Maximizing Your Budget: Clothing

Maximizing Your Budget: Clothing

In 2015, we’re putting extra emphasis on budgeting since it’s a must for financial success. Each month, we tackle a different category, and by year’s end, we’ll have one big resource for maximizing your entire budget.

Johnny and I just finished purging our closets and drawers of all our unwanted clothing earlier today. So it seems fitting to be writing about clothing spending as bags of clothing sit in our room, just waiting to be thrifted.

Before I list out all our tips and tricks for saving money on clothing, I have to preface this by saying we do about 90% of our clothing spending online. When it comes to buying clothes, I like to put the least amount of time and effort into it while still getting cute clothes for a good price. And we both pretty much hate shopping for clothes, so doing it from the comfort of our laptops is what works best for us.

Know your spending limit in advance.

When it comes to budgeting for clothing, we’ve tried two different methods. The first, which failed miserably for us, was allotting a monthly clothing stipend that rolled over from month to month. We just don’t buy or even look into buying clothes very often, so our clothing stipend never got spent. An alternative method we’ve used is giving ourselves a yearly budget that we break up into two big (a relative term) online shopping sprees (very relative term) a year. In the spring and fall, we stock up on clothing using a predetermined budgeted amount. We don’t decide what we want and then spend whatever’s necessary to get it. Rather, we decide how much we can spend and then we buy what we can with that amount of money.

Make a list.

Because our clothing spending is limited, we make sure to prioritize what we need most before buying any clothing. This also helps to take the emotion out of purchasing decisions, like when you see the cutest oversized cardigan ever that you really want for fall but you know you don’t actually need. Not that this happened recently or anything…

I’m definitely someone who sees something cute and instantly feels like I can’t live without it, so sticking to my list is key. It’s very similar to the mentality I use when I’m grocery shopping, too.

Wait for major sales and sign up for deal alerts.

Stores have sales ALL THE TIME. I think they do this so that if you just stumble on their site, you’ll think, “Ooh, I just happened to come here on a sale day! I need to buy stuff NOW!” But some sales are better than others. And one way to discern between the okay sales and the great sales is to sign up for deal alerts from your go-to stores. I hate getting emails every day telling me about sales, but it keeps me informed for when a really good sale is happening. And I have it all just go to my Promotions tab in Gmail so that my main inbox stays clear. That said, even if a great sale is going on, I don’t buy stuff for the sake of buying it. Even the great sales repeat themselves pretty regularly, so I just bide my time until Sally needs new clothes or when it’s time for Johnny and me to stock up on new stuff.

And as an aside, my go-to stores are Gap/Old Navy (the girls and me), H&M, and ASOS (Johnny) for our family’s clothing. Occasionally, I’ll splurge on something from Zara or J.Crew (still on sale, though), and sometimes I buy stuff from Target. Johnny has a pretty regular stock of American Apparel shirts that he buys every couple years, too. And we get our shoes wherever we can find the best price for what we’re looking for.

Choose conservative items.

Maybe it’s because we’re getting old, but Johnny and I try to avoid super trendy items. We like to stay in style, of course. But we want our clothing to be in style and last for years, rather than months. We also try to only buy items that we completely love. If we don’t love it, we return it, period.

Pay for quality where it matters.

This will be different for everyone, but for Johnny and me, we care most about quality when it comes to our pants and shoes. So we splurge more when it comes to those items. We still buy them on sale, but we’re a bit more choosy. And that’s all relative, of course… for me, it means buying jeans from Gap instead of Old Navy. And Johnny sticks to Levi’s 511s for his jeans. We also spend more on coats since those last several years. For us, it’s been worth it to pay a little extra for items that will last longer and fit better.

Buy at the end of the season.

I don’t actually follow this rule, but so many people have recommended it. To get extra amazing deals, buy winter clothes for the following year at the end of winter. Or buy summer clothes for the following year at the end of summer. I’m much too impatient for this, but I have done it here and there and gotten incredible deals on clothes. Just be careful to buy items that won’t go out of style over the next several months until you can wear them.

Those are our top tips, but obviously there are so many more. Johnny and I used to go thrifting for clothes all the time during our college days, and we probably still would if we had more time. Everyone has different ways they save, so we’d love to hear some of your tips for saving on clothing! Sally’s growing out of everything these days, and I’d love some fresh tips before I do another shopping haul for her!

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  • Reply Vanessa September 2, 2015 at 8:12 am

    This subject is near and dear to my heart, as I have spent many years trying to figure out how to buy clothes without going broke. For a while, that’s exactly what happened. My main problem was buying things I couldn’t afford – that must-have regular priced J. Crew Collection silk dress… yeah, that was me.

    Now, I mostly stick with buying non-trendy items of quality when they go on sale. I know a lot of people want to buy what’s in the moment, but I get a lot of satisfaction (and always have) with buying things that will last. I just purchased too many of these things before. My go-to store is usually J. Crew (not J. Crew Factory- their things are usually of questionable quality). You can get some really great deals if you keep an eye on the sales on their website. They regularly have an extra 30-40% off sale prices with a code, and sometimes during the year, they have even better sales in-store (extra 50% off sale? Yes please). For staple items (leggings, camisoles, tees) I usually go Old Navy or Forever21. The leggings and camisoles are usually of the same quality wherever you buy them, so why not go for the $3 pair at Forever21 instead of the $12 pair at Target?

    I also tend to become fixated on one particuluar item I’m looking for, then scour the internet for that exact thing until I find the best price. Places like 6pm, Sierra Trading Post, and eBay are great resources if you’re looking for a specific higher-quality or name brand item. Poshmark is pretty neat, too, because you are able to shop other people’s closets for used (or not) items. I’ve never actually used this site, but I’ve been tempted. All in all, I think it’s about finding brands that you like, that fit well, and are built to last. Anything trendy, buy cheaply, and buy those sweaters, jeans, and shoes at the higher quality stores when they’re on sale!

  • Reply Ali @ Anything You Want September 2, 2015 at 10:26 am

    My best tip for saving on clothing is to shop sales and shop at outlets. I love to go to the outlet mall during holiday weekends (even though its crowded) because oftentimes the stores I like will have 50% off the entire store. I love not having to worry about how much this or that is on sale, and instead just picking up what I love and knowing it will be on sale. I find great clothing at incredible prices at the outlets. The only downside for me is that I usually find a bit too much clothing…

  • Reply Mrs. Crackin' the Whip September 2, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Hehehe…Banana Republic has a sale every Wednesday (or that’s what it used to be).

    Clothes shopping online for the children! I had NEVER thought of this. That would be revolutionary. I always go to the store (which I hate), but I just had visions of myself clicking away for Baby Crackins’ winter wardrobe! It would be almost magical…things would just appear at my door. Oh wait, that’s why I had to cancel Amazon Prime! 🙂

  • Reply Racheal September 2, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for the tips!

    I am determined to start a capsule wardrobe for fall / winter this season. I am currently on maternity leave, and none of my clothes are going to fit right when I return, so this is the perfect opportunity to try it out.

  • Reply September 2, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I also do shopping at Old Navy and here recently, Amazon. I have a prime account and get 2 day free shipping and they always have sales. But my biggest tip is that I get mileage with United for shopping. I can’t speak for other airline programs, but I get 30-100 miles each time I shop at say Groupon or Old Navy, which to me, is an extra bonus to getting discounts. I also have an app where I can buy a card (similar to Groupon), spend at the store, and then I get a discount and mileage. So, it’s something to think about when shopping online. This will all go to my honeymoon this year.

  • Reply Kristin S. September 2, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    I have a couple of tips. One is actually an upfront expense more than what my family allocates monthly for clothing: “get your colors done.” This has helped me purchase clothing and jewelry that makes me look good, meaning I will wear it regularly. I purged a ton clothes and makeup after finally getting the color consultation. And the best part is, everything that was left actually all went together! It basically gives you a mix-and-match capsule wardrobe by default.

    Then for kids, i like to only own six regular outfits and once nice outfit per child, per season (once they’re fully potty trained – babies need more outfits!). I buy mostly used and save several hand-me-downs in each size, but even if I had to buy it all new from Target, this limits what I would spend to clothe each child. Limits the size of the laundry pile, too!

  • Reply Lara September 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    If you’re buying online, you MUST use ebates! Cash back for things I’m already buying? Yes, please, and thank you! I don’t get a lot of money back from them, but $20 dollars a few times of the year is great. Plus, stores like Target give you credit for online shopping when you order through their website (via ebates) and and pick up the item in store. Win-win!

  • Reply Five Friday Favorites | Anything You Want - A Personal Finance Blog September 4, 2015 at 7:05 am

    […] I’ll leave the psychoanalysis of that for another time, and today I’ll just share this great post from Our Freaking Budget. This year, Joanna and Johnny are focusing on how they save in one budget […]

  • Reply Mrs. Budgets @MrandMrsBudgets September 4, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Great tips! I would add buying gift cards on sale like from eBay or some of those gift card reselling sites.

  • Reply Ronnica, Striving Stewardess September 6, 2015 at 2:27 am

    I’ve spent a lot less on clothing this year than any I’ve had before (maybe $50?). I won’t always be able to spend so little , but right now, I’m working on getting my clothes down to a more reasonable number for someone who wants to be a minimalist.

    But the impetuous for my clothes reduction is the recognition that I don’t have to follow the culture’s standards for consumption. I can wear the same thing over and over, only washing it as needed. I’ve found freedom in not having to worry about what I wear and just pick the closest thing that is weather appropriate. It really is freeing.

  • Reply Simon Nowak September 7, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Buying at the end of a season is definitely an awesome way to save money. Unfortunately I always forget to do it!

  • Reply Anne September 16, 2015 at 11:50 am

    I shop consignment. I can’t bring myself to buy new anymore because the prices are just too outrageous compared to what i can get for gently used clothing. Some people have an ‘ick’ reaction to this, but if you grew up in hand-me downs like i did, its nbd (thats what the washing machine is for…)

    Love your blog, thanks for all the info and inspiration.

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