The title of this post is a bit misleading. Perhaps it should be called "Where to Find the Least Expensive Clothes", but that wouldn't fit with the theme of my "Where to Find the Cheapest..." series. The word "cheap", as applied to clothing, makes it sound like something substandard, out of fashion and polyester.

I have always been picky about how I look, and I used to spend the money to match my fashionable tastes. Unfortunately, it was more than my budget could bare. I was trying to look like a million dollars on a Walmart budget. I have grown wiser since then, but I still need to wear suits, ties and "business casual" clothing on Fridays at my place of work. How can one do that and still live a life of Savvy Frugality?

I have adopted a mantra which has served me well, especially when it comes to clothing: "Never Pay Retail. Retail Is For Suckers." That means I NEVER pay the full retail price for clothing, except for underwear and socks, and I usually buy those on sale. When I say "Never Pay Retail", I don't mean wait until jeans go on sale for ten percent off. That's still retail, really. The jeans were probably overpriced to begin with. Here is how my family dresses well while avoiding garage sale castoffs...all while getting clothing at 50 to 80 percent off the regular retail price. I should mention that I buy most of my clothing at regular retail stores.

Buy Clothing Off Season - You never want to buy polo shirts, t-shirts or swim suits in the middle of summer. Why? Because you are paying full price. If you buy those things at the end of the summer, just before fall, then you will get those items after the prices have been slashed to move them out of the store. I once bought a winter coat in the middle of August, when it was 80 degrees outside. I paid $16 for a coat which would normally have cost me about $150. I recently bought several short sleeved shirts (name brand) for $8 each. Regular price? About $30 each. Of course, it was about 30 degree outside...but it will get warmer, and I'll wear the shirts when the weather changes.

Raid the Clearance Racks - Clearance racks at retail stores are often thought of as "The Land of Misfit Clothing", but that's the wrong way to look at them. The clearance racks merely have items the store is trying to move out the door because they didn't sell them before they got new stock. I recently bought a new name brand suit off a clearance rack for $70. The regular retail price was almost $400. Whenever I shop for clothes, the clearance racks are the first place I check.

Check out eBay - There are some great clothing items on eBay, and there are some not-so-great items on eBay. Still, I have gotten some great buys on eBay, such as a new Diesel shirt for $30 (regular price $70). I get great deals on shoes on eBay as well.

Don't forget the "discount" stores - I'm not talking about Wal-Mart or Target. Stores like Stein Mart, Burlington Coat Factory and T.J. Maxx have great name brand clothing at very cheap prices. I get most of my ties at T.J. Maxx. I usually pay $12 for $50 ties.

Forget "trendy" clothing - That "hot new item" everybody is wearing now is going to be a "fashion don't" this same time next year. Stick to classic cuts and solid neutral colors, and you'll be able to use your wardrobe year after year. If you want to get adventurous, get a trendy scarf or tie. You can always put it on eBay later, and it won't cost as much as the new jeans most people would shell out $150 for...only to see them fall out of fashion in six months.

Speaking of jeans...Why would anyone pay $150 for jeans? Jeans are jeans. The only difference is usually the fit and the label. Stick to classic jeans. If you wear a belt or long shirt, nobody can see the label anyway. I bought my last pair of jeans at Steve & Barry's, on sale, for about $15.

Find a good tailor - If you gain or lose weight, you can get your favorite items in your wardrobe altered to fit. It's a lot cheaper than buying something new.


  1. Anonymous // March 29, 2008 at 9:27 PM  

    I think of clothing as "cost per wear". I don't usually pay retail, but if its something that I will wear often, fits very well, have needed/wanted for a long time, and it is good quality, sometimes I will buy it full price before the store is sold out. So far I haven't gone wrong, because those pieces have lasted years and looked good the whole time.
    The rest of my clothes are ebay/consignment/clearance/discount stores.
    I also buy most accesories at the local thrift store. There are beautiful scarves there.

  2. SavvyFrugality // March 30, 2008 at 10:37 AM  

    That's a good point. If you buy a piece that you can use for years to come, it's usually worth the price. However, most people pay full price for clothing items that they may only wear a few times, either because the item is not of good quality or because it is trendy and will quickly go out of fashion. The last pair of black dress shoes I purchased lasted me five years, until they finally wore out (they were classic Oxfords). I bought them on sale for $60, so I had a great pair of shoes for about $12 per year, or roughly 5 cents each time I wore them (they were shoes I wore at work). I rarely buy things at full retail price, in fact I can't remember the last time I did, but what I do buy usually lasts me at least 2-3 years.

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