How to Save Money on Clothes (to Spend on Travel!)

Budget-minded travelers usually live a budget-minded lifestyle even when they aren’t traveling. We scrimp and save on things non-travelers might scoff at, like all the ways to save money on clothes.

There are three things in particular that I have done that I’m going to challenge you, ladies specifically, to try out and see if they can become part of your money-saving lifestyle as well.

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Studies show that the average American woman spends almost $4,000 per year shopping at malls and spends over 140 hours shopping for clothes alone. That’s enough to start a new hobby! And don’t think cutting out stores and malls is good enough to save money because online shoppers spend 25% more than brick-and-mortar shoppers.

Seriously, how much money do you spend every year on new clothes? Enough for a plane ticket across the world, perhaps?

I know that my wardrobe is already small compared to an average female’s closet, even though I have a full closet and dresser. So, I think I’m doing pretty good at being better than average. However, since I probably wore about half the clothes I own, I decided not to buy any new clothes (shoes and accessories included) for an entire year (this was back in 2013).

The one exception I made was buying souvenirs while traveling overseas. You can’t NOT buy a fun, colorful scarf when you fall in love with it during a 6-week European train trip!

Souvenirs aside, I successfully avoided buying new clothes for a year!

“How did she do it?” you might ask yourself. It’s all about combining a money-saving mindset with your priorities. The bottom line is that clothes aren’t on my priorities list. I would rather save every dollar spent on shopping and spend it on my travel experiences instead. That right there is a money-saving mindset.

How to harness a money-saving mind-set

  • Get clear on wants vs needs. I find that anything I think I want, I really don’t need. Just don’t buy it!
  • Stop going to clothing stores, cold turkey. Out of sight, out of mind. Steer clear of online shopping, too.
  • Compare the cost of clothes vs travel: New outfit or 3 nights at a hostel? New shoes or train ticket to a new country? Perspective is everything, and you can change yours now.

Yes, I could probably use some new clothing items here and there, but the bottom line is that it isn’t completely 100% necessary. For me, this probably saves several hundred dollars per year, which is well below average.

Now for the Challenges!

Alright, you’ve got your priorities in check, and your money-saving mindset is strong! Ready to go the extra mile to save as much money as you can to travel farther and longer?!

Here, we’ll introduce some ways to save money on clothes, money that you can then add to your travel fund. And the best part is that by practicing these challenges, you create for yourself a money-saving mindset. Let’s set ourselves up for success, people!

Challenge #1: Clear Your Closet

First, I challenge you to take control of your wardrobe. The next two challenges will be easy if you clear out your closet (and dresser) of clothes that you never wear or no longer fit you. Just like Marie Kondo, if it does not bring you joy, get rid of it!

Watch this, then move on to the next challenge with a refreshed wardrobe that you absolutely love.

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This video is from back in the day, but the message remains the same. My current wardrobe is about a quarter of what it used to be because I do this almost monthly!

Challenge #2: Swap Clothes

Like I mentioned in the video, host a clothing swap with your girlfriends. It is not only a fun excuse to get together and drink some wine, but everyone gets to go home with “new” (to them) clothes while getting rid of others that they don’t wear anymore. It’s a win-win.

When I first attended a clothing swap, I was a bit intimidated by the sheer volume of clothes piled up in the center of the living room at my friend’s house. However, I got to see some of my donations light up the faces of my friends, and I walked away with some solid pieces that I actually treasured for years. I am a believer.

Best of all, anything that doesn’t get claimed can go to women’s shelters or thrift stores, making it a win-win-win.

Save money on clothes
I borrowed the dress I’m wearing from a friend for this wedding, and I plan to borrow dresses for two more weddings before summer is over.

Challenge #3: Borrow Clothes

The best time to borrow clothes is for special occasions and events you need to dress up for, such as a wedding. Often, weddings are used as an excuse to shop for new dresses, which lead to new shoes, possibly new belts, new jewelry, new purses, etc.

One outfit for a wedding that you attend as a guest could easily cost $100 or more. For most females, price tags can easily, and very quickly, get out of hand. There goes your train ticket money.

For me, borrowing dresses is smart because they are new to me, which makes dressing up more fun, and I don’t get stuck wearing the same dress repeatedly (bonus!). The best part about borrowing is that it doesn’t cost a dime.

BONUS: Make Some Money

Depending on the clothing items, you could make a decent amount of cash if you consign them. A consignment store is a shop that sells things for other people. They make money by charging a fee (usually a small percent of the sale price) for everything they sell.

To find a consignment shop near you, use Google. Then give them a call or visit them to talk about their sale terms, like how much you will get when an item sells and how you’ll receive your payment, how long they will hold an item to sell, or what to do if an item doesn’t sell.

Alternatively, Thredup is an online consignment store with warehouses all over the country. They send you a big bag, you return the bag full of clothes to sell, and they do the rest! The best items are listed online (with pictures!), letting you know when each item sells.

The only catch is that they offer you more store credit than cash as payment. However, store credit does not expire! I always opt for store credit and search their site first when I eventually need something “new.”

Can YOU do it?

I challenge you to apply these money-saving tips to your own life, closet, and wallet. Start right now! Don’t wait for New Year’s resolution time to come around. You might find that it’s easier than you imagine it to be, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the extra savings in your bank account!

Please share this post with your friends to encourage them to clean out their closets, too, then plan a clothing swap!

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4 replies on “How to Save Money on Clothes (to Spend on Travel!)”

I go through periods of buying reasonably regularly and not buying much at all. After our last trip to Europe, I came back just plain old not interested in buying clothes (or buying much at all really!) I was still so full of *experience*. Shopping seemed so mundane in comparison. That changed after about 6 months though 😛 I took a long time to figure out my style and what suits my body so even in my mid 20s I am still establishing a wardrobe of stuff that suits and looks good on me. Moving to the UK was a great opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff I never wore because it just didn’t look that good on me. I love clothes but I am also sensible and a bargain hunter. Like Sarah below I can’t comprehend spending $1000/year on clothes let alone $4000. Aside from my wedding dress, formal (prom) dress and bridesmaid dresses for weddings I have been in, I think the most I have ever spent on an item of clothing was $50, and that was for a pair of boots. My husband and I aren’t rich but we earn enough that I can buy new clothes every so often (on a sensible budget) and travel… it would be interesting to see if my spending habits changed much if I was forced with the option of either/or! I don’t think I spend enough on clothes that stopping would actually enable me to travel very far. I guess that’s a good thing!

I totally understand when you say “I don’t think I spend enough on clothes that stopping would actually enable me to travel very far.” I am in the same boat as a non-shopper / bargain shopper, however, I think it is more important to start the movement, to make the decision to cut back, because it doesn’t just affect clothes and accessories, it affects every other purchase decision you make, and THAT is where the real value is!

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