Saving Money When Buying Clothes

The cost of clothing seems to go up each year. You need to know how to keep this expense down. Stretching the clothing dollar takes planning on your part.

First go through everyone's clothes.

Decide what:

  • fits and looks good
  • is usable
  • needs repair
  • needs changes
  • needs to be thrown out.
Then make a list of everyone's clothes. List the number and color (whether solid or print) of skirts, slacks, blouses, shirts, dresses and so on. Now look at your list to see what clothes can be worn together. Color is a key part to making several different outfits. Be sure the color of the clothes goes well with your hair, skin, and eye color.

Make a list of clothing you and your family members need. Knowing what you need (or want) will get you more mix and match outfits for various activities.

Use these ideas to cut clothing costs:

  • Know your budget.

  • Update clothes with belts, scarves, jewelry, shoes, and so on.

  • Know what to look for when buying clothes.

    • Do the zippers work easily?
    • Are the seams wide enough to let out? Are they finished, or will they ravel?
    • Is machine stitching even?
    • Are the plaids, stripes, and patterns all going in the same direction?
    • Are buttons, snaps, and hooks sewn on securely?
    • Is the hem neat? Does it lie flat?
    • If the garment is lined, is it sewn well?

  • Buy clothes at the end- of-the-month, end of the season, clearance, and holiday sales.

  • Buy clothing that is easy to care for. Look for clothes that can be washed instead of dry cleaned. Read the care label sewn on the garment.

  • Buy usable clothing from garage sales, rummage sales, thrift shops, resale shops, discount stores, warehouse outlets, or newspaper want ads. A clothing exchange program with friends, family, schools, and churches can be helpful, too.

  • Learn how to sew on buttons, shorten hems, and mend tears. Clothes will last longer and save you money.

Paying for clothing with cash costs less than buying on credit. Also, using cash to buy clothes helps you stay within your budget and gives you the freedom to shop anywhere.

Prepared by Katherine J. Reuter, Consumer & Family Economics Educator, University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.


Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. (1990). The Better Business Bureau A to Z Buying Guide. New York: Henry Hold.

Reuter, K. J. (1992). Stretching Your Dollars - Living on a Reduced Income (Train-the-Trainer Lesson). Urbana: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.

Toomire, P.A. (1982). Buying Clothing in Today's Market (Local Leader Lesson). Urbana: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.

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