How to Save Money on Clothes and Still Stay Fashionable

It’s important to feel good about the way you dress, but that doesn’t mean you should blow your budget to stay fashionable.

Nonetheless, buying clothes can take a big bite out of your budget. In fact, the average American spends about $150 per month on clothing. It might not sound like a lot, but that’s nearly $2,000 per year.

Let’s get real: if that $150 was invested in a retirement account every month and earned 6% interest for 20 years, it would have grown to nearly $70,000. And, even if you earned zero interest and simply saved that $150 a month for one single year, you’d have $1,800 in your bank account. Yikes. So, how can you buy some fashionable threads while still saving money?

To help you find a balance between trendy and broke, we’ve compiled a list of 4 ways to stay fashionable on a dime. Read on to learn more.

1. Shop Your Closet (and Your Friends’ Closets!)

Instead of heading to the store to do your clothes shopping, try heading to your own closet. It might sound counterintuitive, but the truth is that most Americans only wear 20% of the clothes they own.

In other words, take yourself on a shopping date…in your own closet.

“Get creative. Spend an afternoon going through your entire closet and trying to find new ways to mix and match or restyle what you already have,” says Kali Hawlk, a 28-year-old money expert at Going Beyond Wealth in Boston, Massachusetts.

“I’ve generated some of my favorite outfits this way,” she says.

But what if you finish shopping in your closet and are less than impressed with the results? It’s time for the second step: shop your friends’ closets. Like you, your friends are probably tired of wasting money on clothes they rarely (or never) wear.

“If you can, share clothes with your friends. It makes it easier on your whole group if you know you can borrow that trendy blazer or cute dress for a certain occasion, and they can borrow from you instead of buying something new,” says Hawlk.

If you’ve never shared clothes with your friends before or feel awkward about talking about money with your friends, don’t worry. The easiest way to introduce the idea is to offer up an item of your own. The next time a friend is stressed about what to wear to a job interview or first date, offer her a dress from your closet. Chances are that she will return the favor and, just like that, you’ve started shopping in each other’s closets.

2. Do Research…and Then Wait

Here’s the truth: stores are designed to overwhelm and trick consumers into spending more money. The fluorescent lighting, loud music and abundance of options can make it hard to focus on what you actually want or need.

When Hawlk realized she was feeling overstimulated every time she entered a clothing store, she decided to make strategic changes.

“I used to end up randomly grabbing pieces that don’t coordinate with the rest of my wardrobe or match my style—and I always ended up regretting those purchases. Now, I try to spend time browsing fashion blogs and Instagram accounts to find pieces and styles I like, and then I make a note of it or save it to Pinterest. I try to set that aside for a while and come back to it later. It helps me rethink what I really want, and what truly reflects my style. Then, I start searching for pieces that are similar to the ones I liked and saved.”

As Hawlk explains, the key to saving money while still getting the clothes you want is to research and then let it simmer. Here’s how you can implement this:

  1. Get inspired by browsing online.
  2. Save the pieces you like or create a fashion mood board.
  3. Close your computer tabs and walk away.
  4. Check back on your mood board a few days (or weeks) later.
  5. If you still want or need the pieces, begin the shopping search.

3. Use Apps to Buy Second-hand Clothing

So, what’s the best way to find the clothing you want to purchase? Shop on used clothing apps. Apps like ThredUp, Poshmark and Tradesy allow people to sell gently used clothing items to other app users. This means you can snag some great deals.

“My all-time favorite way to stay fashionable without breaking my budget is with used clothing apps. It’s like a giant, organized, online Goodwill where you can search for exactly what you want. You can get just about anything, from high-end brands to brand-new-with-tags clothes from places like Target for a fraction of the retail price. I always browse the site first before heading to a store,” says Hawlk.

But here’s the deal—apps like these can be overwhelming. There are thousands of items listed in one place. In order to use an app effectively and not fall into the trap of wasting money on regrettable purchases, be sure to do your research ahead of time and know exactly what you’re looking for.

4. Dig Deeper

Fashion is important, but it’s also important to feel confident. After all, confidence is the best accessory.

“Do some deep work to better understand yourself and what you truly value,” says Hawlk.

After she started dressing in a way that fit her personality, Hawlk says she didn’t feel the need to shop as much. And when you don’t shop as often, you save money.

Striking the Perfect Balance

As you know, clothes are an integral (and non-negotiable!) part of life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel your best, and a curated, comfortable wardrobe can help. Luckily, you don’t need to break your budget to make it happen. By following the tips above, you can have the best of both worlds—a closet filled with clothes you love and a bank account with money.

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