Most people like buying clothes a little more than they’d admit. It’s the easiest way to feel like a new person, and it’s amazing how wearing the right outfit can lift your mood. If you’ve set aside money each month for clothing, you should formulate spending rules. These are my rules, honed and refined over twenty-two years of being a girl and a shopper.
1. Never buy anything at full cost.
My mom taught me this rule at an early age. She is one of these amazing people who can walk out of a store with bags full of items that the manager is paying her to take. As a result of her training, I have a closet full of mostly name-brand clothes for which I’ve paid relatively little. My method is to always head straight for the back of the store to the sale racks and comb through those; and, if I see something I love during the season, I give it three or four months to come down in price. My one exception to the “no full cost” rule: underwear and socks.
2. Determine what you need.
In looking through my closet the other day, I realized that I have six—yes, six—black shirts. I just keep buying black shirts. I do not need any more black shirts. I’ve crossed that option off my list, and I won’t buy any black shirts for a long time. Easy and effective.
3. Develop a style.
I work at an investment bank in midtown Manhattan, which means there’s a very distinctive unspoken dress code: A sort of chic pants-and-sweater look, and mostly black. I tend to buy all black clothes, or things that will match with black. As a result, all my work clothes match each other and getting dressed in the morning when I’m groggy is foolproof. It also keeps me from blowing money on green tweed suits, for instance.
4. Never buy anything unless you love it.
I laid this rule down for myself with shoes, originally, because everyone knows that you’ll never wear a pair of uncomfortable shoes, no matter what the brand. I’ve extended it to all my clothing. If I don’t love how it looks on me, I don’t buy it. I know I’ll never wear it anyhow.
5. Rarely buy anything unless you need it.
Occasionally you may walk into a store and fall madly in love with a bright green turtleneck sweater; however, as a rule, train yourself to pass by items that you really don’t need. I have my doubts about the wisdom of consistently spending money on frivolities, especially if you buy quality (see the next point).
6. Go for quality, not quantity.
If you can afford it, it’s generally better to buy one pair of excellent pants rather than three pairs of mediocre pants that will fall apart. I used to buy the cheapest I could find, but I had to replace items so often that I realized it wasn’t worth it. Most people can’t afford designer clothing, but if you can swing it, go for well-made items that won’t fall apart in the wash.
7. Ignore fashion.
I’m not saying you should be frumpy or unfashionable, but buying trendy clothes generally just leads to waste. Find the silhouettes that suit you and stick to them. If a certain piece of clothing is all over the runways, but it makes you look ridiculous, then ignore it. It will go away eventually.
8. Only carry cash.
I should really take my own advice here, but if you can manage it, leave the credit card at home. It makes impulse purchases a lot harder, and paying with cash makes you more cogniscent of what you are spending.
9. Beware of online shopping.
I love shopping online, but it is so hard to find clothes that fit without trying them on, and in my opinion it can be more of a hassle than it’s worth. Be completely sure that you want what you are buying before you buy it.
10. Cut yourself some slack.
Once in a while, it’s fun to buy a frivolous item that you’ll wear once or twice, like a crazy sparkly fabulous red dress or a really amazing shirt. If you’re seeking to be frugal and responsible with your clothing budget, it’s OK to occasionally be frivolous. After all, variety is the spice of life.