Finance Guru: Shopping and Caring for Clothes

In order to grow wealthy and keep out of debt, we must all spend our money wisely, not just with major expenditures, but with all expenditures. Now, it would seem that clothes are a minor detail and you can’t possibly spend that much on it, but my credit card bills could testify that I’ve been able to spend $300 on a small shopping trip. A couple of sweaters, a pair of pants, and maybe a cute t-shirt. Just like that, $300 is gone.

Here are some tips for shopping and caring for your clothes so that you can keep a little more of your money.

  1. NEVER buy department store clothes at full price, under any circumstances. I don’t care if your best friend just died and you need funeral clothes. NEVER!
  2. Buy clothes that you like and know with absolute certainty that you will wear it several times a month, if not once or twice a week.
  3.  If you must insist on buying an “occasion” piece, make sure that it is of a high quality fabric, well tailored, and can last you till the end of your days and maybe be an heirloom piece for your child. Don’t buy those cheaply made bits of cloth hanging on the scrawny mannequins at the mall retailing at $35 or more. Those things unravel after the first wash. Remember, frugal does not mean cheap. It means sensible.
  4. Shop at discount stores like Ross, thrift stores, and maybe even garage sales. You’ll find the exact same clothes that you wanted at the department store for a fraction of the price. This winter, I bought a down, reversible jacket for $12 at Ross. My friend purchased one almost identical to it for $68. She loves her jacket, I love mine, we’re both happy, and I’ve got $56 more than she does.
  5. If in L.A., consider shopping in the Fashion District in downtown. They have amazingly cheap, high quality stuff down there. Another friend of mine needed real nice dress shoes for interviews and dinners (now that he’s an adult), so we went down there and hunted down a brand new pair of shiny leather Kenneth Cole that fitted him like a glove. It retailed elsewhere for $299. He bought his for $80.
  6. Take care of your clothes. I know this is elementary, but it still needs to be said. If you take care of it, it will last longer and you won’t need to spend so much money on clothes.
  7. Think carefully about every item that you buy. Do you need it? Do you want it? Can you live without it? Can you wait? Can you buy it elsewhere for cheaper? Will there be a sale soon? Does it fit in with the rest of your wardrobe? Can you wear it out, to class, to dates, to interviews, home, etc? I was rather stupid in my purchases (before I learned to be frugal). Now, I have a huge wardrope of things I don’t wear, can’t wear to interviews, can’t wear for my future job, too old for dates…
  8. Hem your pants. If you don’t, the ends will fray, the pants look old, you won’t wear it any more. So hem them. Do it yourself if you can. Learn how. If you absolutely can’t, bring it to a professional and they’ll do it for $5. Better yet, if you know how and have a machine, offer your services to friends and dorm-mates. Charge them the $5.
  9. Don’t buy dark blue jeans. I know they are all the rage, but they also have a distressing habit of fading after the third wash. If you have them, care for them. Wash only in cold water. Don’t use too much detergent. NEVER use bleach. DO NOT machine dry. Hang dry. It’s stiff afterward, but after a couple of wearings, it’ll be soft again. Wear several times before washing again. When the blue has faded to unacceptable levels, don’t throw it away. Consider re-dyeing it blue. Or even black. My cousin did this once and we all oohed at her new blue jeans until she told us the truth. For this to work, buy dark blue jeans that don’t have those huge brand tags on the back of your butt. The dye will make the whole thing look awful.
  10. Care for dark color clothes in the same manner as described above.
  11. Always use cold water to wash so you clothes don’t look worn before their time.
  12. Wear your clothes several times before washing. (Boys, don’t do this, please.) Washing really does make clothes look old fast.
  13. Don’t buy those adorable little knit sweaters. You know the one you’ve been drooling over. I broke down and bought this bright white one once. It was so soft and lush…it fell apart in my hands as I was hand washing it. The water made the sweater too heavy for the knitting.
  14. Learn how to re-attach buttons. My jeans once pop a button (luckily away from company). The button wasn’t one of those you could sew back on so I had to use superglue. Hey, it worked and I still have my favorite pair of jeans!
  15. Wash your shoes regularly. Shine the ones that need it. A well kept pair can have a lifetime of 5 to 10 years, if not more.
  16. Buy shoes that last, usually leather. Spend a little extra if you need to (you won’t need to if you know where to shop.) Don’t buy three pairs of cheap shoes a year when you can have three pairs of expensive, nice looking shoes for years. I heard that you can have something called sole-savers attached to the bottom of your shoes and they’ll last twice as long.
  17. If you live in Sunny California, consider wearing slippers for most of the year. I got a $3 cloth pair at Target and I’ve been wearing it for three years. Cheap, comfortable, and saves wear and tear on my expensive shoes.
  18. No, you do not need that leather jacket.
  19. You don’t need that unique, one of a kind skirt on sale for only $35 either.
  20. You are not going to wear that shiny, gold lame top. Put it back.
  21. Learn how to knit. Knit lots of scarves and afghan blankets. Never have to buy another scarf or blanket again. If you get proficient enough, knit gloves, socks, jackets, and sweaters. Heck, you may not have to buy another sweater your entire life. I’m actually going to try making my first scarf.
  22. Always go shopping without your credit cards, checkbook, and ATM card. Bring cash. You’ll be surprised at how reluctant you are to let go of those green pieces of paper. Better yet, don’t bring any money. Enjoy the experience of shopping without guilt.
  23. Go shopping for your clothes and shoes only twice a year. Decide on what you need, how much you are willing to spend, pull out the cash, and shop. Reduces temptation, believe me. I shopped once in the last six months. I won’t go shopping again until maybe May or even June. You and I both know we’ve got more than enough clothes to last us.
  24. Remember, you are NOT here on Earth to be loyal to any brand or designer label.