101 Ways to Save Money on Clothes

by Kelly Medeiros on 23 May 2014 1 comment
Photo: Thinkstock

Clothes can certainly run up your budget, especially if you have a soft spot for shopping. But, not to worry when there are many smart things you can do to save and still have your fashion too. Here are over a one hundred ways to help your closet and your budget. (See also: 25 Secrets to Keep Your Clothes Brighter, Whiter, and Lasting Longer)

1. Buy Generic Basics

You don't need to shell out big bucks on tanks, T-shirts, and other wardrobe basics and layering items. Skip the $50 white T-shirt and try places like Old Navy for such items (many $5 and less), or look to generic brands.

2. Shop Online Discount Sites

There are some amazing discount apparel sites out there that sell brand name clothing and shoes with big savings. Check out some favorites, like 6PM, Bluefly, and DSW.

3. Shop End of Season

Retailers often unload merchandise at blowout prices at the very end of the season. Even mid-season sales abound, which can save versus buying pre-season.

4. Copy Designer Styles for Less

You can save by mimicking an expensive designer outfit (splurge) with a much cheaper, similar one (steal). Check out some of Lucky Magazine's steals or steals from popular morning shows to give you money-saving ideas.

5. Shop the Kid's or Men's Sections

For the petite, try shopping the larger sizes in the kid's section. Many accessories are also just as good and much cheaper here, too. Ladies can also shop for bargains in the men's section, like cool shirts and workout clothes.

6. Use Accessories Wisely

Use your accessories to dress up your existing wardrobe, so outfits feel like new. Ties, scarves, statement necklaces, and belts can all change the look of the most basic outfits. (See also: 10 Awesome Sites to Shop for Affordable Cool Jewelry)

7. Use Personal Shopping Sites

Online personal shopping tools, like Shopittome (which sends emails when your favorite brands go on sale) or Shopstyle (which shows brands and items by price and retailer) can save you money on your apparel buys. Just be aware they can also tempt some to buy more, too.

8. Find Multi-Seasonal Items

Clothing that can work multiple seasons, like sweaters that go from winter to spring, or jackets with liners that go from fall to winter, give you great value for your money. Also look to stretch seasonal items, like summer sleeveless tops under blazers in colder months.

9. Shop Retailers With Good Deals

There are a handful of great bargains that certain retailers always seem to have. Check out some popular retailers with surprisingly good clothing deals.

10. Upgrade With Buttons

Save money by buying a discount cardigan or button-down, and replacing the regular buttons with snazzier options. Cool gold buttons, pearl buttons, or fancy menswear buttons can easily give your piece an upgrade for just a few bucks.

11. Hit Up Sidewalk Sales and Sample Sales

If you live in a big city, sample sales can be a goldmine of cheap designer apparel finds. Smaller cities and towns also have shops and boutiques that often offer sidewalk sales, as do malls at times.

12. Save on Jeans

Save on jeans by learning how to buy the best pairs that are not only affordable, but also durable. There are some great jean buying tips that can help you save, like finding blended fabrics and buying darker washes.

13. Shop Discount Department Stores

My love of TJ Maxx and Marshalls can't be beat due to the ever-changing inventory, great brands, and huge selection of discount apparel. Try these stores and others, like Kohl's and Target, to save.

14. Buy Items That Work With Your Existing Wardrobe

Stick to items that will coordinate with your existing wardrobe to get more bang for your buck. Think colors, styles, and more, that will integrate well with what you already have.

15. Avoid Zipper Damage

Always close up any open zippers when you wash, so they don't rip or pull other items as they tumble in the machine. I've ruined many T-shirts by washing them with unzipped hoodies and jeans.

16. Build a Smarter Wardrobe

Every wardrobe can be carefully built around core items, which give you the most use and versatility for your lifestyle. Look to guides such as the best men's pieces to own, or how to turn key pieces into many outfits.

17. Find Coupons

Always check sites like RetailMeNot for current promo codes and coupons. And don't forget to save store coupons that come in the mail or are handed out with your receipt in stores.

18. Shop Warehouse Clubs

While an unlikely hotspot for clothing deals, check out the clothing section in your favorite warehouse club, like Costco or BJ's. They often have some decent brands with prices that rival any discount store.

19. Make Clothes Fit Better

No need to give away clothes if they aren't fitting the right way anymore. Try several no-sew tactics, such as waist extenders, button extenders, and more, to make your clothes keep working for you.

20. Repurpose Items

You can jazz up an old item by trimming sleeves, adding embellishments, or turning it into an accessory. Check out some stylish DIY clothing ideas to turn your old items into brilliant, new pieces.

21. Invest in Long-Lasting Pieces

Investing in well-made, quality pieces can give you your money's worth. Such items can last years, and are often more economical than buying cheaper pieces that you constantly need to replace.

22. Make Iron-On T-Shirts

Instead of spending a fortune on kids' character or sports team T-shirts, you can make your own for cheap. You just need a plain tee (craft stores sell them for under $5) and some special iron-on paper, which works in most home printers to print any design off your computer that can be ironed on.

23. Return Items You Don't Love

It's wise to check return policies so you know you won't be stuck with a wasted purchase if an item doesn't fit or look right once you get it home.

24. Shop Forever 21 and H&M

Don't underestimate the number of finds you can score at stores like Forever 21 and H&M no matter how old you are. Layering basics, accessories, and other fun items await you for a fraction of the price than you would pay anywhere else.

25. Borrow

Formal wear and maternity wear are prime candidates for borrowing from relatives and friends. My sister and I passed back and forth our maternity wear with each pregnancy, which really saved.

26. Keep an Organized Closet

Keep an orderly closet, so you can see what you have and avoid making silly buys you don't need. Organize hanging clothes by type and color, use shoe racks, fold sweaters neatly, and keep accessories visible, so you can shop your closet and not the stores.

27. Invest in Tailoring

Having a good tailor on hand can save you serious cash. If you score a discount item, the cost of tailoring will still have you coming out ahead, and give you a custom-fitted piece.

28. Follow One Out for Every One In

For every new item you purchase, donate one item in your closet. This can help curb excess buying and keep you honest about what's really being used in your closet.

29. Pass Up the Catalogs

Don't tempt yourself into an unnecessary purchase by browsing through the many clothing retailer catalogs that end up in your mailbox. Remove yourself from mailing lists or take them directly to the recycle bin.

30. Calculate the Cost of Wear Rule

Know if you are really getting good value out of your buys by determining your cost per wear — total price divided by the number of times you wear the item.

31. Shop Outlet Malls and Factory Stores

Shopping outlet malls and factory stores can save you on your clothing purchases. Just make sure the discounts are good enough, as some buys are just as expensive as on-sale items in the usual stores.

32. Use Store Credit Cards

If you shop a particular store religiously, then opening a store credit card can save you, but only if you're able to pay off your card each month. Stores usually give discounts upon opening, and you get access to special offers by being a cardholder.

33. Factor in Dry Clean Only

Be sure to factor in the extra costs of a garment if you have to get it professionally cleaned. Finding similar non-dry clean only items can really help your wallet.

34. Buy and Sell at Consignment Stores

Consignment stores are a great way to shop for some great buys on many fabulous pre-owned garments, as well as places to make some money on your gently used items.

35. Dye Faded Fabrics

Get more value out of your faded pieces by reviving them with dye. This is especially true of black garments or jeans, which can often fade over time. Check out some great tips from Rit Dye on how to go about it.

36. Take Hand-Me-Downs

Hand-me-down clothing is the cheapest of all, since it's free. Take advantage not only for kids' clothes, but if you have friends or relatives looking to give something a new home.

37. Shop Thrift Stores

Thrift stores are a great place to score some vintage, or even brand-name, apparel for less. Many of these stores have hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. (See also: 10 Things to Look for Every Time You Visit a Thrift Store)

38. Store Your Clothes Properly

Folding heavy sweaters, not over-stuffing drawers, using cedar blocks, and removing plastic dry-cleaning bags can save money by making your clothes last longer. I've ripped shirts, stretched out sweaters, and had moths attack by not taking some of these small steps.

39. Buy for Versatility

Choose pieces that work overtime to get the most value for your dollar. Think fancier flip-flops to wear at the beach or out at night, dress shirts as going out shirts, and sweaters and cardigans, which complement business casual ensembles, weekend wear, or as outerwear in warmer weather.

40. Sign Up for Email Lists

Sign up for email lists of stores or sites where you do your clothes shopping to receive valuable offers, coupons, and sales alerts. You can easily set up a dedicated email address for shopping sites to avoid clogging up your regular email.

41. Get Rid of the Wire Hangers

Like Mommy Dearest, clothes also share a hatred of wire hangers. Wire hangers can stretch out shoulders and tear delicate fabrics. Invest in some economical wooden or fabric hangers, at least for your most precious items.

42. Have a Clothing Budget

Just like a household budget, breakdown your monthly clothing allowance and stick to it. This is also a great way to track your spending and plan for seasonal purchases.

43. Avoid the Trendiest Items

While it's easy to fall in love with certain trends, you can save some cash by making sure you don't also fall for buying pieces that you know won't make it past this season.

44. Don't Just Shop to Fill a Void

Shopping, like any habit or addiction, can certainly bring momentary joy, but it can also run up your budget if you constantly use it to make yourself feel better. Be mindful that you aren't just throwing away money for short-term happiness.

45. Resell

Why not recoup some costs and save towards new clothing purchases by selling your gently used items. You can sell at a variety of places, from online resellers to Craigslist to garage sales.

46. Shop Clearance

Clearance racks can have great deals, but be sure to check your garment for stains or rips. Also make sure it's something you truly would purchase even if it were not in the clearance section.

47. Buy the Right Size

Buying a piece and thinking it will fit later after you lose a few pounds doesn't help your budget when the item sits unused in your closet. Buy for what fits now.

48. Rent One-Time Items

It's silly to spend a small fortune on a fancy dress or tux that you will only wear once. Save some money and rent your item. In addition to men's rentals, ladies now have options at places like Rent the Runway.

49. Have a Clothing Swap

If you have several friends that are game for a clothing swap, this is an excellent way to acquire new items by trading in your gently used pieces for those that your friends bring.

50. Pair Discount Buys With More Expensive Items

You can easily make your discount buys look pricier by pairing them with one higher-end item you have. This can instantly pull together an outfit and save you from having to buy many expensive things.

51. Do Your Research

If you find a great clothing item, make sure to check if it can be found for cheaper. Try sites, like Froogle, to find retailers and compare prices.

52. Shop Flash Sale Sites

Flash sale sites, like HauteLook, Gilt, YOOX, and Zulily, all have great apparel deals. While these sites can offer some amazing discounts, beware that you need to sign up and they can often tempt you into making spur of the moment purchases due to their timed sales and high free shipping thresholds. (See also: Flash Sale Sites: Great Discounts…With a Price)

53. Learn to Make Your Own

Even if you're not Molly Ringwald in "Pretty in Pink," you can still learn some basics to make your own clothes by exploring online sewing classes and tutorials at sites, like Craftsy, or attending free sewing classes offered by big name craft stores.

54. Have a List

Just like grocery shopping, make a list of the exact clothing items you're looking for and stick to it. This will keep you from being swayed toward unplanned purchases.

55. Wash Carefully

Be sure to read clothing tags and following important care instructions to preserve the life of your clothes and not ruin anything. This means not mixing dark and whites and hand washing super delicate items.

56. Buy Knock-Offs

If you're lusting after $600 pumps, but don't have the budget to back it, look to buy a decent knock-off. Nobody needs to know that you bought a fake, but be sure you find quality knock-offs and don't overpay for imitations.

57. Shop Online Resell Sites

Clothing reseller sites, like Tradesy, Poshmark, and Threadflip, always have a huge inventory of gently used designer clothing for a fraction of the cost of buying new.

58. Wait for Special Days of the Year

Take advantage of special shopping days, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the day after Christmas, when apparel deals are prevalent.

59. Limit Your Online Browsing

A lot of apparel buys can be spur of the moment, especially when browsing online. If you find yourself wanting to buy every time you are window-shopping online, it's time to limit the habit and save some money.

60. Avoid Buying Just Because It's on Sale

Being blinded by the price can make any good shopper fall for a deal, despite whether they truly love or need an item. Remember, it's still not free even if it's cheap.

61. Get Fashion Guidance

Magazines have become smarter about appeasing their target audience by including great clothing finds on a budget. Check out reads, like Lucky, Real Simple, and Redbook, which always have great money-saving clothing tips.

62. Clean Out Your Closest

Cleaning out your closet can create extra income if you have clothes to resell. Secondly, you may discover great finds you didn't know you had. And lastly, simplifying your closet can make you work with what you have so you don't need to buy more.

63. Have Patience

Having patience to hold out for sales will really help your wallet. Check with retailers as to their upcoming sale schedule or ask salespeople when they usually do markdowns during the week.

64. Buy Timeless Classic Pieces

Investing in timeless items that won't go out of style is key to building a good wardrobe and saving money over time. Classic suits, blazers, and button-downs are good pieces that always work.

65. Use Helpful Shopping Apps

Gain some cost-saving benefits with a number of clothing apps. Examples include Stylish Girl and Cool Guy, which let you take pictures of your wardrobe to shop your own closet, while Shopkick can earn you kicks (points) towards free gift cards when you visit retailers, scan items, or make purchases.

66. Manage Hems

If you learn how to sew a simple hem, you can save money on tailoring and repairs. However, if you are not handy with a needle and thread, try double-stick hem tape to easily change pant lengths or make repairs.

67. Stick With Favorite Retailers

Besides earning loyalty benefits, sticking with one store where you know exactly how things will fit you, trust the quality, and know the return policy can be a great way to always make good purchases.

68. Buy Fewer, Nicer Things

Simplifying your wardrobe can end up saving you in the long run by avoiding frivolous purchases and an overstocked closet that costs more, despite being full of cheaper items. Check out stores, like Cuyana, whose fewer, better things mentality aims to save you in the long run.

69. Rinse Bathing Suits After Use

To make your swimsuits last longer, be sure to rinse your suit or soak it in cold tap water to help remove chemicals, lotion, and other oils, which can damage or fade the fabric.

70. Shop Etsy

If you can't make your own clothing, there is definitely a shop on Etsy that can. While there are certainly some pricey items, there are also a slew of extremely affordable apparel finds.

71. Use Ebates

Earn some cash back by clothes shopping through Ebates. Simply click through the Ebates site to your retailer, and receive a check or PayPal deposit for cash back on your purchases.

72. Get Student Shopping Deals

If you are a student, be sure to take advantage of great clothing deals offered by Student Universe. Or, if you are in a well-known store, don't be afraid to ask if they offer student discounts if you have your student ID with you.

73. Avoid Similar Items

Maybe you love blue so much that you have a ton of blue items dominating your wardrobe. Vary it up and stop wasting precious apparel dollars on repeat items that don't extend your wardrobe.

74. Go on a Clothes Spending Freeze

If you desperately need to curb your clothing spend, try giving yourself a spending freeze for a set period of time. While this may be hard to do, it can get a bad habit in check and make your prioritize your future purchases.

75. Don't Over-Wash

Another way to make clothes last and save money is by not over-washing them. Items like jeans can get multiple wears before throwing them in the washer, as can many other garments. (See also: You're Washing Your Clothes Too Much!)

76. Time Shopping for the Biggest Sale Events

Some stores have frequent promotions, but others have semi-annual and annual events that are worth waiting for. Try retailer events, like Nordstrom's Half-Yearly sale or Victoria Secret's semi-annual sale.

77. Buy Cheaper Workout Gear

While certain workout clothes with special fabrics are worth the cost for certain activities, make sure you don't go overboard when other cheaper alternatives could work just as well. (See also: Which Workout Clothes Are Worth Splurging On)

78. Ask for Clothes as Gifts

If you have relatives or friends who want to know what they can get you for your birthday or holidays, ask for clothes. However, be sure to keep the tags on and look for gift receipts if fit or style becomes an issue.

79. Buy Only What You Need

Imagine how much money you could save if you only bought what you truly needed instead of also what you want. Try following this rule for a couple of months to see how much you save.

80. Shop eBay

Search around on eBay for great deals on new, gently used, and vintage clothing items from a variety of sellers.

81. Use Reward Credit Cards

If you must pay for clothing with credit cards, make sure your card gives you rewards for shopping certain retailers. Check out your card's online shopping mall to make sure you aren't missing out on extra points or cash back.

82. Do Smart Vacation Shopping

Be mindful of vacation shopping, which can lead to apparel splurges. That said, if you are in a place where desirable items or brands are made domestically, you might score cheaper finds than you could at home.

83. Air-Dry Items

Get garments to last a lot longer, plus save money on energy costs by skipping the dryer when you can. If air-drying creates stiff clothes, partially dry items in the dryer and then line dry for the remainder of the time.

84. Do Jean Repairs

Whether your jeans were cheap or cost a fortune, finding the perfect pair is often not easy, so repairing a pair you love can definitely be worth it. You can learn to DIY denim repairs or invest a bit in a tailor or professional jean repair service to fix your favorite jeans.

85. Try at-Home Dry Cleaning

Try saving some money by doing your dry cleaning at home. Dryel or other in-home dry cleaning kits can save big on professional cleaning.

86. Don't Lose Socks

It's no fun wasting money on new socks just because one perfectly good one got lost in the wash. To avoid missing mates, wash all socks in a small lingerie bag or hold them together with a clothespin or clip in the wash.

87. Never Buy Full Price

Hold yourself to never paying full price on a piece of clothing. With so many chances at sales, discount apparel, and other ways to save, you can reside yourself never to pay the full ticket price.

88. Get Off-Season Finds

Besides finding deals at the end of the season, make sure to look for off-season deals as well. Winter coats during a heatwave in July are out there, and they are usually a steal as nobody is thinking about them.

89. Change Out of Your Expensive Items

It's wise to change out of your expensive clothes at the end of the day. Once home, things like chores, playing with the kids, or even just eating dinner can cause stains or pulls that harm your precious items.

90. Know How to Repair Buttons

Fixing buttons is about the most common and simple fix you can learn to keep your clothes in the mix and save money. Also, be sure to save the extra buttons that often come with new clothes.

91. Avoid Social Shopping

Be mindful of shopping as a leisure or social activity with friends, as you may be more apt to buy just because others are.

92. Shop Thursday Sales

Many retailers, like department stores, start weekend sales events on Thursday evenings. Beat the rush and have your pick of the best deals at this time.

93. Pause Before Buying

If you are tempted to make a buy, try to wait and come back to it later. If you aren't still dreaming about the item after some time away, then skip the purchase. (See also: 9 Simple Ways to Stop Impulse Buying)

94. Pay With Cash or Always Pay Off Credit Card Purchases

There's no need to make your clothing purchases cost more by paying interest if you carry balances on your credit cards. Make it a rule to pay in cash or don't buy unless you can pay off your card charges every month.

95. Touch Up With Black Sharpies

Extend the use of certain items and save money by using a black sharpie to touch up scuffs on things, like black shoes, purses, or jackets.

96. Avoid Buying Standouts

Like overly trendy items, be wary about buying very flashy items or an obvious piece. Some items like these don't get that much wear as people don't want to repeat them again because they are so recognizable or memorable.

97. Shop Around for Big Buys

Take the time to price shop when looking for high-ticket items. Any savings on expensive goods can be worth it, and it's always wise not to rush into a big purchase.

98. Take Inventory

Spending a little time to take inventory of your closet can give you good insight into your shopping habits, and what you may be buying too much of. It can also identify real gaps in your wardrobe and help you shop more strategically in the future.

99. Use Sales Associates

If you befriend a sales associate, not only can you avoid getting upsold, but they can also hunt out the best deals in the store for you, which you may have missed.

100. If You Splurge, Make It an Important Piece

Be smart about where you make your biggest fashion splurges. Nice dress coats, suits, dress pants, and even some jeans are all items that everyone will notice and can greatly improve your overall look.

101. Practice Restraint

Perhaps one of the hardest rules to follow if you are a clothes horse, but starting a new habit by limiting your purchasing when out or skipping the stores all together is the surest way of saving money on clothing.

That was quite a list! Let us know if you use any of these tips when you clothes shop or if you have some good ones of your own to share.

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Save money on clothes

When I can't afford to buy new clothes, I usually go to local charity and vintage clothing shops, where you can find some real gems for less than £50.