Saving Money on Clothes

See also: Top Tips for Saving Money

Apart from household bills and running a car, your clothes are probably your biggest regular bill. Especially if you need smart clothes for work, the cost of clothes can quickly mount up. Being on trend is also important to many people, necessitating new clothes at regular intervals. However, there are ways to reduce the overall cost of your clothes.

This page describes some ways that you can start to save money on clothes. Some of these relate to how you buy clothes, and what you buy. However, others relate to how you look after and wash your clothes, and even finding alternatives to buying clothes in the first place. They will all help you to reduce the overall cost of your clothes. They may also help you to reduce your environmental impact into the bargain.

1. Buy Fewer, But Better Quality, Clothes

You may think that the best way to reduce the cost of your clothes is to buy cheaper clothes. However, that is a false economy.

Instead, it is better to buy better quality clothes that will last longer. You may have to save up to buy them—but the payback could be in years of use (see box).

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

“Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

“But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

“This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

This is not to say that all expensive clothes are better quality. However, better quality clothes and shoes are usually more expensive. Look for better quality materials, and also styles that are ‘classic’ rather than ‘fashionable’, which will therefore last a lot longer.

By extension, if you are going to buy better quality clothes that are more expensive, you will also be able to afford to buy fewer of them.

However, that is also good, because it means that your ‘cost per wear’ is considerably less.

2. Buy During Sales and Look Out for Offers

The art of sales shopping is to buy things that you would not otherwise be able to afford.

Don’t use the sales to buy cheap, poor quality goods for very low prices. Instead, use them to pick up the high quality products that you will hold onto for many years, such as wool coats, boots, and other shoes.

It may be helpful to sign up for emails and newsletters from your favourite stores and brands, as they will alert you to sales.

Our page on saving on other purchases suggests that you should look for coupons and vouchers for any purchase, and always shop around. This goes for clothes shopping too.

3. Consider Using Discount and Charity Shops (Thrift Stores)

There can be very good bargains in discount and charity shops—particularly if you choose the right ones in the right places.

Charity shops in affluent areas are far more likely to be given high-cost clothes as donations. It may therefore be worth travelling a bit out of your area to visit an area that may have better quality clothes in its charity shops.

Charity shops are particularly helpful if you are good at sewing and ‘making do’, as you may be able to adapt things that you find to fit you better, or make them into something else.

You probably wouldn’t want to buy everything from charity shops. However, they are worth keeping an eye on just in case you see something good.

4. Look After Your Clothes

Your clothes should be seen as an investment—which means taking the time to look after them.
This means:

  • Following the washing instructions on the label;

  • Washing similar colours together—and washing whites separately from other colours; and

  • Washing at a lower temperature. This is gentler on materials, and laundry detergents are now very effective even at low temperatures.

It’s a good idea to avoid using a tumble dryer. First, this can damage your clothes, especially delicate materials. Tumble dryers are also extremely expensive to run, and not very energy-efficient. They can often shrink clothes, which will rapidly result in needing to buy new ones. If possible, line-dry your clothes, because this airs them fully.

Finally, remember that you can hand-wash delicate clothes, rather than dry cleaning them. This will be considerably cheaper, especially over a long period. It’s often gentler on your clothes, and has less environmental impact too.

Spots, Stains and Spills

One reason why a lot of us need new clothes is because we have spilled something or created a stain. However, it is often possible to get rid of spots and stains. Top tips for cleaning stains are:

  • Do it straight away. Don’t let the stain dry if at all possible. Even if you can’t face cleaning the item right now, at least put it into a bucket of water to soak.

  • Use cold water. Hot water seems to ‘set’ stains.

  • Use a specialist stain remover, or clean it with soap. You can buy specialist stain removers for particular stains, and they are very good. However, ordinary soap is also extremely effective.

  • Dab, rather than rub. To avoid damaging the fibres of the material, the advice is to dab at a stain, rather than rub it. However, this is not always effective.

It’s also worth doing a quick internet search for ways to remove particular stains, as some of them are quite complex, and may need several stages. For example, removing tomato sauce needs three different actions, one to remove the fat, one to address the acid, and one to tackle the colour in the tomato.

5. Consider Hiring Clothes

If you need an outfit for a one-off occasion, especially a very smart one, it may be worth hiring instead of buying.

This is particularly true for men, who have long been hiring suits for weddings. However, it is relatively easy to hire women’s dresses, hats and other ‘occasionwear’, too. This offers you the option of having a new outfit for each occasion, but without having to spend several hundred pounds at a time.

If you don’t want to hire a whole outfit, you might consider hiring a different hat, or a jacket to go over an older dress.

6. Move Things Along by Selling Your Old Clothes

One way to reduce the costs of buying new clothes is to offset them by selling off your old clothes.

It is important to say that this route is not for everyone. You will not be able to do this if you wear your clothes until they wear out completely, because nobody else will want them. It also takes quite a bit of time to list clothes online, and then sort out the packing and posting (though you may have a shop nearby that will pay you for clothes).

However, if you don’t like to wear things for long, and you can find a good outlet or website, then this may be a good option for you. 

The Bottom Line

Probably the best way to save money on clothes is to buy fewer, but better quality, so that they last better, and you are happy to wear them for longer. However, there are also other options—and looking after your clothes properly is always worthwhile.