Fashionable and Frugal – How to Save Money on Clothes

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save on clothes

The following is a contribution from my friend Keren at Stepping it Down. 

While some children go back to school in early or mid-August, mine didn’t go back until after Labor Day. When I started preparing for school to start, I had exactly 4 weeks to get ready for a new school year. Part of this included making sure my kids are properly and appropriately clothed. I don’t necessarily believe in buying tons of outfits right before school starts. We bargain shop throughout the year so when I “school shop” it’s more for new sneakers, a couple of new outfits, and new unmentionables.

However, this year was a little different because my oldest, 7, just finished a significant growth spurt and went up an entire size. I wasn’t prepared for such a dramatic change! While I did have some larger-sized clothes put away that I found either on clearance or at yard sales, it wasn’t quite enough. While this post shows how I save money on clothes, the general concepts apply for all general clothing needs.

Yard Sales


Let’s face it. When you’re picking through clothes at some yard sales, there are more stains and rips on the clothes than there are threads. Being choosy is okay as long as the price is fitting. If you need outside play clothes for just at home, then the stained 10-cent pieces are perfect! For school, however, you may want to pay attention and really look over each piece carefully.

We’ve had good luck this year at yard sales. I’ve found clothes for my oldest that looked brand new! Boys, however, are a little more difficult to clothe from yard sale purchases. Traditionally, boys are rougher on clothing than girls. Finding pants that don’t have holes in the knees can prove to be near impossible!

Clearance Racks


I love the end of summer and winter. Why? Because that’s when all of the clothes that didn’t sell all season go on clearance! Clearance prices can be handled differently depending on where you’re shopping. For example, the Kohl’s clearance section will typically put their non-selling items on clearance for $3-$5 to start. When they are picked through, they’ll lower it to $2. Then to $1.

That’s when I hit the racks. $1 shorts and tank tops in several sizes will fit for years to come! And for $20 I can buy 20 items whereas if I paid full price, I’d get maybe 4. Another way I maximize my clearance savings is by using coupons. We just did some school shopping at Peebles recently. They were having 40-50% off of most of their brand-name school selections.

Now, keep in mind that their full price is around $30 per item. So at 50% off, it’s still $15. That’s too high for me. Enter the additional 20% off coupon I received in the mail! Now that $30 item is down to $12. Ok, this isn’t a GREAT price, but for the good-quality jeans and sweatshirts, I’m willing to pay that. I got my youngest, 5, some Carter’s pants on a “Buy One Get One for $1” sale. It was a winning weekend all around!

Consignment Shops are a Great Way to Save Money on Clothes


While consignment shopping is similar to yard sale shopping, there are a couple of ways you can increase your savings and help your community as well. There are a couple of great consignment shops near me.

One of them is run by a non-profit company who employs developmentally disabled people. The workers truly enjoy the work that they do in the shop!

They even let the workers price the clothing at what they think it’s worth. It’s a great experience. And they have a whole room full of items that are only 25 cents. I recently got a brand new blazer with the tags still on for 25 cents! Plus they steam clean all items before they put them on the racks.

They run purely on donations, so technically I guess it’s a second hand store rather than a consignment shop, but it’s still great. The actual consignment shop I go to does take my clothing on consignment.

Once I have some sales, I’ll collect my profits and turn around and restock the kids’ clothes in larger sizes. The community bonus? If they receive clothes that aren’t exactly saleable (stains, etc.), they donate them to a local women’s shelter. That makes my heart warm!



I have a niece and nephew that are both bigger in size than my children. My sister-in-law will sometimes give me bags of clothes that her children have outgrown. F-R-E-E! Yes, please! I have an older sister and I most definitely grew up wearing the clothes she no longer could wear.

That’s just what we did! We knew no differently. Did you have a baby boy first, then a girl? I don’t think your baby girl will mind wearing monster truck pajamas or socks with footballs on them. Reuse them! Stop letting our commercialized society make you buy brand new items so they can line their pockets. Think of creative ways you can reuse these items in a new way.

How do you save money on clothes?


Keren Clark is a freelance writer and blogger at Stepping It Down. She has worked in finance for the last 13 years, owns her own side business, writes, and takes care of her husband and 2 wonderful children. She also has a love of DIY, organic gardening and cooking, and saving money.


Photo courtesy of: AmberNectar13

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

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  • Canadianbudgetbinder says:

    Great post and lots of great ideas which we currently use. I’m a bit picky when it comes to pants but when it comes to shirts I’m easy going. I’ve found great bargains at second-hand shops and on the reduced rack. Just last week I picked up an awesome jacket I’ve been wanting but it was $89.99 but reduced to $19.99 for end of season. Waiting it out seems to work for me… cheers

  • Mark Ross | Think Rich. Be Free. says:

    Stores on clearance sales are really a great place to buy your clothes. But the best is the hand-me-downs, because they are free. 🙂

  • kelly @stayingonbudget says:

    Great ideas! Yeah, I don’t believe in paying full price and also picky what I actually do buy–clothes that sit in the closet are super expensive because they take up space/don’t get used.

    I try to carefully shop at outlets when they have seasonal sales and also consignment–to get the things someone else never wore for a bargain!

  • Pauline says:

    I save by now buying much. Went shopping yesterday for the first time in months. And I buy things I know will go well with that I have to I know I’ll wear them. It isn’t a bargain if you wear it twice.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    If you’re willing to look (and look and look) you can get crazy good deals on clothes at garage sales. I know because I was the one selling some high quality clothes for very little at our recent garage sale. One pair of pants that I set out for $1 didn’t sell. They were name brand, as was most of the clothes that I was selling. My wife listed it on eBay and got $20 (not counting shipping!) for that single pair. If you’re willing to go to the sales and be patient you just might find some very inexpensive fashionable clothes.

    • Keren says:

      Most definitely! I went to several garage/yard sales over the summer and found Old Navy, Gap, and Gymboree clothing (no stains or rips) for $.50 each! Cha ching!

  • Michelle says:

    I really like to look at consignment shops. Sometimes you can find exactly what you are looking for!

  • carolyn says:

    One thing you did not mention is Freecycle-I live in NJ and different counties have their own groups listed on yahoo. A grass roots organization that helps things get a second-third life/ The idea is to join list an item you are not longer using -requests will come through emails and pick-ups arranged. I started with a bird cage I no longer used and have since emptied my closets of extra clothing, books, magazines and so many other things to someone who could use it. I also acquired a stove for a cousin ,2 sofas -for friends and more books to read for me. Clothing is listed by size and not treated like a garbage pick up. Helping people local-it makes sense to extend a helpful hand to your community.

    • Keren says:

      Wow, that sounds like a great site! We don’t have a freecycle “location” near me, but I will certainly recommend it to friends that do!

  • ChanceCallan says:

    Bought a full length fur coat (Beaver) at Value Village. I know, I know, but the coat is really old and those animals died a long time ago. So did the previous owner with initials LBT. Anyway, for $35 I have the warmest coat that I use when sitting by the bonfire in my back yard. Keeps me toasty warm and better than any blanket.. Best purchase EVER!!!!!

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    I buy most of my kid’s clothes at garage sales or off of craigslist. I also get some hand-me-downs from my sister’s daughter. They don’t realize it now and I’m going to try to get away with it as long as I can!

  • debtfreeoneday says:

    I tend to buy second hand from Ebay and charity shops these days! I’m not exactly the height of fashion though so I don’t even do that very often!

  • Joshua ( says:

    Clearance racks and consignment shops are my favorite! Good to see you on Frugal Rules!

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup says:

    I save money on clothes by making them last. I don’t buy that many, probably because I hate clothes shopping. I also shop when there are sales and just buy what I need.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    I love all those ideas, when I was reading different articles, I saw figures saying that the average American parent spends $350-$650 per child on back to school stuff. That is crazy to me. Even if your kid grows 2 inches, I don’t know how I could spend that much at one time.

  • dojo says:

    We don’t have a kid yet (5 more months till she’s born), but some of these tips will come in really handy to us, too. We don’t have too many yardsales in my country (which is a pity), but all the other tips work great. There’s a lot to be saved on clothing if you’re smart about it.

  • Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia says:

    For me, I save money by rarely ever buying new clothes! In fact, I’ve still got shoes in decent condition that I purchased with my employee discount back in 1999 at my very first job in high school (a sporting goods store)!

    As for my 1-year old son, right now we’ve been fortunate to have most clothes gifted. We also just got a big box of hand-me-downs from his cousin who is 10 months older. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be getting hand downs much longer because our son is nearly has big as his cousin! I’m just glad boys aren’t generally as expensive clothing wise as girls are.

    • Keren says:

      I disagree with your last sentence, haha! Boys, as they get older, are very very hard on clothes. Worn out knees, rips, etc. My daughter, barring a huge growth spurt, can get about 2 years out of her clothes.

    • dojo says:

      What a great idea .. wearing clothing/shoes that are older, but still good to wear. So many people think that, if their shoes are 1 year old, they need to buy new pairs, even if you can wear them more years. same with jeans/t-shirts. I also wear my stuff as much as I can and really don’t care that it’s not from this fashion season 😀

  • Romona (@monasez) says:

    I like to shop the clearance rack. It’s the first thing I check before any other racks. Also, I like plato’s closet. They great second hand stuff. Some of the clothes are new with the original tags on them.

  • Keren says:

    I recently found a brand new blazer with the tags still on it for $.25! Score!

  • Budget and the Beach says:

    I save money on clothes by rarely shopping. But if I do it’s discounted stores like Kohl’s or Target. For me the best think is to avoid most stores as much as possible to avoid temptation. I’m a very visual person so as soon as I see something cute it starts the dangerous ball rolling. I’m lucky though that I live in LA where the seasons don’t really change.

  • Keren says:

    That definitely makes the list – avoid stores in general!!!

  • E.M. says:

    Great tips! I also love clearance racks. I never buy clothes that aren’t on sale, but my first stop is always to the clearance section. When I went to visit my mom last week, we went to Target and I got a cute dress for $6 and a shirt for $3! Why pay full price when you can wait for sales like that? The way your consignment shops operate sounds really nice as well. I try to shop at second hand places, but unfortunately it’s difficult for me to find something I fit into decently – I have a long torso and most shirts are too short. 25 cents for a blazer is crazy!

    • Keren says:

      I see Walmart has their summer shorts and shirts down to $2-3. I am trying to hold out for when they hit $1. I think I can, I think I can!

  • Kyle | says:

    Nice tips! I ONLY shop clearance racks, typically online, so I can throw a coupon on top of the clearance prices for even better savings. I can usually save 50%-60% off the original price!

  • Mike says:

    Hand-me-downs constitute nearly all of our kids’ clothing selection. I’m lucky to have a sister-in-law who dressed her older kids very nicely over the years!

  • Keren says:

    Lucky, indeed! I’m quite fortunate in that department, too.

  • Matt Becker says:

    We’ve been incredibly fortunate to benefit from a large number of hand-me-downs for our son. My guess is those will taper off as he ages, but we’ll be able to re-use a lot of them for our next boy.

  • Tushar @ Everything Finance says:

    I love being well dressed, but that can definitely come at a price. I like this guide to save money on clothes. I think that clothing can be such a big budget eater if you don’t know how to save on it.

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor says:

    Good tips. I very rarely pay full retail price for clothing (I’m always go to the sale racks first). I try to live by the motto: If it’s not on sale I don’t need it.

  • Missy Homemaker says:

    I used to be a big garage saler, but quite frankly, I wouldn’t save enough money scouring garage sales to clothe my 4 boys ages 5-15 to pay for my gas doing it. However, if I’m vigilant looking through clearance racks and store sales flyers, I can buy good quality clothes at decent prices. These can be handed down from boy to boy making my savings even more.
    My biggest tip to parents about saving money on clothes for their kids? DON’T BUY THEM SO MUCH!! Each of my kids has 3 pairs of jeans, 3 or 4 pairs of shorts in summer, about a week’s worth of shirts, one pair of khakis and a nice polo shirt.
    It’s a system that works for us. Of course, I wouldn’t pass up free ones if they were given to us either 😉

  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way says:

    I don’t buy clothes much often, I bought my last pants 5 years ago! But when I really need to buy a new clothes I usually do shops in online because when I tried to compare the price in malls I discovered that the online store prices are cheaper.

  • The Norwegian Girl says:

    I save money on clothes by not buying clothes in Norway, only when I´m in the Canary islands, where due to the low taxes, clothes are really cheap. I do buy shoes in Norway, but then I always buy a bit more expensive ones to get really good quality, because they will last much longer!

    • Keren says:

      There’s something to be said for that actually. It’s not always about buying the cheapest, but combining the least expensive with the best quality to achieve the best price!

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    Haven’t gotten myself to buy clothes from consignment shops…but I don’t buy much clothes to begin with. We do shop clearance racks and off season though. And we got plenty of hand me downs for the baby…they outgrow their clothes so fast that most of the hand me downs were practically new.

  • Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa says:

    I try and save money on clothes by rarely buying them. When I do, I make sure I get something that will stand the test of time. I think it saves money in the long run.

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