Ultimate Guide on Shopping for Clothes on a Budget - Savvy

Gift Cards Travel Ultimate Guide on Shopping for Clothes on a Budget



· 10 min read

Even if you don't think of yourself as a fashionista or a fan of the latest and hottest trends on Instagram, there's no doubt that clothes are an essential need for everyone. For some, filling their wardrobe with the newest fashion items is a rewarding process while for others, shopping can be a chore. Regardless of your reason to shop, and what occasion you might need clothes for, you probably want to save as much money as possible while making the right purchases. 

It's not a hidden fact that clothes can be expensive. In fact, for the average family of four, the amount of money spent on clothes per year is close to $1,800. Especially if you have kids, clothes are a huge expenditure considering how fast kids outgrow their clothes. Even if you don't have a family, people on average spend at least $160 on clothes per month. If you want to save more money in the long run, carefully selecting and purchasing the clothes that'll go into your closet is important for your bank account. 

You might be wondering, "How do I buy clothes for cheap?" In this article, we're going to give you a comprehensive guide to shopping for trendy clothes on a budget. From the nitty-gritty logistics to listing a diverse range of thrift stores, we got you covered on the do's and don'ts to accessible, cheap fashion.


Determine What You Want to Buy and Budget

Like for any other purchases made in your life, determining what you want and your budget is crucial before you spend your money. For some individuals, purchasing clothes to fill their closet is a luxury while juggling bills, loans, and rent. 

It's best to know exactly what you want to buy before you go browsing for clothes. Ask yourself a few basic questions. Did your jeans gain a few new holes recently along the inner thigh, rendering them unwearable in public? Have you noticed that your sock pile has been growing smaller and smaller over the months? We're not saying that you shouldn't buy clothes that make you happy or help you express yourself. However, you don't want to drop all your month's salary on an item you don't need and end up having to take money from your savings to cover a last-minute, necessary purchase. Furthermore, by prioritizing what your wardrobe needs first, you can cut down the time spent shopping.

Besides figuring out what you want to buy, another way to save money is to properly budget and question your choices. Can you really afford those $500 overalls? Are your shoes actually worn down or do you just want to shell out an extra 1K for those limited edition sneakers? Setting a realistic price limit to clothes is a good way to decide which items you should buy and which ones are off-limits. You'll also feel more satisfaction picking up that expensive skirt when it's on a 60% sale rather than buying it full price.


Think About Your Consumer Style

The next step would be to examine your consumer style. Nobody knows you better than yourself, and recognizing your buying patterns is key to finding the right tactics to save money.

Are you an impulse buyer? Do you prefer only shopping when a piece of clothing in your wardrobe is too worn out? Are you a fan of fast fashion? Do you see trendy clothes as an investment? These seemingly simple questions will reveal your spending habits. Every shopping preference has its pros and cons; being able to identify your style will allow you to adjust how you spend your money.

For example, if you're an impulse buyer, you might benefit more from knowing what you want to buy before going to the local mall. It's also a good idea to talk to someone else about a big purchase before you go ahead and punch in your credit card information. If you see trendy clothes as an investment, especially from a high-quality brand, you might want to keep your eyes on a particular piece of clothing and wait for it to go on sale so you can snag it for a cheaper price.

How we shop and why we want to shop are important factors to consider when maintaining a budget and keeping our wallets healthy.


Plan Ahead

Before you buy something, you should ask yourself: why do I want to buy this? Will I wear this in the future? Where will I wear it to? How hard is it to care for this particular item? Will it last through multiple washes without breaking down?

Some individuals see clothes as a long-term investment. Even if they spend $100 on a pair of jeans, the money is worth it if the jeans last longer than half a decade with consistent washing and wearing. After all, would you rather spend $10 on a shirt that's only good for a few wears? Or would you rather spend $100 and not have to worry about replacing that piece of clothing for years?

When it comes to buying clothes on a budget, fast fashion is a popular option. Fast fashion brands such as Forever 21, H&M, and Zara are known for offering a vast variety of affordable and trendy clothes and accessories.

However, keep this statistic in mind: the fashion industry contributes to 10% of the world's carbon emissions. This particular industry actually has more emissions than maritime transport and international flights combined. We're not saying to avoid fast fashion retailers altogether, but if you want to browse the trendy selection at your local H&M, think about how often you will wear that piece or if it'll end up at the back of your wardrobe.


Keeping an Eye on Sales

One of the most tempting things in the world are clothing markdowns, especially ones that are on sale for more than 50%. While we don't suggest going out to shop every time there's an awesome deal just for the sake of the discount, sales are a good way to buy a chic clothing item you've been eyeing without breaking the bank.

You may be wondering: when do I look out for sales? After all, knowing when the sale occurs is half the battle. Here are some general tips to make sure you never miss out on an opportunity to cop a steal:

Three-Day Weekends

Most major clothing brands have some type of sales on specific holidays such as Labor Day, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and so on. People will be spending time with their family out in the mall or browsing online, so it's the perfect time to host a sale and rake in that extra cash. Even specific events such as Cyber Monday generate huge profits, particularly for online brands that don't have physical stores.

If you have a specific, trendy clothing brand that you're especially fond of, keeping track of when that brand has a good deal is more beneficial in the long run. For the penny pinchers, consider making a note on your calendar or compiling a list of sales and their markdowns on a spreadsheet.

Beginning or End of a Season

It's common knowledge that if you want to buy a swimsuit or a winter coat, you do so at the end of the season. Stores are trying their best to get rid of extra, out-of-season clothing, so the prices for these items will be marked down significantly. The same goes for spring and fall items as well. If you plan your purchases ahead of time, you can snag some extra cheap, trendy, and fashionable deals while showing up in your best style.

Flash Sales

Flash sales are trickier because they happen out-of-the-blue. They also tend to have time limits, which places pressure on impulse buyers to put something in the cart. We only suggest checking out flash sales if there's a fashionable clothing item that's been on your wishlist for a long time, and you just happen to be waiting for a good deal. However, if you want to take advantage as well as know when a flash sale is happening, we suggest subscribing to your favorite brand's email updates.



Another way to spot great, fashionable finds at a superbly cheap price is through thrift stores. Thrift stores and secondhand stores are a host to a diverse array of styles. Furthermore, they are more eco-friendly. If you've Mari Kondo-ed your room recently and have items that you know you won't wear anymore, we also suggest selling your items to thrift stores so they don't end up in a landfill. Here is a list of several common thrift stores with a decent inventory of items besides Goodwill:

1. ThredUP

ThredUP is an online platform dedicated to clothing consignment. What makes this specific platform unique is that they responsibly recycle anything that doesn't get sold. While you won't find any unique vintage-style items on this site, they do carry a large array of trendy brands. From J.Crew to Gucci, you can get any type of clothing you need for cheap. What's better than balling on a budget and saving the planet in the meantime?

2. Depop

If you want a platform for thrifting that is seamless and streamlined, Depop has it all. With a user interface similar to Instagram, Depop makes it easy and pleasing for shoppers to scroll through multiple listings. Compared to ThredUp, Depop has more variety and a wider selection of clothes. From vintage collectors to sneakerheads, you can find your fashion community within this shopping app.

3. Worn Wear

No matter the season, outdoor gear is pricey. Whether it's a sturdy pair of hiking boots or a reliable raincoat, it can be hard to find high-quality outdoor gear without making a dent in your wallet at the end of the day. Furthermore, a lot of thrift stores focus mostly on fashion items and designer products.

Luckily for outdoorsy and adventurous people who don't want to pay ridiculous prices for ski pants, Worn Wear has you covered. Jumpstarted by outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, Worn Wear features an array of outdoor gear with slashed prices. No need to spend $80 on those pants when you can spend only $40 total.

4. Tradesy

Compared to your average thrift store, Tradesy is more expensive in general, but for good reason. This specific secondhand store focuses on designer and luxury brands. Considering this feature, it's no surprise that their prices aren't going to be as cheap as clothes from Goodwill.

While eBay is a popular alternative to thrift shopping and finding secondhand designer clothes, one bonus with shopping on Tradesy is the authenticity factor. This thrift store makes sure that its customers aren't scammed out of their money. After all, why waste money on a fake designer bag when you can buy cheaper knockoffs elsewhere? If you end up with an item that isn't authentic, Tradesy will give you a 100% refund, which is a nice safety net for our bougie fashion friends.

5. Shop Locally

Thrift stores come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are chain stores, such as Buffalo Exchange or Goodwill. Others are mom-and-pop shops, and usually owned by locals. If you're particularly conscientious of your consumer habits, you might prefer to shop at a locally owned thrift store as opposed to a Goodwill.

Local thrift stores are also a great way to nab special finds for your home decor without having to empty your bank account. Especially if you just moved into a new town, going to the local thrift store can be a fun weekend experience for you and/or your family.


Recycling Outfits and Hand-Me-Downs

It's no secret that the fashion industry is always busy at work determining what will be the new trend of the summer or the hottest clothing items of next year's autumn. However, what a lot of people don't know is the amount of pre-planning the fashion industry goes through. For example, most fashion trends are decided two years in advance.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that the average fashion style gets recycled by the industry. You've probably already noticed this with the latest fashion items reflecting trends popular in the '80s from high-waist jeans to power suits and a resurgence in vintage fashion. Next time you're about to throw out an expensive dress that's outdated, remember trends tend to make comebacks after a few years, so hold onto those special pieces. You might just save money in the future. Because clothes constantly go in and out of style, it's best to shop for items that adhere to your authentic style of self-expression. For those who want to align with trends however, stick to several basics and only pick up items that you will wear into the future.

If you have small children, hand-me-downs are a great way to save costs. Children's clothes aren't cheap compared to adult clothes, and worse yet, they can't be worn once the kids outgrow them. If you have multiple kids, hand-me-downs are cost-effective, and it's also a good way to teach your children about the value of sharing. For those who only have a single child, consider thrifting your child's clothes once they outgrow them.


Using a Payment Plan System

For those who budget extensively and can break down their monthly salary to the dollar, another way to be more cost-effective is to purchase clothing via a payment plan system. Nowadays, several brands offer subscriptions and allow you to use a monthly payment schedule for more expensive items. This way, you can also use a wide range of options to pay. If you prefer to divvy your money up for a treat, this may be a viable option, though we don't suggest this for impulse buyers or individuals who don't have strict budgets. This type of system may sound tempting when in reality you don't have the funds in your bank.



Shopping is a relaxing and therapeutic activity for some, while for others it can be stressful. Some individuals prefer to buy fashionable, trendy clothes for their Instagram while others simply shop because they have to. Regardless of how you shop and whether you enjoy the process, clothing is a basic necessity. The best way to buy clothes is to save money and help protect the environment while doing so.