Think you spend too much money on clothes? You're likely not alone. Americans spent more than $1,400 on apparel and footwear last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. If you feel like your clothing budget is out of control, don't worry -- there are plenty of ways you can save money on clothes, no matter the season.
1. Estimate outfit options when shopping. When you're considering purchasing an item, think about how many outfits you can make out of a single piece and how many times you can realistically see yourself wearing the item. For example, you could say, "Do I have at least five tops that go with this skirt?" Estimating these numbers can make it easier to decide which pieces to invest in -- and which ones to pass on.
2. Skip "dry clean only." Whether it's a cashmere sweater or a pair of polyester pants, make sure you're aware of the cleaning instructions of any clothing item you're buying to avoid footing a big dry cleaning bill each month. Dry clean-only items will end up costing you more to maintain in the long run. Instead, buy high quality but low-maintenance pieces to maximize your closet investment.
3. Be careful with outlet store purchases. Many brand-name outlet stores advertise sales that claim you can save up to 70 percent or more off regular store prices. But outlet store items may be lower-quality items made specifically for the outlet store. Stick with the regular stores for basics that you plan on wearing many times, and limit outlet store buys to some trendy pieces and items you only plan to wear occasionally.
4. Don't be a trend chaser. Speaking of trends, one of the best ways to make those closet investments last is to stick with a basic wardrobe that you can dress up or down with accessories and layers. If you do want a trendy item that you'll only wear a few times, hit the clearance racks and outlet malls, so that you aren't spending the bulk of your clothing budget on items you'll rarely use.
5. Be smart with flash sales. Several online retailers including Amazon, Gilt and eBay host flash sales when you can snag deep discounts on coveted brands and designer items during select days and times. While shopping these sales can trigger an impulsive buy, you can get some great deals on splurge-worthy items that fit within your budget. Set budget limits as you shop these sales, and subscribe to email newsletters for notifications of upcoming sales so you can set aside money specifically for the event.
6. Shop out of season. Shopping postseason sales and clearance racks is a great way to build up your wardrobe on a budget. Take inventory of your wardrobe to determine exactly what pieces you need for the upcoming year, and then organize your budget around those seasonal purchases. Buy investment pieces such as business suits in January, winter coats, boots and jackets in late February, and swimsuits and summer clothing in late August.
7. Shop for your current size. Buying clothes that are a size smaller in hopes of dieting your way down to a svelter you in a few months might seem like a way to stay motivated, but if you don't end up losing the weight, it's just a way for you to lose money. Buy clothes that fit you well, and consider tailoring them in the event you do end up being a smaller size. The cost of having something tailored to fit will likely be lower than buying a replacement item if you don't reach your goal.
8. Have a clothing swap party. One of the best ways to have a wardrobe you love is to regularly get rid of items you don't wear frequently. Host a clothing swap party with friends, and ask everyone to brings clothing they no longer want. You can get rid of your clothes and get new items for free at the same time! And when you bring the leftovers to Goodwill, don't forget to get a receipt so you can deduct them from your taxes.
Sabah Karimi is a columnist for the blog Wise Bread, where you can find consumer tips like how to select the best balance transfer credit cards.
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