In early 2022, the cost of living crisis was in full swing. Inflation had risen to 7%, which was the highest increase in 30 years. The rise in prices was driven by household fuel bills, with the average household paying an extra £693 a year. Further rises were expected, and many people struggled to make ends meet.
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Whether you're still working or retired, you're likely on a tight budget. Yet, there are necessities you need to allocate money for. Things like food, utilities, housing, and clothes are non-negotiable. But as prices continue to increase, it can be hard to know where to turn for affordable clothing options.
There are several ways to make do and refresh your wardrobe too. You could consider:
- Adopting minimalism
- Exchanging your old clothes for new ones
- Shopping at second-hand shops
- Shopping at outlet retailers
But what money-saving option works best for your wallet and your style when it comes to clothes shopping?
Become a minimalist and buy staple, quality items
In today's society, it seems like we constantly see ads and messages telling us to buy more clothes. As a result, the average person in the UK now owns over 58 garments. But is all this stuff really necessary? The average person only wears about a third of the clothes they own.
Instead of buying lots of cheap, poor-quality items, it's better to invest in a few staple pieces that will last.
This is where minimalism comes in.
Adopting a minimalist approach to clothes shopping doesn't mean you have to wear the same thing every day. It simply means being more mindful about what you buy and only purchasing items you love and will use often.
This will save you money in the long run and help reduce the amount of waste produced by the fashion industry.
So how do you adopt a minimalist mindset? Here are a few ideas:
- Start by evaluating your current wardrobe and identifying the pieces you wear regularly.
- Consider eliminating any poor quality items or things you no longer like or wear. These will only take up space and clutter your closet.
- Try adopting a more minimalist mindset when shopping for new clothes. Focus on investing in high-quality, timeless pieces rather than buying lots of cheap fast-fashion items.
- Set yourself realistic goals when shopping for new clothes. Try not to overindulge or impulsively purchase unnecessary items.
Donate what no longer suits your style or doesn’t fit, and keep everything else. Then, come up with a shopping list to replace staple items you've had to give away.
Many people make a food list before they go shopping. So why not do the same before stocking up your summer wardrobe?
Perhaps you have a great jumpsuit, and you don't need a new one. But you could do with a midi dress. Or a smart blazer and formal workwear for your new job. Maybe you're going on holiday, and you need new swimwear? Or a strappy skater dress to show off your tan? Perhaps this is the year when you'll finally get fit, and you're desperate for some joggers and t-shirts for when you go running?
There is no shame in updating your wardrobe if you need new clothes. But setting a budget and sticking to it is essential. Some people can't help browsing the latest arrivals and buying new clothes they don't need. Costs can quickly spiral.
If you already have two cotton t-shirts to work out in, do you need a third one and a brand new hoodie? Probably not. And when you look at the cost of quality clothes, it makes sense to stick to a strict shopping list so you can save money in the long term.
Second-hand shopping is a great way to save big
With your minimalist wardrobe list in hand, second-hand shops should be your first stop for 'new' clothes. Many second-hand items have never been worn, and you can sometimes purchase nearly new items for 50% of their original price or less.
Second-hand shopping is a great way to find unique pieces and support sustainable fashion. In addition, when you buy second-hand clothes, you are prolonging the life of clothes and diverting them from landfills.
Here are just a few ways to buy second-hand clothes, whether you’re looking for zebra-patterned pyjamas, a polka dot mini dress, or a new sweatshirt:
- Use online apps like Depop or Vinted to find second-hand clothes from independent sellers
- Check out your local charity shops or thrift stores for unique, second-hand items
- Join local Facebook selling groups for great deals on clothes and other second-hand goods
- Check out Facebook marketplace for clothes deals near you
By buying second-hand clothes, you are supporting sustainable fashion and helping to reduce your carbon footprint. It takes a lot of resources to produce new clothing, which negatively impacts the environment. By shopping second-hand, you support a more sustainable way of consuming fashion.
Second-hand clothes are a way to make a statement. You can show off your unique style while showing you’re aware of climate issues and are taking action to tackle its impacts.
Is it possible to get free clothes?
Whether you are looking to save money on a new wardrobe or make room in your closet for new pieces, finding free clothes can be a great way to get what you need. You don't need to spend a dime on new clothes unless you really want to!
Host a clothes swapping party
One option is to exchange clothes you no longer want or need with friends and family. You could host a clothes swapping party, get together and bring the clothes you no longer need and exchange them for items you like.
It’s a great way to refresh your wardrobe without breaking the bank or contributing to harmful fast fashion industries.
Whether you're looking to get rid of your plus-size tracksuits and XXL wide-leg trousers after losing weight or want to trade in crop tops that no longer suit you, there's sure to be someone who'll appreciate your items.
Remember, one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Roberta Lee, founder of Ethical Brand Network, agreed with this idea. Roberta told Pension Times: "If you’re genuinely in need of new garments, and money is tight, you should consider hosting a clothes swapping party. It’s a great way to be social, have some fun and acquire new pieces at no additional cost.
"It helps to save money, reduce your carbon footprint and avoid clothes being under-utilised or ending up in landfill.
"And always go into a swap knowing that you can get items alerted, so don’t worry too much about finding the perfect fit."
Trade clothes online
Worried that your friends and family have very different clothing styles? If you’re looking for co-ord loungewear and maxi dresses, and all they can offer is chiffon midi skirts and ratty knitwear, you might need to look elsewhere.
This is where the internet comes to the rescue.
Many websites, like Freegle, offer platforms where people can trade clothing items directly with one another. Freecycle is another non-profit platform that is completely free and allows users to exchange things they no longer need with others in the local community. So whatever's on your wishlist, chances are someone in your town is giving it away!
There are also websites like Magic Freebies that allow you to claim freebies. You could claim things like Adidas t-shirts or Swarovski earrings. Some sites require you to complete surveys, while others ask you to become a product tester. You have to be pretty quick to claim the offers before they expire, but it's a great way to claim free clothes. You can also sign up for weekly emails with offers, so you never miss a good deal!
Buying new: from outlet retailers to shopping during sales
If you’ve gone through all the second-hand charity shops and Depop listings you could but still have several items on your clothes wishlist, do not despair!
If you're looking for new lingerie or nightwear, you might not want to buy second hand. However, that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune.
Hit the designer outlets to make a saving
Whatever you're looking for, it may be time to raid the local outlets for that perfect halterneck, denim jacket, or drawstring corset.
These stores sell items that are last season or have minor imperfections at a fraction of the original price. So if you're looking for a bargain, be sure to check out your local outlet store. You could save up to 40% on average for branded clothes that tend to be high quality.
You could even shop for outlet deals online. MoneySavingExpert has an excellent section on various retailers and their clearance websites. From Regatta to Ann Summers, you’re sure to find a brand that carries the perfect puffer jacket or lingerie set. And you don’t even have to worry about checkout queues and people eyeing your new bodycon dress judgmentally.
Stick to the sales
Another way to save money on clothes is to only shop during sales. This may mean being patient and waiting for your favourite items to go on sale, but it will be worth it when you save big! The most significant sales are usually at the end of the season, meaning you may be shopping for short sleeved-tees in September or scarves and vests in March.
As with outlet shopping, this means you will not be wearing the latest trends. But wearing the latest skinny jeans or t-shirt dress is overrated. Nowadays, people prefer vintage clothes anyway. Wearing clothes for just one season doesn’t exactly scream sustainability. And there’s nothing less outdated than not caring about the planet.
Use discount codes
If you really must have the latest styles, try hunting down some discount codes. Your dream long sleeve blouse or cardigan would be even nicer if it came with a 20% discount! Many websites offer a registration discount on signing up, too.
At the time of writing, Thread, a sustainability-focused retailer, offers 20% off if you place an order within 72 hours of signing up. There are options for every budget, and it makes sense to sign up if you're planning on buying a few items. You can use the discount and bag yourself quality clothes that'll last.
Many retailers offer similar discounts. Sometimes they require that you sign up for a free newsletter; other times, they ask that you refer a friend. Regardless, there are deals to be had if you look before you shop and sign up strategically.
Does fast fashion have a place?
Fast fashion is cheap, generally poor quality, and designed to follow trends. Fast fashion demands that consumers buy the latest trends, wear them a few times, and then throw them out. Many items are made quickly and use cheap materials like polyester, so they don't last.
Of course, it's easy to say you should buy a £50 sustainable pair of mom jeans and eschew a £10 fast-fashion option. But when you do not have the money to purchase sustainable straight leg jeans, basic tees, or sleeveless tops for summer, you may opt for fast fashion instead.
To ensure fast fashion is as affordable over the long term as quality pieces, you will need to consider your cost per wear. The cost per wear means you take the product's initial price and divide it by how many times you wear it.
So how do you make fast fashion last longer? You could:
- Wash your clothes at a lower temperature and avoid fabric softener as this makes clothes fade quicker and reduces the elasticity
- Ditch the dryer when you can and dry your clothes outside instead
- Learn to sew so you can mend your clothes if a button pops out from your favourite playsuit or you rip your nicest bandeau top
- Remember to donate or exchange once you’re done with the piece
If fast fashion is your only option, make it as sustainable and long-lasting as possible. It’ll be good for your wallet and good for the planet.
Cheap clothes for the budget-conscious shopper
There has been a growing trend towards minimalism in recent years, and people are increasingly opting for quality over quantity. When it comes to clothes, this means investing in a few staple items that will last rather than constantly buying new things that will quickly go out of fashion.
Second-hand shopping is a great way to save money on a new wardrobe, and there are now numerous websites and apps that make it easy to find quality second-hand clothes.
Alternatively, you could shop at outlet malls or only during sales. Discount codes can also be a great way to save money on your clothing purchases. By becoming a more mindful shopper, you can save money and declutter your wardrobe at the same time.