Updating your look for less

Building a Casual Wardrobe

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Building A New Casual Wardrobe

For the last three years, I haven't bought any new clothes. Being pregnant and running after a toddler will do that to you. Now, I'm ready to replace many of the worn out, bleach stained, soiled or just plain outdated clothes and get some new things to feel more like me and not just a mom.

I don't have a lot of money or time to scour a lot of clearance racks. With two kids under two, I have to be pretty quick about shopping. I'm not a fashion maven, but I do like to be somewhat stylish. I do like quality clothes but hesitate to spend so much! Any ideas on how to build a smart casual wardrobe without cracking the kids' college fund?

Keep It Simple

I remember those times! Build a wardrobe around black, tan, and denim. Shop for black and tan slacks and capris. Add denim jeans, capris and a jean jacket. Purchase tops in colors that flatter your complexion. Buy a snappy black skirt for those dressier times. And now comes the fun part! Accessorize with jewelry, shoes, bags and purses purchased on sale. Don't try to do it all at once and remember your makeup! After being up half the night with a crying, teething, toddler, you need a little color on your face to make it through the day. Most importantly, enjoy each and every day with your little ones. It goes by so quickly.
Blessings from Iowa

Become a Freecycler

I use www.freecycle.org to request clothes. Many times, I receive what I'm asking for. Just go to the site and sign up for your local area.

Shop for Ebates

I lost 30 pounds last year and here's how I saved on new clothes. I joined a few sites like ebates that give you back a certain percentage for everything you buy. Then I went to the individual clothing sites listed and got on their mailing lists for sales, etc. When I receive an email saying they are having a big sale, I buy at sale prices, plus I get a percentage back from ebates (or a site like it). You set up an account with them, and every three months, they mail you a check! I've also saved tons of money this way on things like printer cartridges, electronics, housewares, bedding, etc. It's much cheaper to buy this way!

Save every shopping dollar that you can! Receive cash back on your purchases when you use one or more of these 14 favorite cash back shopping sites.

Have a Plan

The best solution I've found to building a wardrobe is to use shopping magazines and style guides to give you direction. The best one I've found is The Lucky Shopping Manual. It not only shows a lot of great outfit choices, but the book actually gives you a set number of shirts, skirts, pants, etc. that you should have as basics in your wardrobe. It gives you a plan without limiting your options, and this way, you will be able to go through your current wardrobe and see any deficiencies.

Crazy about Catalogs

What I have done in the past is "window shop" at home via catalogs. I circle the clothes that I like and set the catalogs aside until the end of the season. I sign up for that company's email notifications of sales, and at the end of the season, I can usually get anywhere from 50-75% off the original sale price in the catalog doing things this way. Occasionally, I can even find free shipping. A really good catalog for simple, stylish, and casual clothes is Blair. They carry many sizes and are very affordable.

Slideshow: How to Build an Affordable Business Casual Wardrobe

Start with eBay

I have built an entire casual and professional post-pregnancy wardrobe via eBay. I assessed my wardrobe needs and then I searched specifically on eBay for my size, color, and/or brand names that I like (Gap, Eddie Bauer, etc.). Most of the items I purchased were new with the tags still on them, but cost about 25% of retail. You can also shop in your spare time on the Internet when the kids are napping and you have time to browse. Once you establish an eBay account, you can sell your maternity clothes and any good condition clothes you no longer want on eBay to help pay for your new clothes!
Mary in Colorado

Find Treasure in Consignment Shops

I make great use of consignment and other "gently used" clothing stores. I have found some incredible buys, such as designer suits for a fraction of the cost and shoes and purses that are good as new. These places have come a long way in the past few years. I deal with one store that will allow me a "trade-in" value for the clothes I take in to them. They credit me a dollar value for my own used clothes into an account that I then use to purchase someone else's! Look for shops that are clean and well organized.

Related: Online Clothing Resale Shops

Arrange a Clothing Swap

Have every invited friend bring a friend of her own. You'll be surprised at the amount of clothing that will come with every woman. You may not all be the same size, but it always turns out very well. Everybody is sure to leave happy!

Steps to Keep Expenses Down

I replaced an entire wardrobe three years ago when I lost a lot of weight. Here's what I did to keep the expense down:

  • Make a list of what you need to buy. This will keep you focused.
  • Shop the clearance racks for basics. I rarely bought anything over $7.
  • A few good things are better than a lot of crummy ones. Shop at the best stores, not the cheap ones.
  • Try to shop when the stores are empty. You'll be rewarded with neater racks./li>
  • Use in-store promotions, such as coupons and special rewards to keep the cost down.
  • Leave the little ones with a sitter. You'll be able to focus better.
  • Go on a treasure hunt. You may be surprised what you can find for $5 and under, especially in the summer.
  • Don't buy anything you don't love. Make an exception only for basics like jeans.
  • Be sure you have the right foundation garments on when you shop./li>
  • Have fun.


Related: A Wardrobe Swap Party

Be Selective about Where You Shop

If you don't have time to "scour a lot of sale racks," you can probably save time by limiting your search to places that are basically nothing but sale racks. Check the phone book for consignment shops in your area. These stores tend to carry merchandise that is a bit newer, a bit nicer, and a bit pricier than your basic thrift shop, but still much cheaper than retail. Places like Marshall's or TJ Maxx, which specialize in brand-name items at reduced prices, could also be a good bet.

Lastly, you can shop online, which lets you scour those clearance racks at your convenience from your own home. The only drawback is that you can't try things on as you find them, so make sure to check the retailer's return policy before buying anything.

Reviewed May 2017

Take the Next Step

  • Shop the largest online consignment and thrift store for women's, men's, baby & kids' clothing and accessories.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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