11 Tips for Buying Clothes on a Budget in 2021
Written by: Allan Givens
Original Publication: Finder
When I was younger I attempted to have “style”. While I, or rather my parents, weren’t buying name brands every month I certainly did when I could. It wasn’t until I went to college that I got more restrictive with my wallet and more relaxed with my style. It was less about look and more about affordability, quality and comfort. Funny enough when I stopped caring about my look is when I started getting more compliments on my style. Most people wore pajamas and sweats to campus so any effort above that.
I started using different methods to get the best deal with shopping for clothes. There were basic tactics like looking at on sale items and value racks but also, new age methods like abandoning carts online. While I don’t know how many there are exactly, some smaller online retail sites will email you a discount code if they see you have signed up and added something to your shopping cart but not checked out after a while. The highest discount I’ve personally seen with the abandoned cart method is 30% off. To get more insight on clothes shopping on a budget we spoke with finance and retail experts to share their tips. Here are 11 strategies to be frugal in fashion.
1. Avoid Clothes that Require Drycleaning
Stay away from clothes that need to be dry cleaned or hand-washed or that are so unique that people will notice when you wear a piece repeatedly. When choosing where to spend your clothing budget, keep in mind any unique requirements of your job and life-style like super-comfortable quality shoes if you are on your feet all day or a high-quality jacket if you work or play outside regularly. If you are budget-conscious, invest in clothes strategic to your job and life-style and save the creative flair for accessory pieces that are usually less expensive individually and can be updated seasonally to stay current.
– Stacy Mastrolia, Associate Professor of Accounting at Bucknell University
2. Use Coupon Codes to Keep More Case
Clothing brands tend to offer coupon codes frequently throughout the year, but you might need to know where to look in order to maximize your savings. Check for coupon codes advertised on the brand’s website. Occasionally, brands will advertise a particular sale, free shipping deal or other offer on its website that requires a coupon code at checkout. This coupon code is usually provided with the details of the deal, but isn’t always automatically applied to your order. Double-check your cart before checking out that you’re getting the advertised discount. If not, you may need to manually enter the advertised coupon code.
Stack coupons if possible. Some online clothing stores allow you to use more than one coupon per order, so take advantage of this where possible. If you can only use one coupon, make sure you compare your options to maximize savings. For example, one coupon code might be automatically applied to your cart during a specific sale, but you may have another coupon with a higher value. If so, remove the auto-applied code and enter yours for better savings.
– Gabrielle Pastrorek, Shopping publisher at Finder
3. Incorporate the 5% Income Rule and Sustainable Fashion
You might decide to allocate around 5% of your monthly income to spend on clothes, shoes, and accessories, but this is always going to differ per person and priorities. Sometimes a simple budget spreadsheet can help you here.
Naturally, we all have individual budgets and other financial demands, but it’s well worth making the investment in high-quality clothing. There are also environmental benefits associated with the avoidance of disposable fashion. Pieces of clothing with superior fabrics will last longer than some of the popular alternatives.
– Harpa Grétarsdóttir, Marketing Representative at Icelandic fashion brand Icewear
4. Shop Out of Season Sales and Know Your Budget
Strictly shop out-of-season sales. This means shopping for summer clothes during end-of-summer sales, winter clothes during end-of-winter sales, etc. Be sure to purchase items you will still love the following year. For example, avoid purchasing a neon pink faux fur coat over a classic trench coat.
You know your budget and spending habits better than anyone. Set aside a fixed amount every month to put in your clothing fund. This does not mean spending that amount every month. It simply means that if you, for example, need a new winter coat, you can take the amount you’ve saved over the past few months and spend it on your new coat.
– Hailey Rizzo, Founder of Feeling Good As Hail
5. Spend on Quality, Save on Trends
You can save money by spending more on quality timeless pieces that will last you a long time and transition through various seasons and trends. For instance, a classic pair of black boots or a blazer will never go out of style so spending more on a top-rated brand that is made of high quality material means you won’t have to constantly replace it.
On the flip side, you should not spend a lot on trendy fashion pieces that will go out of style with every new fad. Instead, shop discount fashion sites like 6pm.com or Forever21 to get your trendy fashion for the cheap. You could also incorporate a trendy print or color with accessories to save. Just make sure to assess the cost per wear to determine the real value and if it’s a smart buy.
– Andrea Woroch, finance expert, writer and TV contributor
6. Don’t Get Duped by Deals
Don’t Look at Price Tags: Knowing the price of something in advance completely clouds your judgement, especially when it’s a sale price. The trap a lot of people fall into it seeing something that’s been reduced a handful of times. It was initially $500 and now it’s $50 and you feel like it’s too good of a deal to pass up. Retailers do this for a reason, and it’s called the Lure of the Bargain. Why do they do it? Because they know it works. You feel like you’re getting such a good deal that you subconsciously believe you like it more than you actually do. You’re focusing on how much you’re saving rather than how much you’re spending. Being a savvy shopper means getting the most out of your money while investing in things you love and use. So you’re always best to determine how much or how little you like something, before you know the price and get influenced by a discount.
– Jordan Stolch, Concierge Personal Shopper and Founder of MiKADO.
7. Make Sure it Fits Your Frame and Your Finances
Be strict with sizing. Shopping online is a great way to buy discounted clothes. But it’s also easy to buy the wrong size, convince yourself a piece is ok, and end up with an item you never wear. This is a huge waste if you have a tight budget.
If I’m not sure whether something I bought online fits properly, I always leave it a day or two before trying it on again. Only then do I make a final decision on whether to keep the item. If I don’t like it after this period, I send it back. This ensures I get the most from all my purchases.
– Duncan Elder, Founder of thebrdwlk.com
8. Consider Renting the Rack
First ask yourself why you need a piece of clothing. Is it a piece you plan to wear once for a special event or is it a staple you are looking to add to your closet? If it’s for a special event, renting is a wonderful and practical budget friendly option. If you are looking to add something more permanent, the most budget friendly option is to buy second handeither through your local vintage shops, second hand apps, or even buy-nothing Facebook groups, where trades are made in the community. Chances are, you’ll find something you’ll love.
– Kelly Wang, Founder of Rue Saint Paul
9. Invest in Fashion and Function
When it comes to investment pieces, you want to think about both fashion and function. For instance, nowadays most guys only wear a suit a couple times a year, for weddings, funerals and job interviews. The good news is that if you don’t wear a suit very often, it can last a long time. But the bad news is that if you opt for something super trendy and hip right now, then even if your suit is still in great condition five years from now, you may not want to wear it, and feel like you have to splurge on a new one.
– Dave Bowden, Founder of IrreverentGent.com
10. Select Your Style and Plan Your Purchase
Emphasize looks over labels. Brands may tempt you, but you can easily blow or overspend your budget if you only want brand name goods. Instead, do your research. Select one or two celebrities whose style you want to emulate and then shop their looks at stores that are kinder on your wallet. Who knows, you could even find some gems at thrift or consignment stores.
Be intentional, not spontaneous, in your purchases. Be a planner. Find some looks you want to shop and set aside the money or start saving for the look. Once you hit your goal, shop just for the essentials that you have picked out. If you have a little extra in your budget, then maybe pick up something else, but really try to avoid the spontaneous purchase; adding one or two items can really become expensive.
– Lisa Sanchez, Fashion Editor of The Nines
11. Thrift Responsibly
The best things to look for at op-shops are things that are made to be durable, so coats, jackets, vests, even boots. All of them are designed to last and you can find some in really good condition for fantastic prices. I’ve found things like Timberland hiking boots for as little as $20, and Levi’s denim jackets for $40, around 70-80% off retail and still in almost new condition.
This way you can get “expensive” clothing without the high price tag.
The other great thing to get at thrift shops is things people generally don’t wear every day – cocktail dresses, blazers etc. You can get these in almost perfect condition for absolute bargains.
– Brendan Lee, Accountant turned travel blogger from Bren on the Road
Original Founder article here.
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