Clothing is a big part of the American experience. Each American household contributes about 2 to 4 percent of its income to staying well-dressed. In 2008, the average family spent $2,266.90 on clothes. Clothing comes in 5th place in the household disbursement department.

With continued maintenance of my current wardrobe, scouting the 60 percent+ off clearance racks in the department stores, and the occasional visit to a thrift store like Goodwill now and then, I'm doing fine. I know, hard to believe, but once you get the hang of it and put those dollars into the savings account that were formerly deposited at the local mall, it will be a welcome change.


  • Plan your wardrobe wisely. When I first started my job at Nordstrom as a store detective, the dress code was simple. I just had to dress like a typical Nordstrom shopper. Easier said than done! I mean, here I was making $5.70 an hour, and I'm expected to dress like I'm making $20.00 an hour. I took one of the lower-paid sales persons aside and explained my dilemma. She suggested that I lay out my clothes and decide what I could wear to work. Then if needed to buy clothes, I could concentrate on basic color schemes that weren't faddish so I could mix and match (like Health Tex's old "Gurrr-Animals" program for kids' clothes). This system worked so well that I didn't need to buy more than two or three shirts and a couple of pairs of pants each year.
  • Maintain your clothing. Don't assume just because a piece of clothing develops a hole, loses a button or two, has a seam unravel, gets stained, etc., that you should throw it into the rag pile. Maintain such clothing by sewing up seams and tears, applying patches and reinforcements as necessary, or sewing on a button. You know that you're getting the idea when you start darning socks!
  • Shop for clothes at discount department stores, store closeouts, factory outlets, off-price chain stores, and warehouse clubs. These stores sell clothing at 50 percent to 80 percent off retail.
  • Shop for inexpensive used clothing at social service thrift shops (like Goodwill and the Salvation Army), consignment shops, garage and yard sales or auctions. Find out which day newly arrived clothing is placed on the sales floor and then get there early. Remember to keep a list of sizes and style and color preferences of all family members handy.
  • Buy long-lasting clothing at Army-Navy stores. I served twenty-two years in the Army. My uniforms almost never wore out. They just got replaced with updated designs. Now, whenever I'm doing heavy labor and want clothes that can go the distance, I reach for my old cammies.
  • Use cloth baby diapers instead of disposables. You can sign up for a diaper service (a business that provides clean diapers and pick-up service for a fee) or purchase your own diapers and wash them yourself.
  • When clothing wears out, don't throw them away. You can use them for rags. Better yet, you could take a clue from our pioneer ancestors and sew the rags together into a patchwork quilt or make a hooked rug.

Dry Cleaning/Laundry

  • Try to eliminate items of clothing from your wardrobe that are "dry-clean only". The expense of dry-cleaning is far outweighed by buying washable alternatives.
  • Some clothing items that are marked "dry-clean only" may actually be washed with a product like Woolite. That's because only some part of the garment names to be dry cleaned.


  • Use shoe repair shops to extend the life of your shoes. You can also purchase products to place on the soles and heels of your footwear (when they're new) to reduce wear and tear (I get mine at Walmart). When the soles and heels finally do wear out, then it's back to the shoe repair shop.
  • Save 30 to 60 percent on brand-name athletic shoes by ordering online. You can find names of these companies by looking in the classified ads of magazines like Runner's World (East Bay is my favorite Lesser savings can be found on other types of clothing.