The next time you head to the mall, consider this: The average family spends nearly $2,000 a year on clothes! These strategies will help even the most fashion-conscious reduce spending, says Alice Wood, author of Wealth Watchers: A Simple Program to Help You Spend Less and Save More.
1. Don’t spend more money than you have. If you buy something for 85 percent off the retail price, but put it on a credit card and wind up paying for it over time, you could find yourself actually spending the retail price many times over!
2. As with groceries, don’t shop without a list.
3. Go through your wardrobe before you go shopping. Recently, a woman told me that she has sixteen pairs of black pants in her closet. Another woman told me she has thirty pairs of blue jeans.
4. Clean out your closets and drawers. If it doesn’t fit and it’s not going to fit any time soon, then donate or sell the item. If you don’t wear it and you’re not going to wear it any time soon, then it goes in the donate or sell pile unless it’s something you absolutely love and can’t part with. Yes, I realize that is a contradiction but we all have some item we cherish, whether it’s a Joe Montana football jersey or a Dior gown that we don’t wear. I’ve read that you should go through your closets with a trusted friend who can serve as your reality check. Some people actually have a disorder in which they can’t part with anything. If this is you, please reach out for help.
5. For every item you buy, make sure the same number of items are donated or sold. This is just another instance in which less is more. Have you ever walked into a cluttered room and felt like you were suffocating? You can feel this way in a stuffed closet as well.
6. Loretta Wilger-Asmus, owner of Looks Image Consulting in Naperville, is my “style on a budget” expert. Her advice is: know your colors. Everyone has certain colors that fit their hair color or skin tone. Buy clothes in these colors and make sure they work together so you can have just a few pieces to wear in different combinations. Her other advice is to always buy quality items, which last longer, preferably on sale. Loretta’s exception to this rule is that you don’t have to worry too much about quality if you’re buying trendy items that will go out of style too fast for you to wear them out.
7. When buying children’s clothes, you may want to listen to my friend Mary Kay, who once told me to make sure that I bought things that were the right size. Many parents buy things a little too big, thinking their kids can wear them longer. One mother I knew prided herself on saving a fortune by buying clothes for her twin boys at the end of season sales, figuring that if she bought clothes or shoes a size too big her boys would be able to wear them at a later date. Inevitably the boys’ growth rate didn’t correspond to the manufacturer’s projection, and the clothes were too small before they even had a chance to wear them. What a waste.
Of course, there was an instance where I ignored Mary Kay’s advice when buying a winter coat for KC. I bought a larger size for her but paid more for much higher quality and the coat made it through three seasons. We had to turn up the cuffs a bit during the first winter. The second winter it fit just right, and the last winter it was a little small, but she liked it so much she wore it all winter.
8. Find alternative places to shop. Discount chains like TJ Maxx and Marshalls offer designer clothes at far lower prices than the department stores. You can often save money shopping at high quality consignment shops and even make some money bringing them clothes you no longer wear. Somebody’s castoff can be your perfect bargain and recycling clothes helps the environment.
9. Keep your receipts with your purchases. How many times have you brought something home and decided it wasn’t quite right. It’s very Wealth Watchers to be disciplined about what clothes you keep and what you return. I don’t like to try things on in stores so I wind up trying them on at home and returning them if they don’t fit. Even if you’re good about trying on clothes in the store, I recommend keeping your purchase with the receipt in the shopping bag until you’re sure you don’t want to return or exchange it. Make sure you know the store’s return policy before you buy. Maybe within a few days you’ll find that you didn’t really need your purchase after all. I come from a large family with seven children, and my mother had to constantly look for alternatives to buying new clothes for us. But I wonder if her frugality wound up backfiring as we all got older. All the girls in my family have overspent on clothing both for ourselves and for our kids. Maybe if you wear one too many hand-me-downs you just crack at some point and go overboard on new clothes. Looking back on it, I just should have been thankful for what we had. Many women shop according to unconscious patterns much as they eat according to such patterns. While I am no stranger to the shopping gene, I know that the daily discipline of Wealth Watchers can conquer these mysterious cravings.
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