With many of us struggling to manage steep living costs, shopping for new clothes is increasingly becoming a luxury that few of us can afford.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of ways to give yourself an autumn wardrobe refresh without breaking the bank.
Here’s our round-up of some of the best ways to bring down the cost of new and secondhand clothes.
1. Buy supermarket clothing brands
Supermarket brand clothes have come a long way in the last few years, with all of the ‘big four’ supermarkets now having their own lines. You can buy Sainsbury’s Tu clothing, Tesco F&F, Asda’s George and Nutmeg at Morrisons, and you’ll find everything from accessories to children’s clothes and beachwear in these collections, usually at bargain prices.
2. Visit charity shops on your high street and online
During the pandemic, many of us became used to ordering clothes online, but even in the sales, it’s easy to spend more than we can afford. Instead of scrolling online, or going to the usual high street shops, try your local high street charity shops. You never know what you might find, and that’s half the fun. It can be surprising what people get rid of during clothing clearouts. If you don’t find it easy to get out to the shops, you can also find some charity shops online such as Oxfam.org.uk and Faraonline.co.uk.
3. Rent your clothes and accessories
It’s hard to find a cheap outfit for a special event such as a wedding, or black tie dinner, but it may be possible to rent one at a fraction of the cost of buying one. You can rent a designer dress from By Rotation, for example, from just £15. Similar sites include HirestreetUK, Hurr, and My Wardrobe HQ. However, check any extra charges before paying to rent an item, such as postage costs and cleaning charges before return.
4. Wait for sales bargains
Consumer association Which? suggests setting a budget and sticking to a list of particular items you’re after, and waiting for them to go on sale. You can sign up for sales alerts for particular items at BackInStockAlerts.com for websites such as Asos, Boohoo and Amazon. Some retailers such as Next and Whistles offer regular shoppers early access to their sales if you sign up to their alerts.
5. Host a clothes swap party
Get your friends and family together, and host a clothes swapping party (not literally, everyone keeps their clothes on!) Simply ask attendees to do a clearout, gather any unwanted clothes, and put them in piles in your living room. If you know people who are similar sizes, swapping clothes with each other can work particularly well, although you can also do it with accessories such as belts and bags. It’s also a great way to get people together and have a fun evening.
6. Use discounted outlets
Online outlet stores offer a wide range of discounted clothes from the best known retailers. These may be collections from past seasons, and some of the better-stocked warehouses include BrandAlley and Outnet for brands ranging from Joules to Oliver Bonas. It’s also worth checking out Tk Maxx online. You can also select ‘brand outlet’ on eBay to find out what’s on offer there, as it doesn’t just list secondhand items.
7. Shop secondhand apps
It’s easy to find quality secondhand clothes these days online to save money, and do your bit for the environment. Buying secondhand isn’t only limited to charity shops on the high street and online. You can also go to marketplace apps and websites such as Depop, eBay and Vinted, where people list clothes they no longer want often at bargain prices. You could also sell your unwanted clothes to fund any new purchases.
8. Dye your clothes
If you’ve got a plain white t-shirt, or old pair of faded black jeans, you can give them a new lease of life by dyeing them for a few pounds. You can buy Dylon pods to use in the washing machine for about £5 from Amazon, or you can use hand dye if you’re prepared to do the job in the sink.
9. Stick to a budget
You might already set yourself a food shopping budget, but have you got a clothing one? You could, for example, set yourself a limit of £20 for any item of clothing you buy for a year. This could potentially change your shopping habits over time, and prevent you from spending more than you can afford.
10. Go vintage
Why not bring back the 70s or 80s in what you wear for a while? If you’ve got a pile of clothes in the attic you no longer wear because you think they are out of date or have seen better days, give them another try on an see if there are any you can salvage and restore, or alternatively, go to vintage shops or online store Thrifted to find classics.
11. Liven up your outfits with cheap accessories
Get your clothes out and consider how you could accessorise them to make a whole new outfit. For example, could you add a belt, chunky jewellery or scarf to a particular dress? Or team a skirt or shirt with a different top that you hadn’t considered before. There’s plenty of inspiration when it comes to accessorising on Pinterest, for example, and YouTube and you can often pick up bracelets, necklaces and scarves for a couple of pounds in charity shops.
12. Keep it simple
Buying classics that you’re more likely to wear over and over again can be a way to simplify your wardrobe, reduce your costs, and take a sustainable approach to fashion. You might even choose to follow a minimalist approach, choosing timeless pieces to keep your look fresh and maintainable. Sticking to simple, basic pieces such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, blazers and skirts means you’ll never go out of style.
13. Use discount codes
You can often save 10% on your shopping basket, for example, by referring a friend to an online retailer or signing up to their newsletter (which you can then unsubscribe from). Browser-extension shopping tools can be useful to download to find and apply discount vouchers to your shopping basket. These include Pouch and Coupert, which scan the internet for discounts as you shop.
Also, check if your favourite retailer has a loyalty scheme. For example, Marks & Spencer offers a loyalty card that gives you money off food and clothes if you’re a regular shopper there.
14. Care and repair
Consider if there are ways to fix your old clothes before buying replacements. The Clothes Doctor online service offers a repair, alteration and restoration service. You fill out a form and get a quote based on what you need doing with, for example, a loose hem repair costing £15.
If you’re London-based, you can put in your postcode and find local seamstresses on the Sojo app. Your item should be collected and delivered back to your door within five working days.
You can also try your local dry cleaners or tailors to fix broken zips or rips, or have a go at fixing these yourself.
15. Recycle old clothes for vouchers
Some high street shops offer vouchers for old clothes that you can put towards new items. For example, donate any bag of old clothes to H&M and you’ll receive a £5 voucher to use on a £25 shop, while New Look offers 15% off if you donate pre-loved clothes to a local hospice charity shop.
16. Have a clearout
You might be surprised by the amount of clothes you have sitting in your cupboard that you rarely wear, particularly after the pandemic and series of lockdowns saw most of us wearing ‘loungewear’ every day. Spend some time going through your wardrobe, audit what you have, and set aside anything you definitely will no longer wear. A good rule of thumb is to discard anything you haven’t worn for two years or more. You may find clothes you’ve long forgotten and that are due another outing, or clothes you can sell to find new purchases. If you’re not sure where to get started with your clearout, have a look at our guide 8 tips for creating a timeless and sustainable capsule wardrobe.
17. Give yourself a shopping break
Many of us are used to spending some cash on new clothes for each season. When summer comes around, for example, we might treat ourselves to some new t-shirts and a bikini. But the easiest way to reduce the amount you spend on clothes is to go cold turkey for a while.
Try buying nothing brand-new for a few months, or even a year, and see how you go. You could challenge yourself to three months without buying any new clothes, or just one, it’s up to you. In time, stopping yourself spending should get easier.
18. Remove temptation
Through the years spent online shopping most of us will find plenty of retailers popping into our inbox, with their latest collections or best offers. One of the best ways to reduce the amount you spend on new clothes is to go through your inbox and unsubscribe from all retailer emails, and this includes unfollowing fashion influencers on instagram, or facebook, if that’s your thing.
19. Buy out of season
You can often find out-of-season clothing on the online clearance section of retailers’ websites, such as a coat in July or a bikini in December, so it pays to think ahead for what you might need later or earlier in the year.
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