How to Save Money on Clothes (The Savvy Spender)

As someone who keeps a close watch on her budget, I hate spending money on clothes. In fact, I rarely shell out more than ten bucks on any one item. But my frugal ways were put to the test on a recent trip to Chicago, when I unexpectedly needed some semiformal attire.

Wanting to travel light, I had packed as little as I could. So when the friends I was staying with invited me out for a nice dinner, I didn’t have anything suitable to wear.

Armed with my knowledge of how to save money on clothes, I was determined to spend as little as possible. Here’s how I went about it.

Plan Ahead

I asked my frugal Chicagoland pals and poked around Yelp to find the best thrift stores and consignment shops around. It turns out there’s a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square and Wicker Park with some prime spots for scouting second-hand treasures. I mapped out four retail shops I wanted to check out.

Racks of clothing at thrift store.

Next, I set a budget. It’s important to do this particularly when you’re thrifting, because it’s far too easy to go overboard with deals and one-of-a-kind finds. I decided to limit this shopping journey to $50 — more than enough for a few dresses, heels and stockings. I also budgeted for a couple of impulse buys, because you really never know what will turn up.

When you’re thrifting, you may not always have access to a dressing room, so be sure to wear an outfit that you can easily try on clothes over. For instance, I usually wear a camisole, leggings and a skirt. That way if I need to try on pants, I can discreetly slip them on without offending anyone in public.

Thrift store shoe racks.

My Thrift Store Stops

First up was Family Thrift Store. I was impressed by how organized everything was. They had an excellent selection. There was even some designer garb with the tags still attached. However, it was a little out of my price range for this particular trip.

Family Thrift Store

After some deliberation, however, I did splurge on a pair of black leather ankle boots ($20). I also made out with a black dress ($9.51), a shimmery green dress ($5.45) and a white camisole ($1.91). I spent a grand total of $40.20 — in other words, far more than I’m used to spending.

My second stop was Village Discount Outlet, just a few blocks down the street. This was the type of thrift store that requires searching through disorderly racks to find the true jewels. Plus, there were no dressing rooms, just a few mirrors. But the prices were amazing, with crazy deals like three-for-a-dollar items and half-priced specials!

Entrance of Village Discount Outlet in Chicago.

After rummaging for about 30 minutes, I decided on a dress I found in the girls’ section (at half off, $3), a pair of animal-pattern socks for a friend ($1), a halter top ($0.90, again half-priced) and some vintage brown dress shoes ($4). The grand total, with tax: $9.81.

blue dress

At this point I was worn out from all the rummaging and decision making. While I did check out two more spots (Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads in Wicker Park), I didn’t buy anything and decided to wrap up my thrifting adventures for the day.

All in all, while I ended up spending more than I might have liked, I did bring home a pretty good haul. Saving money on clothes doesn’t have to be difficult — it just takes some planning, time and energy.

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