Clothing is not optional, but spending a lot of money on it is, says author Gregory Karp in his book “Living Rich by Spending Smart: How to Get More of What You Really Want.”
So, just off the top of your head, how much would you say that your family spends on clothing in a year? According to the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey 2018, a “consumer unit” (people who live and spend money together) spent on average $1,866 a year on apparel and services such as dry cleaning. Wow. That’s $155 a month — which is a significant expense in any family’s budget.
Karp offers seven easy ways to cut that expense without having to take fashion risks for yourself or send the kids off to school looking odd and frumpy.
• Do nothing. Of course, this is my favorite of the seven tips. Maybe that’s because I’m naturally lazy, or maybe it’s because I, like many, have enough clothes to get by for months. Do with what you have by recognizing the difference between needs and wants.
• Buy used. Vintage, consignment and thrift stores are growing by leaps and bounds, offering name-brand used clothes. If you’re creeped out by the thought of buying secondhand, take a tour of a few stores. They’re not usually the dark, smelly, chaotic places you remember as a kid. Most these days are just as lovely as regular retail stores. And if you’re really uncomfortable buying used clothing, here’s a tip from Karp: Take baby steps by buying just one time. You could try purchasing something inexpensive at a high-end consignment store.
• Use garage sales wisely. Garage sales can be a great source for clothes for kids and babies. They’re probably not so useful for adults, though, for the simple reason that you won’t find enough inventory to offer a good selection of sizes, styles and colors.
• Strategize. Most of us have wardrobes jammed haphazardly with so many clothes, it’s nearly impossible to know what we have. So, we just keep buying more. Instead, organize your closet, and take inventory of what you have. And, says Karp, buy for the size you are now, not the size you someday hope to be.
• Simplify. Buy classic styles that will look good for years. Assemble a base of neutral colors — such as black, khaki and navy — that can mix and match to create a number of outfits. Ditto for shoes.
• Save on retail. If you won’t buy secondhand, Karp recommends going to your favorite store’s website to check its sales every week. Sign up for that store’s email newsletters to receive coupons and notice of coming sales.
• Pay attention to maintenance. Read the tags before you buy. If a garment must be dry-cleaned, that is going to add to its cost tremendously over its useful life. Also, steer clear of fabrics that tend to pill or wear too fast. Make sure you use the proper temperatures for washing and drying your clothes. A great tip: Put your clothes in the dryer for just a few minutes, and then hang them to dry. You’ll save on energy costs and extend the life of your clothes as well.
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com and author of “Debt-Proof Living.” Questions, comments and tips can be sent on her website.