Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it. Trim your clothing budget, but still have more stuff to wear. I know, I write romance novels, but I still need stuff to wear. Especially to the day job. And while I’m a huge proponent of having nice things, I also need to save for retirement and putting two kids through college.
Here are the steps I’ve implemented over the last five years that have really helped me have something to wear when I open the closet, while spending less than I did before.
9 Ways to Trim Your Clothing Budget While Having More to Wear
1. Practice One-In-One-Out
Most Americans have more clothing than they need, yet their closets don’t look like the neatly organized ones in romance movies. I can’t think of a single friend or family member whose closet isn’t full. Some bursting-the-seams full. With this in mind, it’s not too hard to agree to let something go for each new thing you bring home. Making yourself do it is another thing, but if you really want more to wear on less dollars, this is the first step.
2. If You Haven’t Worn It In a Year, Say Goodbye
You’ll hear this advice everywhere, and honestly, it’s good advice. If you didn’t choose to wear a piece of clothing this year, why will you choose it next year when it’s another year older and slightly more out-of-date? We can rail against the fashion industry all we want for creating demand by changing styles, but at the moment, it’s a fact of life. And pretty please don’t say you’re saving it for when you lose weight. Should you ever lose weight, you’re going to be celebrating with some fabulous new clothes, not wearing a slightly-out-of-date pilled sweater.
3. Buy for Your Climate
My spring and summer wardrobe is literally 1/3 of the size of my fall and winter wardrobe. Why? Because I’m lucky where I live to get three to four months of warm weather. And that’s warm by our standards. If you live in a mild four season climate, like when I lived in Seattle, you can layer a cardigan over a tee and be fine. Where I live now, we regularly have weeks on end where the high temperature doesn’t get above 8F/-13C. Earlier this year, I was drove to work for three weeks straight when it was -4F/ -20C. Yes, I live in the frozen tundra. Best to dress for it. That means long underwear, heavy sweaters, and turtlenecks.
4. Buy for Your Life
I love the look of pretty silk dresses. I also have two kids, two cats, and work in the frozen tundra. Not exactly conducive to this clothing choice, but I bought them anyway. After three years of hanging in my closet, and each having been worn no more than a handful of times, I consigned them. I hadn’t bought for my life. Every time I put one on, I dodged my kids to avoid peanut butter fingers. I had to put a blanket over my lap on my drive to work to keep warm. Suddenly, the wind off the lake mattered more than whether it meant I needed a heavier coat. And yes, I have three winter coats. Because the coat I need at 35F/ 2C is not the coat I need at 15F/-9C or the coat I need at -4F/-20C.
5. Buy at the Beginning of the Season
The best stuff is at the beginning of the season. It just is. This is the clothing the store buyers liked best and wanted rolled out first. I sort of get it. If they put their best offerings out first, you’re more likely to like them and keep coming back to the store. Buying early also means you have all season to wear it. So, you’re more likely to find better stuff that you’re going to love more and be less ready to swap out for something else. You’re practicing the one-in-one-out rule, right?
6. Don’t Buy on Sale What You Didn’t Want at Full Price
I know this is hard. You see the $300 sweater clearance for $50. Of course you have to have it! Even if it is a strange puce color whose sleeves are a little too long and the v-neck a little too deep. But will you wear it? $50 spent on a sweater you’ll never wear is $50 you don’t have to toward that -4F/-20C coat.
I love a bargain as much as the next person, but money spent on something I don’t wear isn’t a bargain.
How I Handle Sales:
a. I make a wish list. Most stores have this feature on their website. Even if you shop in person, you can still put it on the online wish list.
b. As my budget comes available, I buy the things I most want on my wish list.
c. I only buy sale items if they are already on the wish list. If not, I move on. I didn’t want it before, and I can’t let sale goggles drain away my budget for stuff I really want.
7. Buy the Best Quality You Can
If you start following the steps above, you’ll probably find that over time you have some extra money in your clothing in your budget. Use this to buy the best quality you can. There are certain retailers known for disposable clothing. The planet begs you not the shop there, and frankly, a $20 sweater probably isn’t going to look as nice as a sustainably sourced $150 sweater.
Yeah, it’s a huge price jump, but over time, you might keep and wear the heck out of the $150 sweater, and it’ll still be in your closet five years down the road, whereas you wore the $20 sweater 3 times and then got rid of it. In financial terms, you could consider this as cost-per wear. If wear the $20 sweater three times, your cost per wear is $6.67. But if you wear that $150 six times a year over five years, your cost per wear is $5. So, yeah, less expensive per wear and it looks nicer. Win-Win.
8. Learn a Little about Clothing Construction
For women’s clothes, cost does not always equal quality. Weird, I know, but there it is. Still, before you buy something and trade out something you already have, check the construction on it. Do the seams look sound? Is the sweater already pilling? I’d love to give you more on this, but I am just starting to learn about it. The one thing I’ve learned is some tees have an extra seam in the back. These tees cost more for the extra labor associated with it, but they are so much more flattering on me. I’m willing to pay more for them.
9. Buy for the You Today
Whether it’s style, color, or size, buy for you. If you love it today, there’s a good chance you’ll still love it down the road. If not, that’s okay. Sometimes we make mistakes, and that includes with clothes. More than this, please buy clothes that fit you today. “Inspirational” stuff tends to be anything but, and even if you do one day fit them, will you still want them? Also, ignore the size on the tag. Buy what fits. Trying to squeeze into a small when you’re a medium sucks. I know. And I stopped getting rid of stuff after a year or two when I started buying stuff in the correct size.
How about you? Any tips or tricks to keeping your wardrobe under control, both size and budget wise? Anything you’d add? Maybe you think I am totally wrong on something?