Clothes are one of those expenses easily avoided. Paying $50 for a shirt, slacks, or any kind of clothes is something I’ve never done and is insane. Today I will show you how Mrs. Accountant acquires the necessary brand-new garments for our household for less than $200 per year for a family of four. If you read to the end of the post (no peeking) I will show you a trick where you can get nearly unlimited amounts of free clothing.
Trading time to find awesome deals is not cheap, nor free. Clothes shopping is simple and fast when you know where to look and when. I have a closet filled with more clothes than I need. The females of the house have more than I do. It still amazes me when Mrs. Accountant walks in the door from grocery shopping with a million dollar smile and two bags overflowing with clothes she spent less than $20 on. I must admit it is not hard to love that woman.
Low cost quality clothing requires a few tactics to divide and conquer. The most important tactic is to destroy any desire for trendy clothes. I am lucky my girls never wanted to keep up with the Sheila’s of the world and all the crap peddled by Disney teen stars. Learning to be happy with what you have is the first step. When you are in a bind and must buy something it is a recipe for disaster.
Armed for Battle
We will start our venture with some traditional ways to reduce your clothing budget to the single digits. When travelling with Mrs. Accountant I get the honor of seeing her in action and you know how I enjoy watching a hot woman take control. Earlier this year we had a chance to spend some time in Seattle. We decided to schedule relaxing time which does not work well for me. After an hour or two of sitting around I wanted to get a book so I decided we should walk to the nearest library. Several stores were between us and the library so Mrs. Accountant was able to glance in the front door of each and could smell if there were any bargains.
In all fairness, Mrs. A only stepped into a handful of stores. Hauling a bargain home would be a waste so it was more of a fact finding mission for her. Now I want to remind you this is Seattle where breathing costs $47.50. In this rarified air Mrs. A found a jacket, pants and shirt for $6.50. It actually looked really nice. Okay, we put in the cart. What was nice about the outfit was that it was light, waterproof (the jacket), yet made of quality material.
Keith’s Rule 20: You can find deals everywhere. Keep your eyes open while travelling for awesome deals.
Many years ago, shortly after we got married, Mrs. A and I took our honeymoon in Jamaica. Near the end of our two week stay we found a vendor selling shirts and T-shirts for $1 each, American. Mrs. A demanded I buy the shirts she thought we needed in our closet. I paid for 28 and had them delivered home for under $5. I have no idea how the guy made money, but I didn’t buy another shirt for over five years.
Back home where most of you find the things you wear there is a plethora of low-cost clothing opportunities. You need to know where and when to look for the bargains; there is no need to waste loads of time just to get a pair of pants.
The best time to buy clothes in retail outlets is near the end of the season. What you wear next year is what you bought this year on the closeout rack. Wal-Mart has excellent deals on shirt and pants. For $1 to $3 you can find a lot of stuff to fill your wardrobe. If you are looking for higher quality, Kohl’s has serious opportunities. JC Penney also has deals, but are harder to find. Mrs. A has even found goodies at Macy’s. (I’ve never set foot in a Macy’s; it could be a strip club for ladies for all I know. That could explain some of the deals she has brought home.)
Kohl’s is an interesting example. The end of season closeout racks have high quality clothing for a few dollars. In our neck of the woods Kohl’s mails discount cards. This allows the closeout items to be even cheaper yet. Don’t worry if you don’t get the mailer. When buying clothes always ask the checkout person if there are any offers you missed and that you don’t have the discount card. Most have a default card behind the register and allow you the additional discount anyway. My oldest daughter combined several offers at Kohl’s recently for 11 clothing item for under $40.
There is more. I don’t think there is a retailer left who doesn’t offer their own credit card. As an incentive to use their card they frequently have an instant signup bonus and additional discounts just for using their card. This is above and beyond the closeout rack discount and advertised discount cards. I sign up for every store’s card. More than once if I can. If the kids don’t want one I’ll use it for them. Many companies give $50 to $100 upfront. There is a local hardware store that ran a special where you receive up to $500 off your first purchase with their card. I bought $503 of stuff and closed the card. Reopened a new one for the missus; she is such a spender.
Shirts, t-shirts, pants, swim suits, and even dresses are fairly easy to find on the discount rack. Undergarments are a different story. Underwear, socks, and bras are not always available at a discount. [I am reading this to Mrs. A while I edit and she says I am wrong here.] Guys have it better because an opened package of skivvies might get sold cheap, but lady’s undergarments generally do not. [Mrs. A says I am wrong again.] Ask the attendant at the changing room if the store has such deals on undergarments. It never hurts to ask.
If you are not picky like me you can check Goodwill or larger thrift shops. Sometimes manufacturers give undergarments with minor defects to Goodwill and Goodwill sells them to you cheap. And don’t start with me about wanting good quality skivvies without blemish. After the first use all underwear has defects!
The really hard part is finding bras cheap. [I don’t shop for bras personally (not that I will admit) and Mrs. A says you can find bras at a discount.] Ladies seem to expect comfort when covering their chest. Once again I have some ideas. Haha. Discount racks (might I add another haha) might have a limited selection of bras, none of which fit (not that I am an expert on the subject). We will use a trick I mentioned above. Online retailers, including Amazon, offer big discounts when you get their credit card. For example, the retailer may say you get a $60 statement credit when using their branded Visa card. You can buy a lot of cup holders for sixty bucks! Once you use up the credit get your husband or boyfriend to open an account. Now you can buy another $60 of slingshots. Just think, hubby will be happy when he sees a package in the mail with his name on it and will still be happy when he opens it. For some reason guys like the sight of bras. Go figure.
New Clothes for FREE!
Now for the moment you have all been waiting for. There is a place you can go where they have to throw unused clothes away and pay a landfill fee to dispose of the clothing. Print shops that put labels on uniforms, shirts, t-shirts, jackets, et cetera, have rejects that must be disposed of. Some companies demand the product be destroyed, others have no restriction.
I have a client (I always have a client) with a print shop who has given me hats, t-shirts, and even jackets for free. Sure beats tossing it in the garbage. Over the years I have collected quite a closet full of stuff without cost.
Any business I frequent I ask if they have jackets or shirts they give to clients. It is free advertising for them and free clothes for me. Now I hate ads as much as the next guy, but I’d wear a t-shirt promoting feminine hygiene products to church if was free. Just think of all the attention you will get from the ladies. You will be prime dating material.
You would be surprised how many businesses, especially contractors like HVAC guys, hand out free clothes with the company logo on it. Farmers are lucky; everybody is giving them free bib overalls. Business owners also get a lot of free goodies. Check your local printers and silk screening shops for free clothes.
Closing the Closet Door
We had some fun with this today. I hope you can use some of these ideas to cut your clothing budget and maybe invent a few new ways to fill the closet without emptying the wallet. The photo in this post of Mrs. A in a pink hoodie jacket is an example of a free clothing item available for asking. It is warm and comfortable. I know because I have a blue one I paid $3 for.
Please share any money-saving ideas in the comments section below. Some of you have better ways than I of reducing clothing costs. I have loads of ideas, but Mrs. A is a lot smarter than me on the subject. She provided some input, but I am a stubborn accountant who wrote what he wanted.
Monday 9th of September 2019
I get a lot of my work clothing (and really all of my clothing) from the "$5 a bag" church rummage sale down the street. And I get compliments all the time!
Sunday 28th of August 2016
I volunteer at a thrift store and you would not believe all the new or lightly used clothes that come in. Top name brands and high quality. You do need to have a list in your head of what you need or will need.
Saturday 27th of August 2016
As an accountant I assume you dress professionally at your office. Do you have any ideas on how to get cheap deals on suit and tie? I'll be working in a professional office and will need a few suits. Everything I find in a couple hundred bucks.
Sunday 28th of August 2016
Tyler, I dress professionally, but never wear a suit at the office. I'm more of a slacks and polo shirt type of guy in the summer with slacks and a long sleeve button down shirt the rest of the year. Keep in mind half my clients never see me. Of the clients who do see me many are blue collar and are not looking for a suit and tie kind of guy.
I do own a suit so I know how to wear one and believe it or not remember how to tie a double windsor. There are good deals at many men's clothing stores for a normal suit. I say normal because you can really unload the wallet on a suit if you go top of the line. A suit will cost more than my normal clothing budget, but the periodic offers of buy one get one free can fill your closet for a reasonable cost. If you buy right and take care of the suit it should last a long time.Ask for any special deals men's stores have. I would wait until the right offer came along before buying and then I would get it done all at once.
Another consideration is to dump the suit for a piecemeal outfit. Buy a sport jacket or two and then buy slacks and dress shirts using methods from the article above. This is my method. I tend to wear a sport jacket with a dress shirt and dress slacks or khakis.