12 Ways to Save Cash on New Clothes
As someone who preaches the value of a frugal lifestyle, I have a confession to make: My name is Mikey, and I’m a clothes-aholic.
But as textile prices continue to rise — I honestly don’t know how retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch stay in business, selling the same designs year after year at premium prices — my bank account seems to stay at the same level. Inflated prices in all sectors of our economy are to blame (along with status-quo salaries), which has caused me — and many of you — to cut back and search for savings wherever I can.
Still, I can’t seem to shake my clothes habit. I don’t shop as much as I did when we where in a boom economy, but I’m not as disciplined as I should be. Admittedly, I do feel less guilt when I shop smartly, hunting down the best deals possible.
If you’re in a similar situation, here are some ways that I stay stylish without losing the shirt on my back. (See also: Spend or Save: The Fashion Edition)
1. Buy Kids’ Sizes
This is not for everybody. I realize that most people are full grown, but I’m not, so I can get away with it. At 5’9” and 140 lbs., I can fit in most large-size kids’ clothes — a medium if I don’t wash the item (I like my clothes fitted), although that leads to the extra cost of dry cleaning (Dryel has saved me a lot of money in that regard). The benefit of shopping in the kids’ section is that the same styles — Ralph Lauren polos, for example — are almost half the price, especially if you’re shopping at an outlet. When I first started shopping in the kids’ sections, I’ll admit that I was embarrassed — I didn’t want to look like a creeper — but I’m over it now. When someone reminds me where I am (“You know this is the kids’ section, right?”), I tell them I’m shopping for my nephew...who gets a lot of my clothes when I don’t want them anymore anyway.
2. Visit Thrift Shops
My friend Katie and I bonded in high school over a place called Value Village, a department-store-sized thrift shop that often stocked popular brands. We’d visit the store often and spend an hour or so scouring the aisles for great bargains. I’ve purchased belts, shoes, sweaters, vests, pants, and more during my trips. What I like most about shopping at thrift stores is that it’s highly unlikely that anyone you know will have something similar in their closet, which can’t be said if you stick strictly to mall shops. Consider, however, that a vintage store is not a thrift store. Vintage is a word that shop owners use to validate inflated prices on the same used garments you can get at a place with thrift in its name.
3. Trade With Friends
When I clean out my closet, the first thing I do is let my friends know. I would rather give my unwanteds to someone close to me than donate them to a charity that doesn’t align with my personal beliefs. This system is even better if you strike a deal with your buddy to check out each other’s stashes before doing what you will with the leftover pieces.
4. Make Old Stuff New Again
Every summer, I go through my old pants. If I haven’t worn a pair in a year or just don’t like them as pants anymore, I cut them off at the knee to make new shorts. This tip alone has saved me hundreds of dollars. Earlier this year I took two pairs of J. Crew corduroy pants and chopped the legs off. At the start of the summer, similar cord shorts at J. Crew were $59. I wasn’t about to pay for something that I could make with a pair of scissors.
5. Buy Clothes You Can Both Wear
This only works if you’re in a same-sex relationship, which I am. At Christmastime, if I’m buying my husband ties, hats, or other one-size accessories, I buy him designs that I would wear. Frankly, he couldn’t care less what things look like — so he’s happy about it regardless — but I do. By buying styles that I like, we can both share, which prevents me from purchasing double.
6. Sign Up for Members-Only Deal Sites
Sites like Gilt Groupe, Juxtser, and Plndr (there are plenty more, I’m sure) have pop-up shops that offer deep discounts on popular brands. I’ve purchased shirts and shoes from American Apparel and Toms at way below retail. These sites often offer free shipping and other discounts, like first-time buyer and refer-a-friend coupon codes, that can save you even more.
7. Shop Sales at Factory Outlets
Outlets are excellent for scoring great deals, but you do have to be careful. I’ve definitely been to supposed “outlet” stores where the prices are comparable to regular retail prices. Another good tip for shopping outlets is to stop by the center’s customer service booth and pick up a coupon book, which includes extra discount coupons for your favorite places.
8. Search for Coupon Codes Before Checking Out
By now, every frugal shopper knows this trick, but I’m still surprised at how many people are too lazy to search for a coupon code before checking out when making purchases online. Five extra minutes of my time hunting down these deals is worth it when I find a working 20% off discount.
9. Sell Old Clothes on eBay
My friend Tara unloaded scarves and skirts to great success recently. She sold the pieces in lots so bidders felt like they were getting a great deal, and it worked to her benefit in the end. Many of the lots sold, which made her extra money that she could put toward new items.
10. Apply for the Store Credit Card
Before you go crazy with the comments on how this is a bad idea, hear me out. As someone who shops primarily at J. Crew, it was my wallet’s best interest to get the store credit card for several reasons:
- By signing up in-store I received an automatic 15% discount.
- When I call the store and set up a FREE personal shopping experience, I save 20% off my purchase.
- When I charge $500 or more, I receive a $50 gift card.
Many stores offer incentives like these. Gap, for instance, gives credit holders gift cards for certain amounts spent as well as sign-up discounts.
This is not to suggest that you should go crazy with your store charge card. That totally defeats the purpose. You should practice discipline and put the card in a safe place — outside of your wallet or purse — until you feel you’re ready to use it on something worthwhile.
11. Download Money-Saving Apps
The app that I use the most when shopping is shopkick, which geo-locates deals nearby. American Eagle Outfitters in particular has partnered with this app. On a recent trip to Atlantic City, I saved an extra 15% on a bag that was already reduced by 40%.
12. Never, Ever Pay Retail
When I enter a store, I head straight for the clearance rack. It is my personal policy never to pay full price. Most new arrivals are generally reduced after a month or so. I can wait.
Do you like to shop for new clothes? Tell me your tips for getting the most for your money in the comments below.