Hello and welcome to the third installment of our A New Beginning in Budgeting Series! Our first installment was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer” and our second was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending“.
For part three of our budgeting series I wanted to talk about our clothing habits. This is a topic I have been thinking about quite a bit over the last year. We have been trying to reduce our monthly spending outflow and our ecological footprint and as I was looking at our numbers I realized we spend a lot of money on clothes. It got me thinking. Back in the day people did not have a lot of outfits to choose from and clothes were bought based on durability. Now it seems as if my kids have enough clothes to last a long time without having to do laundry and a lot of the time the clothes will break before my kids outgrow them. You know it is a problem when you finally get around to doing laundry and their clothes physically do not fit in their dresser drawers.
When we started having more kids we started receiving many more clothes for them then we will ever need. One relative in particular is known for hitting up sales at Babies R Us and bringing over gigantic bags full of clothes in either the wrong size or season after being told the kids do not need anything at all and to contribute to their college savings instead. This same relative is pretty offended if I return said clothing and put the money into college savings myself and loves to see the clothes on the children when they randomly come over. It is maddening to say the least. I have been getting more forceful in my insistence that the kids do not need clothes, especially random outfits that may or may not fit and the clothes buying has been greatly reduced but I think that has more to do with the break in holidays over the summer rather than a conscious effort. Birthday/Christmas season is upon us so we will see how well my efforts have worked.
One day last fall I reached an epiphany. I was sorting items for the upcoming consignment sale and I was looking at all of the clothes people had bought when our younger daughter was born. I had a whole gigantic box of just summer stuff from her first and second summer, most of it barely worn. None of my friends had wanted any of it because they apparently suffer from the same overabundance of clothing as I do and most of it was too girly to pass on to my son. I asked myself why did we have so many clothes in the first place? Why are the kids not re-wearing clothes more often? Why are we buying new clothing instead of used? Why are we buying clothing in the first place when everyone has an abundance and can easily pass between families?
So I decided to take the plunge and join our local Buy Nothing group. Let me tell you, it was eye opening. Everyone in the group was sharing household items, especially kids clothes! Aha! Now I had a way to pass on clothes and receive some as well. I started commenting on threads for clothes in my kids size ranges and was able to score some great items including all of my son’s fleece pjs for last year (that still fit him so far this fall) and most of my daughter’s summer clothes.
So far getting our clothes from Buy Nothing has saved us hundreds of dollars. We can’t get everything from there but I search the local thrift stores and consignment sales to find what I can’t get at buy nothing and if I still can’t find what I need I will go to a regular store during a huge sale (Labor Day etc). The key is to be looking a size ahead and having enough room to store items for a little bit. I have a re-purposed laundry basket in my daughter’s room and a large tote for my son full of clothes in the next couple of sizes up. When my kids grow into the size I have stored I sort through them, have my kids try items on (just like if I was buying them at the store) and re-gift items that don’t work out. Some of my kids’ favorite clothing items have come from our Buy Nothing group.
We have had less luck finding adult clothes through our Buy Nothing group but that doesn’t mean that your particular group won’t have a good variety of clothes being passed around! I found some great Eddie Baur shirts through my group and gave away my maternity clothes as well so the possibility is out there. Our group in particular seems to be mostly kid clothes. Thrift stores can have some great finds as well as shopping the end of season sales for higher end retailers. My husband and I tend to wear our clothes for a really long time so buying quality items is key to making them last. We love shopping the Nordstrom Rack sales and have found some super stellar bargains on shirts, pants and sweaters.
Overall being much more conscious of what we actually need clothing wise and getting as much used as possible has drastically cut down on our clothing spending. I am also trying to get the kids to wear their clothes multiple times if they are not dirty with mixed success. My husband and I are pretty good at this but the kids throw stuff in the laundry basket at the drop of a hat! So far we have been able to get them to wear their pajamas 2 or 3 times in a row and sometimes we can get them to wear a shirt the next day if they only wore it for a little bit but it is still a work in progress. We have always reused our towels for a few washes but that is something you can try out in your house to reduce your laundry as well. Luckily our house has the heating vents right under the towel racks in the bathrooms so our towels are nice and dry after a few hours of the furnace being on but in the past I would place them on top of the dryer while it was running to get them to dry quicker during our PNW wet winters. I am also experimenting with hanging our clothes to dry in the laundry room but our house has high humidity so things are not drying as quickly as they should be to prevent mildew on our clothes. I am hoping that with the cooler temperatures and our furnace being on more it will heat up our laundry room pretty well and we will be able to dry at least our lighter weight shirts and pants this winter on the clothesline. So far we have cut out at least two loads of laundry a week which is a total win in my book! We are still doing a lot of laundry but I am not forced to do laundry every day like before and can just focus on it a couple of days out of the week. Yay!
How are you looking at your clothing choices to reduce spending and waste?