I’m often surprised when I look at budgeting worksheets to find clothing as a regular category. People actually budget to buy clothing?I guess normal people do- but maybe I’m not normal. 😉 Our clothing budget has almost always been zero.
Bear in mind that I am not fancy, and I’m home with the kids most days. However, even jeans can be expensive, and mine wear out quickly from being on my knees a lot. My husband’s work clothes wear out about 10x faster than mine, as he is usually doing about 10x more hard labor than I am.
However, I do still need some professional clothing for teaching, performing, and at least something semi-presentable for church. My husband needs dress shirts and pants for his middle school gig. The kids can go about in pretty much anything, but I also find that they’re the easiest to clothe for free.
Today I’m going to give you some ideas for clothing your family on very little money. Some ideas will work for you better than others depending on your job and age of your children. That’s okay- just take what works and leave what doesn’t.
1) Thrift Shops- Some folks would never in their life buy something from a thrift store. But me? Salvation Army is one of the first places I check. I’ve scored like-new dress pants for each of us for as little as $2. My husband got a down-filled Structure winter coat for $3 once. Our kids have gotten many pairs of shoes in nice condition that last them through the season, all for a much lower cost than buying them new.
2) Consignment stores– Often, you can find clothing that costs slightly more than a thrift store, but is also in like-new condition at your local consignment shops. Added bonus? You can consign your old clothing while you’re there to get a little extra cash in your pocket.
3) Online Consignment- I’ve found some great deals and freebies on spectacular clothing in perfect shape by searching online. My favorite online consignment shop is Thred Up, which focuses on women’s and kid’s clothing.
Thred up also offers an awesome referral program, which I get to pass on to you! Click this link for $10 to use at Thred Up. No additional purchase necessary. You’re welcome.
4) Accept used clothing. My kids are clothed in about 90% used clothing, often in near-perfect shape in reputable brands. Carters, Baby Gap, Ralph Lauren… they’re stylin’, and I haven’t paid for any of it. Where to find used clothing for free? Friends with older kids, church communities, cousins, even random acquaintances. I’ve had SO many people offer me free kids’ clothing that I often have to turn them down- simply because I’m out of room. Usually, if you make your need known, someone out there has an outgrown something-or-other that they would happily pass on. (And then you can pass on the favor when your kids outgrow them too.)
(The kids dressed up in hand-me downs for a concert.)
5) Shop yard sales. I’ve found nice winter jackets and brand new kids clothes (with the tags still on) for a dollar or two a piece. It’s hit or miss, but it doesn’t hurt to look.
6) Host a clothing swap. My favorite idea. Gather a bunch of friends in varying sizes, and have everyone clean out their closet and bring what’s still in good condition. Categorize items (either by size or style), and you can all “shop” each others’ stashes. I got some nice jeans, shirts, a dress, and cute sandals this way. Don’t want to make it an official event? Just trade clothes with a friend who is the same size for a wardrobe refresher.
7) Smart shopping– When all else fails, don’t hit retail stores planning to pay full price. Come armed with coupons, gift cards, sale flyers, etc. Check the clearance section. I got myself a cute maternity dress for $14 instead of $35 because of an old gift card and a sale.
(Sorry for the bad bathroom selfie.)
8) Take freebies. Much like accepting used clothing, we also accept free t-shirts for working in. We have a lot of free event t-shirts that we may or may not really care about- which is perfect for when my husband is tearing apart the porch or when I’m spraying goat milk on myself. (This applies more if you’re doing a lot of outdoor work/cooking/physical labor where you can’t really wear nice clothing. If you regularly go from office to kitchen-freshly-cleaned-by-the-housekeeper, you may or may not have a need for this category.)
9) Wait to buy it. The biggest way to save money on clothing? Just walk away for a while before you buy something. If you’re still daydreaming of that beautiful sundress a week later, then either give yourself permission to buy it- or reevaluate your priorities. (Just kidding. Sort of. 🙂 ) Before you buy, ask yourself:
- Do I really need this?
- Do I have an item at home that’s similar?
- How frequently would I wear this?
- What else could I spend this money on?
I’m not trying to be a damper on everyone’s fun, but when saving money is a priority, it’s good to ask yourself realistically if it’s a true necessity before you splurge.
10) Repair what you have. It doesn’t take much to sew a button back onto pants, stitch up an open seam, or patch the knees on your toddlers’ pants. Few of us repair our clothing these days. However, before a time of so much excess, clothing repair was an absolutely necessary skill. Consider a few simple repairs with a sewing kit before tossing a worn-out piece.
11) Keep what you have longer. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Take care of what you have. I’ve had dressy clothes that last for years because I just don’t update. If you can still swing it, keep wearing it.
A word on teenagers: Some people say that their teens are difficult to clothe inexpensively- and this may be true, depending on their preferences. Not yet being the mother of a teen and having no idea what I’m talking about, I would encourage them to look at saving money on clothing as a fun challenge.
See if they can find a unique piece that’s just their style at a thrift store. See who can find the lowest price on Aeropostale jeans at the consignment shop. (Or wherever kids think it’s cool to shop these days.) See if they like the idea of hunting for a cute designer dress on Thred Up instead of buying retail (where all their friends are buying the same old, same old). See where I’m going with this? It may or may not work for you, but it’s worth a shot.
By clothing my family in this way, I probably spend less than $50-$75 a year on clothing for all of us. I know I’m a cheapskate and not everyone would be happy with getting dressed this way, but probably most people could find something on this list that would help to save them a bit of money.
What’s your top tip for saving money on clothing? Leave it in the comments below.
This post contains a referral link. That means if you use my link for a free $10 gift card, I get a free $10 too. We both win. Thanks in advance for helping to keep us dressed. 😉