How to Shop for Clothes on a Budget
Clothing is one of the things I no longer spend money on.
- I used to buy clothes all the time.
- I’ve been the same size for a while.
I have all the clothes I need, but…
My husband and my daughter?
They’re an entirely different story, especially my daughter who’s growing like a weed and needs new clothes all the time.
With their clothing needs, we could easily go over budget.
Here are tips we’ve used to shop for fashionable clothes without breaking the bank.
30 Tips for How to Shop for Clothes on a Budget
1. Don’t buy just because it’s a clothing “sale”
If you’re buying a new item at a retailer, be aware of the influence of a “sale”.
It can seem like “SALE” in red letters on a big sign means you’re getting a good deal.
Unless you research historical and competitor’s prices, you’ll never actually know.
Black Friday and Boxing Day are often known as the days you’ll get the best prices of the year.
I’ve gotten great prices on new products that were better than their Black Friday and Boxing Day offers so…
Do your homework.
One way I like to monitor prices is by using Flipp.
Flipp is a database of all of the weekly ads and coupons in one place.
If you want to see where you can get the cheapest clothing item like a wool sweater in town, you can just search “wool sweater” on Flipp and see all of the deals at once!
Here’s another way I like to monitor prices…
2. Check clothing price drops
I like to use Honey to monitor when prices drop.
Honey is FREE to sign up. It has many useful money saving features (another of which I’ll get into below).
One thing it does is help you monitor price drops!
Honey can send you notifications for when the price of items you’re interested in drop on Amazon, Macy’s, Target, Walmart, Overstock, J. Crew and Sak’s Fifth Avenue.
Honey also has a feature that shows you the price history of the product! You can see how the price has changed over the last 120 days to see its lowest price point.
Here’s another feature I love about Honey…
3. Use coupons
When you have the clothing in your cart online, Honey can look at the items in your cart and help you search for coupon codes.
This allows you to not have to search for codes one by one.
If Honey finds relevant codes, it enters them automatically – saving you time!
Here’s an article that goes into more detail about how to use Honey and specifically the couponing and price drop or “droplist” feature.
4. Get cash back on your shopping purchase
Before you purchase clothes, you should go through Rakuten (formerly Ebates) first.
It gives you up to 40% cash back for shopping at over 2500 stores – many of which you would normally shop at like Amazon, eBay, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Walmart etc.
It’s FREE to sign up.
For U.S. residents, Rakuten will give you a welcome bonus of $10 after making your first online purchase of $25 or more.
For Canadians, it’s a $5 welcome bonus for signing up.
5. Buy discounted clothing store gift cards
There are online gift card marketplaces where you can buy discounted gift cards including clothing store gift cards that other people are selling.
Raise is one marketplace in the U.S.
Bonus savings – you can use your credit card to pay for these gift cards so you can still get your credit card points!
6. Don’t buy expensive workout clothing
I’ve had my share of Lululemon clothes.
I’ve also bought no name brand workout gear for 20% of the price I would pay at Lululemon.
10 years later, I still have the no name brand workout gear. I realized you don’t need to get Lululemon clothing to get good quality.
What I mean by quality is clothing that:
- is not see through when stretched
- maintains its shape (not loosening over time)
There’s so much low priced, good quality yoga gear online.
Here’s a pair of yoga pants for an excellent price. It has a high rating and many reviews!
I love the style on these yoga pants. They’re also a great price!
7. Don’t buy dry-clean only clothes
As “dry-clean only clothing” can only be sent to the dry cleaners to be washed, this not only costs you extra money, but also time out of your busy schedule.
There are ways you might be able to wash a dry-clean only product at home, but pay careful attention to the label and materials and proceed with caution.
You probably don’t want to try these methods on your favorite sweater, but it might be worth trying with a hand-me down item you don’t care about.
8. Borrow for special occasion outfits
If you’re going to a gala, ball or other event where you’ll need a very formal dress, you should consider borrowing instead of buying this outfit.
Ask your family and friends if they have any clothing that fits the bill.
You can also rent dresses from Rent the Runway.
You don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for an outfit you’ll potentially only wear once or twice.
If you foresee using the clothing more than once, don’t rent the outfit.
For example, if you’re planning on attending multiple weddings in a tuxedo or suit, you don’t need to rent this every time. It’ll probably work out to be more cost efficient to buy it once.
9. Swap clothing
While you can casually trade clothes with friends here and there, what I’m talking about is a clothing swap party.
It’s a event for a group of friends to get together to trade clothing items. There are rules so that it’s fair and fun for everyone.
Since you know where the goods are coming from, you can feel comfortable knowing you’re getting things in good condition.
This is one of my favorite ways to shop for clothes on a budget because:
- It’s FREE – you don’t have to spend any money.
- You can clean out your closet!
You can turn your unused goods into new things you actually need!
Related: Tips on how to Host a Swap Party
10. Buy classic clothing
Buy a product that’s basic and doesn’t have all of the gadgets. With more features, more things can go wrong.
The more neutral colored and plain the clothing is, the more outfit combinations you can make!
Here are examples of classic pieces:
11. Build a capsule wardrobe
Speaking of classic pieces, have you heard of a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a great way to save money – you have everything you need in your capsule wardrobe. You don’t need to shop for any more clothing.
It also saves you time by not having to shop for clothes. Having a minimalist wardrobe makes getting ready in the morning efficient because you have less choices to consider.
What exactly is a capsule wardrobe?
It’s often when:
- You have around 1-5 of each type of clothing in your closet.
- Every piece is one you LOVE and makes you feel happy and confident!
- The pieces don’t go out of style.
- Ideally each piece goes well together so you can mix and match to create a lot of combinations.
You don’t have to limit yourself to these rules. You can adapt this concept to your lifestyle and preferences.
You can read more about how to build a capsule wardrobe here.
12. Buy good quality clothing
It’s often worth it to spend a little more and get a higher quality item vs. get the cheapest material on the rack and have it wear out within the year.
A higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean better quality. Along the same lines – designer brands don’t necessarily guarantee you’re getting a product that will last you a lifetime.
In general, a good quality product can be identified by the:
Synthetic materials (e.g. polyester, nylon) might not last through as many washes as natural materials (e.g. cotton, cashmere), but…
You should know that not all fabrics are the same. For example, there are many different qualities of cashmere.
In general, you want to look for thickness/sturdiness, how it feels, and how it looks on.
For example, if you look at 2 different 100% cashmere sweaters, the higher quality one is likely thicker, not see-through when stretched, feels soft and not at all scratchy, and hangs well.
It also depends on your comfort level and use of the item. For example, if you like your jeans to have more flexibility, it makes sense to have more spandex or elastane material.
How an item is put together and the materials used can be a good indication of how long it lasts.
Are there any loose threads? Are buttons or beads loose?
Is the stitching neat and even?
Is the stitching strong? When you pull on the stitching, do you foresee it will come a part over time?
Does the zipper work well?
These are all things you should test to see how well the item is constructed.
13. Take care of your clothes
The more you care for your current clothes, the less future clothes you’ll have to shop for!
How do you take care of your clothes?
Check the tags and see how they should be washed.
Store them properly. Depending on the type of clothing, you might want to hang clothes to avoid unwanted creases.
Be aware that moths eat cashmere. I found this out the hard way!
Now I store all of my cashmere pieces in plastic containers or cedar chests in dry (not damp) places away from sunlight.
Here’s something I also do to take care of my clothes…
14. Don’t wash your clothes often
You might think that you have to wash your clothes after every wear for hygiene purposes.
Maybe you’ve just been following the same routine passed down from generation to generation and you haven’t thought to question it.
Perhaps you just like the smell of a newly laundered item?
The fact is…
The more you wash your clothes, the more you wear them, misshapen them, and have to buy replacements.
It also costs you more in laundry time, detergent and utilities.
Before you throw your clothes in the laundry, inspect and smell it to see if it’s still clean.
Of course if it’s underwear, socks or exercise gear, washing after one wear makes sense.
If your clothes have a small stain on them, use a spot remover pen instead.
If it smells just a little off, you could always air dry it outside or spray it with a fabric refresher (this is especially handy if you’re going on a trip, don’t have access to a laundry, and can’t bring a lot of clothes).
If you anticipate going into a messy situation like cooking, gardening, or car work, wear a garment to protect your clothing e.g. apron, coveralls etc.
15. Shop in the men’s clothing department
Yes – men’s clothing is often cheaper than women’s clothing.
According to this study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, products marketed to women cost more 42% of the time.
It also mentions that women’s jeans usually cost 10% more than men’s jeans.
If you want to save money, here are a few pieces you might be particularly on the hunt for that are definitely cheaper in the men’s department:
What about the fit?
I actually prefer a more loose fitting, oversized look, for tops especially. It’s more comfortable! It looks stylish!
If you want to make it look a bit more fitted, you can always tuck in the shirt or roll up the sleeves. You can also get it tailored if you like.
I know women that rock the oversized look. I’ve seen a friend wear a men’s blazer with a dress. It looked awesome!
I also like the style of men’s clothing. It’s simple – not a lot of patterns. Just clean, straight cuts.
16. Shop in the kid’s section
Like the men’s department, the kid’s section is usually cheaper than the women’s section.
If you’re petite, you can probably check out the boy’s or girl’s largest sizes available and find a selection of clothes that work!
17. Use your clothing accessories to create a different look
Accessories can be much cheaper than clothing. They can transform what you’re wearing into a fresh new outfit.
Here are my go-to accessories that I find make the biggest impact.
I have a bolo wrap necklace. You can wear this in a few different ways. With a bow. Without a bow.
Wrapped around once or twice as a choker. Wrapped around loosely.
It can make a casual outfit look very pretty.
I love my white leather belt! I love how the buckle is the same color as the rest of the belt so everything matches.
This belt even comes with tools to shorten the belt if needed!
I use my white belt on a black dress and pant suit, which contrasts so well. I always get compliments on this combo.
White is versatile. You can use it on different color dresses. It also looks great with a white shirt and jeans.
I also like wearing pearls to dress up casual outfits. They’re more expensive, but they can make a plain black dress or suit look regal.
I don’t have this, but a friend of mine has a statement necklace that’s striking.
This one is a neutral color so you can wear it with many different outfits.
A sharp statement necklace can make a simple outfit look interesting.
18. Buy used clothing
Check out thrift stores, yard sales, consignment shops and online marketplaces (e.g. Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, eBay and Varagesale).
There are so many places you can get clothes in excellent or good condition for great prices!
Sometimes you can even find high-end designer clothes at these places!
I once got a wool Mackage coat in excellent condition at a yard sale on my street for $20. It was like winning the lottery!
In general, I find yard sales are cheaper than thrift stores and online marketplaces, but if you’re on the hunt for a specific item, your local thrift store or online marketplace is probably your best bet!
19. Make your own clothes
If you can sew and have a sewing machine, making your clothes can be much more inexpensive than buying them off the rack!
If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration on how to get the perfect fit or get different patterns, there are many bestselling books on the topic like:
20. Repurpose clothes
Instead of buying a new wardrobe, you can recycle your old clothes to make new outfits.
If you’re handy, you can cut up an old sweater and make it into a hat. I’ve also seen people cut up old jeans and make it into a bag!
If you don’t know how to sew, you can think about different uses for the clothes you have (or have access too).
I’ve also seen ladies use a long sleeve shirt as a skirt. The top of the shirt sits on your waist and the bottom of the shirt is near your knees.
You can wrap around the sleeves and knot it into a bow!
21. Fix your own clothes
You don’t need to be a sewer or knitter to learn how to fix your clothes.
It’s easy to darn a hole.
Darning is when you mend a hole with knitted material.
My brother didn’t grow up learning it.
He had a hole in one very expensive wool sock and rather than throw it out, he learned about darning.
I wish I had a picture of the sock he showed me that he darned – it looked like it was brand new! I couldn’t tell the difference!
For darning, all you need are basic supplies like:
- yarn or thread in a color and material similar to what you’re darning
- a needle (if you’re using yarn, you’ll probably want yarn darner needles)
- an old tennis ball or a darning egg or darning mushroom if you’re planning on doing a lot of darning in the future
Here’s an excellent video that goes over the fundamentals of how to darn a sock:
22. Understand why you need these clothes
It’s always good to ask yourself:
Do I really need this item?
Sometimes you get caught up in the latest trend. You feel like you have to buy the sweater you saw an actor wear in a magazine.
Sometimes you just need to ignore the advertising or if you see that your family and friends have these products.
You can also think…
What will I be missing out on buying if I make this clothing purchase?
For example, instead of buying a $100 coat, you can put that money towards essentials like groceries.
You can also use the 30 day rule.
What is the 30 day rule?
When you think you need an item, wait 30 days. If you still feel like you need it after 30 days, then you can consider getting it.
23. Shop in your closet
Sometimes you think you need something, but you already have this item in your closet!
Make sure you double check your closet.
You might even be able to find something in your closet that can be used as a substitute!
For example, my daughter needed a scarf for daycare. I just looked for the smallest scarf I had and gave it to her. Done!
24. Sell off your current clothes
You can sell off your current clothes to add to your clothes budget.
If you’re experiencing warm weather, you can sell your clothes at a yard sale. Here are tips on how to host a yard sale. The advantage of having a yard sale is that you clean your closet and make money quickly.
If you have valuable designer clothes, it might be worthwhile to sell them individually online because you’ll get more for them.
You can sell them on marketplaces like Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, eBay and Varagesale.
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25. Set a clothing budget
It’s always a good idea to go into any clothing purchase with a budget.
You want to make sure you’re going into this purchase with a number you can AFFORD.
The last thing you want to do is realize you’ve gone beyond your budget AFTER IT’S GONE!
If you’ve never done any budgeting, here are simple steps on how to set a budget.
26. Subscribe to clothing store emails
Often when you subscribe to store emails, you can get all types of discounts including coupons for signing up and freebies on your birthday.
Before you make a purchase, check the clothing retailer site to see if there are any email sign up bonuses.
27. Accept clothing hand me downs
There’s no shame in getting hand me downs.
You’re cutting costs and recycling – being environmentally friendly!
You’re also offloading a burden on someone else’s shoulders.
A lot of people want to get rid of their clutter, but they don’t want to just give it away to anybody – they want to give it to someone they know will appreciate it.
The best thing you can do is accept the hand me downs, care for them, and then pass them along when you no longer need them.
It’s always good to keep the cycle of paying it forward going!
28. Check the clothing clearance section
This is the most obvious tip, but it’s still worth mentioning, especially because…
While the clearance section is usually at the back of the store, in some stores, the clearance section is not just in one place.
Each section could have its own clearance area.
Also, the timing of when you check the clearance section is important.
Since most of the items in the clearance section are last season’s products and you want to have first dibs at the selection, shop in September for summer clothes and February for winter outfits.
29. Check your clothing store receipt
Often at the bottom of receipts, there are surveys you can fill out to get money off your next purchase.
If there’s a clothing retailer you frequent, it’s worth checking your receipt to see if there are any opportunities for savings.
You’ll also want to check your receipt for errors because it happens more often than you think.
30. Buy your current clothing size
You might be tempted to buy clothes in a slightly smaller size to motivate you to get into shape.
The best use of your money is on clothes you can use now.
You might never reach your goal size.
You might actually find it demotivating to constantly stare at your new outfit that you can’t wear.
Final Thoughts on How to Shop for Clothes on a Budget
As you can see, there are many different ways you can shop for clothes on a budget.
Comment below if you try any of these methods. I’d love to hear about your experience!
Recap of How to Shop for Clothes on a Budget
- Don’t buy just because it’s a clothing “sale”
- Check clothing price drops
- Use coupons
- Get cash back on your shopping purchase
- Buy discounted clothing store gift cards
- Don’t buy expensive workout clothing
- Don’t buy dry-clean only clothes
- Borrow for special occasion outfits
- Swap clothing
- Buy classic clothing
- Build a capsule wardrobe
- Buy good quality clothing
- Take care of your clothes
- Don’t wash your clothes often
- Shop in the men’s clothing department
- Shop in the kid’s section
- Use your clothing accessories to create a different look
- Understand why you need these clothes
- Buy used clothing
- Make your own clothes
- Repurpose clothes
- Fix your own clothes
- Shop in your closet
- Sell off your current clothes
- Set a clothing budget
- Subscribe to clothing store emails
- Accept clothing hand me downs
- Check the clothing clearance section
- Check your clothing store receipt
- Buy your current clothing size
Resources for Saving Money
Looking for other ideas to save money?
Here are my favorite money saving resources:
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is great because you can get up to 40% back for shopping online at over 2500 stores – many of which you would normally shop at like Amazon, eBay, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Walmart etc. It’s FREE to sign up.
For U.S. residents, Rakuten will give you a welcome bonus of $10 after making your first online purchase of $25 or more. For Canadians, it’s a $5 welcome bonus for signing up. You can read more about how to use Rakuten here!
If you spend hours meal planning every week only to stress out some days and eat out, you might be interested in the $5 meal plan. For $5/month, they send you a weekly meal plan where every meal will cost approximately $2/person! They save you time and money so that you can focus on doing things you enjoy like hanging with your kid!
They offer a 14 day FREE trial (approximately 40 recipes) – regular or gluten-free – that you can cancel at any time with no questions asked.
This membership has 2 great benefits: free 2 day shipping and free access to movies, TV shows, music and books. You no longer have to worry about last minute items. You can cancel your other movie, music and book subscription services. You can also get 20% off diapers and baby food when you have more than 5 subscriptions.
Get the Amazon 30 day FREE trial here. You can cancel at anytime. No questions asked.
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