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DIY HOME BUDGETING TIPS
My Birthday Gift (to myself) + How I Save The Most Money On Clothes
I’m getting a little personal today. My birthday is this week and even though I’ve committed to spending less in 2019, I was able to buy myself an expensive gift for only $5! Today on the blog, I’m sharing my top money saving tips For nice clothes. This is how I have a pared-down wardrobe of expensive, quality clothing for pennies on the dollar!
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First, let’s start with my birthday gift to myself because it took me a while to decide what I was going to buy and I’m super jazzed about it.
My birthday is January 12th. Each year, I receive a $15 store credit voucher from Banana Republic that allows me to take $15 off any purchase. There’s no exclusion and no minimum to buy. I’ll go more in-depth with this in a minute, but for now, you should know that I get this coupon because I have a Banana Republic Luxe Visa Credit Card and that I don’t have to spend thousands of dollars at their store to qualify for it. This year, I also happen to have a $10 Rewards Certificate for using my Luxe Card to pay for bills. This system is a little hard to explain but I’ll go into major details below.
With both of those credits/rewards, I had $25 I could spend at Banana Republic before January 31st (the month of my birthday). To get the most out of that money, I decided to do two things;
1. Make a list of items I always wish I have when I’m getting dressed. For instance, if I pick up a blazer from my closet and think to myself This would look so cute with a leopard print blouse, then I add Leopard Print Blouse to the list. It takes a few weeks to really get the list going but I keep a pencil and pad of paper in my closet to keep track of all my missing links. This is a method I’ve always meant to instill but it was’t until I was reading Shavonda Gardner’s post on The Holes In Our Home during which she mentioned Karen Brit Chick’s method for building a better wardrobe that it finally clicked and I put the plan into action. Once I had my list and my $25 certificates in-hand, I committed to myself that I would only buy something if it appeared on that list. This is my way of making sure whatever I purchase is going to actually be worn. I have a terrible habit of buying clothes that are trendy and cheap but then not ever wearing them. Note to self: a good deal is only a good deal if the product gets used.
2. Shop the clearance and sale sections to stack discounts. This is kind of a no-brainer for me. My grandmother used to collect everyone’s old newspapers and sit at her table for hours on Sundays clipping coupons that matched the sale items for that coming week. She was the original Extreme Couponer - out of necessity. She raised NINE KIDS, after her husband died suddenly, and supported them all on only his social security income for the remainder of her life. The lady had to figure out a way to make ends meet and for her, coupons + sales stacking kept food on the table. The Krazy Coupon Lady has built an empire teaching people how to do this. For a quick introduction to her method, read this. That method is mostly about groceries, but I apply the same mental formula to everything I buy - clothing, home decor, appliances - and through the years, it’s allowed me to have nicer things than any of my paychecks would ever have allowed. In fact, I get snide comments from family members about how I must be rich. Ha! Hardly. Trust me. It’s all in the methods.
I’ll dive deeper into those methods later in the post. For now, let’s stick to what I bought and what I almost bought for myself, after applying these methods.
WHAT I BOUGHT
On the list of items my wardrobe needs, I’d jotted down Turtlenecks - Anything But Black. I love the one turtleneck I own (this one in black). It’s super-slimming and the collar keeps the wind chill off my neck but doesn’t strangle me like the turtlenecks of my childhood did. Since it’s lightweight, I often pair it with a bulkier sweater for warmth. Since I’d also jotted down Beige Sweater, this seemed like the perfect item to tie right into my existing closet and check TWO of the items off my list. Plus, the price was good. Like, so good. Marked down from $60 to $30 for their Winter Sale, I was happy to spend just $5 on it. In fact, here’s a screenshot of my order total.
By combining the two Rewards Certificates and using my Luxe Card to pay the difference, I even qualified for free shipping. So my complete total for this $60 sweater was $5 + tax of $0.46! My sweater is set to arrive the day before my birthday, so I’ll be able to wear it for that weekend’s brunch celebration! (PS. My birthday is also the day Christine is taking over my Instagram for 24 hours, so make sure you’re following me here to see the sweater in action + to see the behind the scenes follies of my life).
WHAT I ALMOST BOUGHT
Each of these items would have checked one of the things off my list, but none of them checked off two. So in buying the sweater, I felt like I was getting a true two-for-one deal. Plus, I really just love the sweater. Now, since the gameplan was to pay as little as possible, I actually did end up spending more on the sweater than I would have on the belt or necklace (both are under $25), but I would have needed to add them together to get the full discount which would have made my total higher than the $5 I spent on the sweater. So even though I only got one item, I still spent less than I would have on two.
Also, it was really just personal preference. I feel like I’m going to get more wear out of the sweater than the accessories that I’m likely to only use once a month or so. Which brings me to my next topic:
CAPSULE WARDROBE TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE VARIETY
How I save money and time on my wardrobe by following a few capsule wardrobe ideas without going fully minimalist.
STEP ONE: FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU DON’T WEAR
The biggest recommendation I have for people who want to save money on their clothes is this: STOP BUYING CLOTHES YOU DON’T WEAR. I’m totally guilty of this. I am the queen of the Target Clearance Section. I find a top for $3 and my heart fills with joy. It’s only THREE DOLLARS and it doesn’t matter that it’s a synthetic piece of neon orange garbage because it’s only three dollars! Yeah. That’s my mental justification for all those too-young-for-me, too-old-for-me, too-tight-for-me, too-bright-for-me purchases of yesteryear. But that was then and this is NOW. I refuse to keep adding pieces to my literal and mental square footage without taking a deep consideration about their use.
Think about it. If you have 15 sweaters and you want to wear a sweater, you’re going to have to sift through FIFTEEN PIECES before you get to the one you want to wear. You spend time thinking about them. You mentally agonize over your guilt that the tags are still on half of them. You take them off the hanger, put them on your body, realize you don’t like them, then toss them on the floor I favor of your old standby sweater that always gets you compliments and feels like clouds on your body.
Two days (weeks?) later, you pick all those rejects off the floor of your closet/bedroom and hang them back up to repeat the process again over and over and over until one day, you’re on TLC being reprimanded for your stack of empty tuna cans and moth-ridden Forever 21 kitten blouses.
Stop the cycle. Ditch the clothes you don’t wear. Right now. Go upstairs and spend 15 minutes grabbing everything you don’t ever wear and then take a picture of the pile with your phone before you take it to the donation bin.
Study that photo. What do all of your cast-offs have in common? Find the link. Whether it’s color, ill-fitting, scratchy material, or out-dated. There’s a link. Make note of that so you can ask yourself Does this X have these attributions? next time you’re browsing clothes to buy. If it does, don’t buy it.
STEP TWO: FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU DO WEAR
This is going to be easier than the first step, I promise. Everyone has a personal style. Even if you think you don’t, you do.
To figure out your personal style, here’s a quick test: You have five minutes to get dressed. You’re going to a brunch with girlfriends and someone’s bringing a new friend they want you to meet. You’ve heard a lot about her. She sounds really cool and you think you’re going to hit it off but you want to make a good first impression.
Set a timer for 5 minutes. Pick out your outfit. Accessories included.
Study it. Is it casual? What do the materials have in common? What are the colors like? Is each item bold or do you prefer a more neutral look with bolder accessories?
This is your go-to style.
For me, my go-to style has a formula that meets these standards;
natural materials like cotton/linen (or natural-looking, in the case of vegan leather)
neutral or muted color palettes with one accent color
timeless / classic silhouettes like Oxford shirts and blazers
layering with contrasting dark/light tones
mixing patterns with solids
longer, tummy-concealing tops
high-waisted pants that hit at or above the ankle
small accessories with one stand-out piece (statement bag, earrings, necklace, etc)
I use this checklist, combined with my Closet Needs mentioned before, any time I’m considering new clothing additions. If it doesn’t meet these standards in every single way, I don’t buy it.
I also noticed I’ve inadvertently developed a colorway for my wardrobe. Once I made note of that, I actually printed my own colorboard, which I keep in my office, to help guide me as I’m making purchases.
I know this seems totally neurotic, but so does stressing over every single outfit and changing your clothes ten times before you leave the house. A little bit of planning + neurosis goes a long way in streamlining my wardrobe decisions.
Also, you’re probably going to notice that my clothing color board looks a lot like my home’s colorway and my business branding. That’s not an error.
I like what I like.
By fully committing to my own preferences, I’m saving myself the headache of needing to plan out every single step of the way. With these factors already in place, I can forge ahead with the four million other decisions I have to make on any given day.
Apply Business Branding Techniques To Simplify Your Wardrobe:
plan out a capsule wardrobe using the clothing, materials, and colors you already have in your closet
STEP THREE: LEARN TO LAYER
By learning to layer your clothing, you open up a new realm of possibilities with each piece. For instance, a single blouse may only look good with that one skirt that doesn’t fit the way you’d prefer so you never wear either. But if you pair that blouse with a neutral sweater, you might find you enjoy the more casual look it gives with your old standby jeans!
Learning to layer your clothing also helps you achieve more with less. I only have one pair of jeans - this skinny dark wash pair that goes with everything. On Saturdays, I wear them with a tee shirt and tennis shoes to go grocery shopping. But I also dress them up with a pair of loafers and a blazer for work meetings. On date night, I don a pair of black heels, silk blouse, and statement earrings to make them look especially chic. The same blazer and tennis shoes can be repurposed with my tee shirt for a casual brunch look. See??? The possibilities are endless when you learn how to layer appropriately for each day.
That’s why I call this a “Capsule Wardrobe For People Who Like Variety”. I don’t have only five staple pieces. I enjoy mixing things up and playing around a bit. I’ve just found that I’m able to get more action from my clothes if I keep my base layers fairly simple and add interest through top layers and accessories. Sherry, at Young House Love, is super good at going full-on capsule wardrobe. She has, like, 7 items in her closet. For her tips on truly going minimal, see her post here: My Minimal Wardrobe.
SAVE MONEY BY WEARING CLOTHES OVER AND OVER AGAIN
A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF MY ONLY PAIR OF JEANS
It’s not the prettiest collage you’ll ever see online but I wanted to show you the depth to which I apply capsule wardrobe techniques to save money on clothes while still providing plenty of variety to my everyday looks. Those bad boys get a lot of use. If I’m not wearing yoga pants or PJs, I’m probably in these jeans.
I’ve had them over two years - they were the first wardrobe item I bought after I finally gave up my maternity jeans three years ago. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I lost a lot of weight because of morning sickness and dietary adjustments. Even after she was born, I never gained it back and ended up not being able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy pants. So I just wore my maternity jeans until finally they were falling off me.
There’s a technique to keeping clothes lasting this long. First, I don’t launder my jeans every time I wear them. I wash them once a week at the most. I never wear them for manual labor - I have a pair of paint pants I reserve just for home projects and gardening.
I addition to not laundering as often, I also don’t launder my clothes the way everyone else does.
I have some pretty extreme skin allergies which makes it really hard for me to use a normal detergent. But don’t worry - I don’t have to order some $100 soap or make my own at home. I actually spend less money and use less resources using the laundry method outlined at the bottom of this post: How I Clean My Entire 3,000 Square Foot House With Only 4 Natural Ingredients You Can Get At The Grocery Store:
BUY NICE CLOTHES BUT NEVER PAY FULL PRICE.
So all of those techniques show you how to buy fewer items less frequently but now let’s talk about how I save money on the items I do buy.
How I Save Money on Nice Clothes
I don't thrift or take surveys or use any special technique that you can't do yourself. Here's how I get my clothes for pennies on the dollar:
GET THE MOST FROM YOUR STORE-AFFILIATED CREDIT CARDS
I have a store-affiliated Visa credit card. Simply having the card can earn you rewards but I take special care to really maximize the rewards for which I’m eligible.
Since it’s a Visa, I can use this card to pay for almost anything, including my monthly bills.
So I do. I set up all my monthly bills to automatically charge to my BR Visa. That means I’m combining over $1,000 a month onto ONE CREDIT CARD. As those bills hit the card, I make a payment to pay them off, so there’s never any interest charge. BUT I STILL GET THE REWARDS BONUSES for the dollar amounts spent. Since I have such a high-dollar spending amount, this qualifies me for Luxe status which offers even greater benefits including free shipping on every order with no minimum. This is pertinent because you don’t want to pay $15 to ship something you’re only paying $5 for!
Using this method, I stack up rewards points very quickly, which means I can shop for free, or basically for free, at their store whenever I want.
Combining those rewards points with the method of stacking sales and coupons that I outlined above allows me to purchase the clothing I need at rock-bottom prices.
WAIT FOR SALES
Don’t use your rewards points as soon as you get them. To maximize your rewards dollars, you need to wait for the items you want to go on sale. The best sales are Additional 40% Off Clearance. These happen quarterly and usually only last a few days.
Sign up for the newsletters at the bottom of this page so that when they’re on, you’ll know first thing that morning. Trust me, you want to jump on those sales because everything sells out QUICKLY.
This is another reason you want to start using the “Closet Needs” List Method I talked about before. Because when that sale is finally on, you don’t want to waste time trying to determine a list of stuff you want to buy. You want to make sure you already have that list handy to avoid accidentally buying something you don’t end up wearing.
If you really need something, settle for a smaller discount but still stick to the sale stacking method.
The sweater I bought wasn’t on clearance + 40% off. It was 50% off the original price. That was good enough for me because I know that the odds of BR running a clearance sale during the first month of the quarter are very low and I had that free $15 Birthday Certificate to spend before the end of the month. Since it checked all my “Needs” boxes, I was happy to spend a little of my own dough on it.
YOU CAN APPLY THIS METHOD TO ALMOST ANY STORE
You don’t have to specifically shop at Banana Republic to use this method. If you don’t currently have a store credit card for a place you frequently shop, do your research. Find out what your favorite stores offer their cardholders. Do a little math to make sure you can maximize your benefits without paying interest.
This is the last piece of advice I’m going to give and I really want to emphasize it: DON’T CHARGE ANYTHING TO YOUR CREDIT CARD THAT YOU DON’T ALREADY HAVE THE MONEY TO BUY.
People get into serious debt by not following this advice. So I want to be clear - if you end up paying interest, you haven’t saved a dime. Only charge what you can pay off that month for this method to work.
That’s why I only charge my monthly bills. Those are already budgeted and I know I can afford them. Anything else (like an unexpected emergency expense) goes on another card that offers 0% interest until I can pay it off.
How about you? How do you save money on the more frivolous purchases? Do you use a similar method with another store card? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!
YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS + I’VE GOT ANSWERS.
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