to give up 12 articles of clothing that you already have.
How do you save money on clothing expenses? Please leave a comment and let us know your tips and tricks!
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.