Alright, alright, I know what you may be thinking. And no, I’m not advocating nudism, especially as a financial strategy.
But just maybe, as with food, we can liberate ourselves from the idea that we have to part with exorbitant amounts of money for our clothing needs and do a little creative problem-solving and hustling instead.
Why? Well, along with housing and food, clothing can be a hefty purchase in a family’s budget. It may not seem like much all at once – a half dozen toddler shirts here, a couple summer dresses on the clearance rack there – but it all adds up over all the months and years we buy and wear clothes over a lifetime.
There is a very specific, finite amount of money and time that will pass through our lives. We cannot know the exact number of dollars and years we will be given, but there is most definitely a limit. It is ours to realize this and seize the opportunity to steward both as wisely as we can.
I used to think of clothes differently – as “pieces” that should be carefully collected to fill out an ideal capsule wardrobe of sorts. Nothing fancy, but purposeful, well-rounded, complete. After all, I’ve got to be ready for a wedding, an interview, a date, and a hike through the mountains, right?
But over time, I’ve learned that even with minimal clothes, all these activities are accessible. And living creatively and resourcefully is more liberating than being materially well-stocked.
So here are some ideas about approaching clothes that work for me, with the goal of maximum savings (=freedom) and minimum stress.
Wear your clothes and shoes completely out. The richest woman I know wears comfy ten-year-old yoga pants, t-shirts from the latest charity run she participates in, and Wal-Mart sandals that literally have a hole through them to the ground. On Sundays, a simple dress and mascara. I love her.
Thoughtfully make a new purchase only when stuff finally wears out and only if truly needed. I prefer buying online, to save time and gas money, exercise the power of waiting and reflection, and comparison shop for price and quality. I also love Costco. Beautiful, attractive flannel shirt for $9.99 that lasts ten years or more? Yes.
Trim down your closet in such a way that will make it easy to dress. With less, you’ll know what you have and, ironically, forgo shopping for new clothes.
Donate everything you cannot or will not wear. It’s okay to say goodbye and cut your losses now.
Pack extra usable clothes in storage for the future. Then, when your current clothes completely wear out, you can happily downgrade them to cleaning rags and draw new clothes from this box.
Consider sewing simple clothes out of free or cheap fabric. There are easy patterns for dresses, shirts, skirts, ponchos, kimonos, and cloth pants that are accessible to anyone who can measure and cut. Stretchy knit fabrics are especially forgiving.
Learn to hand sew. You’ll be able to quickly repair a seam or replace a button, prolonging the life of your clothes.
Line dry clothes to prolong their life and save on electricity, too.
When you feel like you need a specific clothing item, ask first, “can I do without for awhile?” then, “how can I obtain or make this for free?” then, “where can I buy this at a discount?”
Avoid “going shopping” like the plague. After all, spending money on unnecessaries is a plague on finances and freedom. I’m convinced that most of all clothes shopping in first world countries, for the frugal among us anyway, is unnecessary.
Visit the thrift store only with a purpose. Too many people stop in at the thrift store because they know it’s cheap compared with paying full price, and they leave with clothes, toys, and home goods they’d be richer without.
Know when to BIFL. “Buy it for Life” is a new marketing phrase to inspire consumers sick of fast fashion to buy quality – at a premium. But once in awhile, it’s a coherent strategy when there’s a very specialized clothing need that will remain a need for a long time into the future: steel toe logging boots, a classic business suit, etc. A rare purchase, but one that can still be found at deep discounts. The former, Big Country just purchased for 33% off, new. The latter, fiesty and apparently well-dressed libertarian writer Jeffrey A. Tucker buys for $25.
Be open to hand-me-downs, and they will start magically appearing in your life. A friend of a friend, an avid shopper, gave half a dozen garbage bags full of excellent clothing to some friends of ours. The three teenage girls went through the bags, kept everything they wanted, then passed the rest to me. All four of us ended up with a new wardrobe, enough basic clothing for a couple years, just from one person’s cast-offs. And knowing our society, I feel I can trust this will happen again, in some form, from someone else in the future.
Kids Would Rather Run Around Naked
Or wear the same stained, tattered shirt day in, day out. Firebell begged to wear her “bus shirt,” the one with the British double-decker on it, every single day until it finally got retired.
Lesson? Kids’ needs are simple. I mean, her minimalist capsule wardrobe had one item! Why buy them more than they can wear in a week? Here are a few more suggestions to spend almost nothing . . .
Let friends and relatives know when you’re looking for the next size up in kids’ clothes. Post an inquiry on social media with a cute picture of your growing kiddo. Ask a family at church with kids older than yours. Ask a friend to borrow maternity clothes for a few months. People love to give their hand-me-downs to new, appreciative homes.
Box and label out-of-size kids’ clothes to save for younger siblings or to bless others.
Keep a running list of kids’ clothing needs so you’re ready when grandmas and others ask! Shoes, socks, and undies are especially valuable as gifts, as these items do not always last long enough to become free hand-me-downs.
As a family, pick out gifts when holidays or birthdays roll around that include needed, hard-to-find-free clothing. To a child, new winter boots or undies are special!
Inspiration to Liberate Yourself from Clothes
And lastly, check out the following for inspiration to liberate yourself from clothes!
Life is Easy. Why Do We Make it So Hard? Jon Jandai
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:25-26.