Nov 13 2007

My favorite frugal clothing finds

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Going along with the frugal clothes shopping theme of the day, I thought I’d let you know about some of my all-time best frugal clothing finds.

Senior prom dress
Do you know that some girls/their moms pay up to $300 for a prom dress? Is that insane? Yes. I have a hard time believing a dress to wear in high school would ever be worth that much.

My dress was found by chance. I was browsing the racks at a Von Maur, and came across a red, sequined one-shoulder dress that was drastically marked down from $120 to $20. It was a little big on top (as most things are for me, lol) but my skilled seamstress grandmother took it in no problem. She didn’t even charge me! :)

I never wore that dress again. I think I’d still fit in it, since it’s somewhat stretchy, but I probably should send it on its way to a consignment shop or Goodwill.

Winter boots
Normally, I wouldn’t recommend buying shoes at PayLess. Some of the shoes there seem to be not well-made. However, a few years back during their BOGO sale, I spotted two pair of boots that seemed pretty good. I bought black boots that had a warm fuzzy lining inside. These are great for cold days and walking through snow, even a few years later. The other boots are light brown and suitable for wearing with a casual sweater. Warm as well, but they only come up to my lower ankles. I got both for $20 total.

Super-warm gigantic puffy blue coat
My giant coat is ugly. I don’t care. When the temperatures drop below 20 degrees or so and/or it’s snowing a very wet snow, I bring out Big Blue. It’s lined with thick fleece, and filled with very fluffy warm stuffing. It covers my rear, and has never let me down–even when walking a mile to class in sub-zero temperatures. On sale at Old Navy for $30. I bought it years ago, and will probably keep it for at least another decade or more.

Wedding dress
$99 on sale + alterations + pressing = $250

Nuff said.

What are some of your best deals?

 


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Nov 13 2007

Principles for frugal clothes shopping

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What “frugal” practices do you apply when clothes shopping? I have the food budget down..thanks to you; but clothes are so expensive.

Good question!

Clothes are expensive. More often than not, they’re overpriced. I’ve thought about this question and I’ve come up with a few different strategies shoppers can use to acquire clothes frugally.

If you are shopping for children, I’ve gotta say this: Kids grow fast. You know that. Why plunk down $25 for a new pair of jeans every time Junior grows an inch? Get comfortable with buying second-hand clothes for children. They often outgrow them faster than they can wear them out, right?

Another thing: I think it is frugal to have high-quality clothing for adults. If you want classic pieces that will last you years and years, don’t buy a poorly-made garment, even if it only costs $1 in the K-Mart clearance bin. It’s probably not worth that dollar.

Have a really good idea of what you already have. Consider making a clothing inventory. Do you know how many sweaters you have? Khaki pants? Blue jeans? Panties? Socks? If you have 20-pair of socks, all in good condition, and you spot a sale for more socks just like those, do not buy them. You have plenty.

My point is, when you go shopping, you need to know what you already have so that you don’t add to your sock collection. Also, knowing what you have will help you piece together new outfits. If you find a pretty skirt but have no top to wear it with, you only have half an outfit, and it might cost you a lot more to complete it.

If you are a runner or an athlete that needs a good shoe, I think you should view athletic shoes as an investment. No, you won’t be able to sell the shoes on eBay after you logged 500 miles in them. But, if a good supportive shoe will protect you from typical runner’s injuries, it’s a good investment in your health.

Make a list of all clothing you need for the year, and buy only what is on that list, but only when it is a good deal. I call this my “I’m in the market for a …” list. I know it’s November, but if you know you’re going to need a swimsuit in the summer, put it on your list. You might find one marked 90% off somewhere–you just never know.

If you know your underpants are getting a little raggedy, then put underwear on your “I’m in the market for…” list. Unless you’re down to your last pair of wearable underwear, don’t rush out and buy some. Shop around and wait for sales.

Now, using your “I’m in a market for a…” list, write down the maximum amount you are willing to pay for each item. For example, no more than $10 for a well-made top, or $30, or $60. Whatever fits your budget. Don’t exceed this.

Here’s some clothing sources. I’ve arranged this list on a sliding comfort level, going from “extremely confident and comfortable with yourself” to “gimme a break, I’m new at this!”

  1. Sew your own. That’s right, I said it. Whether you start from the beginning and buy fabric at a craft store (on sale or with a coupon, right?), a pattern, and all of the notions, or you use your sewing skills to put new life into an item. See my friend Bee’s crafty blog for how she turned a ho-hum dress into a really cute one. My sewing skills right now are limited to repairing a loose button. In middle school, I learned how to use the sewing machine a little bit, but not enough to make anything useful. I’m going to try to learn.
  2. Visit yard sales and thrift stores. Deals like you wouldn’t believe! And if you can sew, all the better. You can find great clothes and repurpose them.
  3. Not comfortable rifling through tons and tons of other people’s clothes? Try a “trendy” thrift shop or consignment store to get you started. Visit a Plato’s Closet if you have a teenager who must have name-brands, or visit a consignment shop. It has been my experience that consignment shops on the whole have a great stock of gently used (or never worn) items suitable for career-wear. For you Pittsburghers, how about Treasure House Fashions? I haven’t yet visited, but from the web site, it seems like a nice shop. Actually, there’s dozens of shops throughout the city worth checking out.
  4. Consider browsing through eBay for accessories or clothing.
  5. Online retailers can offer great discounts. The obvious drawback is you can’t see the item in person or try it on. Use coupon codes and combine that with an incentive program such as Ebates to sweeten your savings. Caution: Be committed to loving the item. If it’s not what you wanted (it doesn’t fit/go with the rest of your wardrobe/poorly made) then require yourself to send it back. Hanging it in your closet and forgetting about it means you just threw some money away.
  6. Try brick & mortar discount retailers: T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, Value City, etc., can carry those name-brands you might be seeking for a fraction of the price. They’re worth a visit. Watch your Sunday ads for coupons for these places. I recently saw a $10 off $30 purchase coupon for Value City.
  7. Some outlet malls can offer discounts, but not always. Sometimes, the “outlet mall discount” is a myth. Still, swing by one every once in awhile if you want. I know there’s one north of Pittsburgh in Grove City.
  8. Visit a regular mall. You can still find deals here, though it can be more of a challenge. Check your Sunday ads for coupons before you shop. Macy’s always seems to have a 20% off coupon somewhere, for example. Check store web sites to see what sales are going on. Ideally, you should spend the least amount of time in the mall as possible.
    • Stores like to just gobble you up, and you could spend a lot more money than you intended. Start in the clearance areas of the store to see if you can find the items on your “I’m in the market for…” list. Then, move on to the regular sales racks to see if you can find your searched-for item. If you find said item at the regular price (and it’s higher than you want to pay), walk away.
    • Remember the price, and challenge yourself to beat it somewhere else. If a day or two passes, and you don’t think you’ll be able to find it anywhere else, go back and buy it. If you’re daring, you might find a manager and see if you can get a discount. I’ve never done this, but I’ve heard that managers can use a little discretion.

Whew, this is a long post. What have I missed? What can you suggest?


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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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