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Your over-stuffed closet told me to tell you that it can’t swallow up any more polyester or cotton. That was a joke. But seriously, stop buying new clothes.

I’ve been reading examples of the typical “clothing budget” in a few of my financial planning textbooks. I honestly can’t figure out how the numbers even work. How is it possible for a couple to spend $5,000 per year on clothing? We won’t spend $5,000 on clothing in ten years time.

While I’m being honest, this whole clothing situation is somewhat embarrassing for me. I can’t believe how many pieces of clothing that I have. Each morning, I struggle through a mind blowing selection process (please note, I’m trying to be funny, although I do own quite a few outfits).

I have to start off slow. First, what sort of pants will it be? Full length or shorts? Khaki, dress, or casual?

Khaki shorts it is! Oh, but I forgot I had those shorts in 3 different colors…

And that’s just the pants! After that, the whole process is repeated for a shirt. By the time I decide and put it on, I’m needing a mental timeout…

If you relate at all, there is good news. You won’t really need any new clothes for several years.

Make Your Clothes Last

First of all, you don’t need to wash a piece of clothing after every use. That’s nonsense. Wear something until it is dirty or stinky. Literally, wear it, then hang it up. Repeat until the item actually needs washed. Sometimes I’ll wear pants 8-10 times before they need washed.

I can’t believe how many people wear something once then throw it into the dirty clothes pile to be washed. Why? You’re wasting electricity, water, detergent, and reducing the life span of the clothing. Washing/drying is hard on clothes and is what causes them to wear out.

And on the topic, wash clothes in cold water. There is no reason to use hot water all the time. That will just make them fade faster and look more worn. After washing, hanging clothes up is much better than drying, but it is inconvenient. If you hang clothes, they will last much longer.

In terms of actual lifespan, my experience and research tells me that clothes might survive up a couple hundred washes. Some won’t last that long but I never throw something away unless it looks absolutely terrible or can no longer be fixed.

Fixed? Yes, how about patching a hole? Or sewing up a rip? I can’t do it, but my family can. I continue wearing items until they cannot be salvaged. There is no reason to toss something out because it has a little blemish.

Now for a little math. Let’s say each item will last 100 washes, you have 25 total outfits that you’ll cycle through, and you’ll wear an outfit 3 times before a wash. That’s 7,500 total wears before your current clothing is worn out. At one wear per day, your stash should last you more than 20 years… How about that?

Let’s address a few more concerns.

You may be saying, “but you can’t get 3 wears before a wash!” Yes, yes I can. And you can too. It’s easy – dress the occasion. Sitting at a desk won’t get the clothes dirty. If you’re going to do an outside activity, make sure to wear old clothes. And if they don’t get too dirty, save them and use them again for the next dirty activity.

Sometime I like to remind myself, “A little dirt won’t hurt.”

“Well, if my current clothing will last 20 years before expiring, won’t I be out of style??” First off, who cares. Second, who cares. Third, no, not if you choose to buy basic clothing that isn’t covered with strange designs and branding. Fourth, clothing trends always run full circle. With a little luck, 20 years might constitute a full clothing cycle that leaves you hip, maybe even the envy of all the young up-and-comers. Just think about how cool you’ll be.

Avoid New, Expensive Clothes. Get Them Free.

I do acknowledge that sometimes new (to you) clothing is required. Maybe it’s for a career, or maybe you took my advice and wore out all of the existing pieces. Either way, new (to you) clothing is required.

I almost feel guilty acknowledging that fact. The reason being that many misguided souls think they require a new outfit each week. That’s nonsense and that’s not what I’m talking about.

Unless you are really wealthy. I mean, able to do whatever you want without having to worry about present or future income, you should be careful when shopping for a new outfit.

Clothing is rivaled only by new cars in speed of depreciation. And yet, people seem obsessed with shopping and spending obscene amounts of money on new outfits. And then they give every excuse in the book to justify purchasing an item that they didn’t need, and couldn’t afford.

Don’t be that person. Value your retirement savings and your child’s education fund more than that. Stop worrying about being a name brand consumer. People can’t tell your $100 shirt apart from my $2 thrift store find. And if they can, who cares! Only immature, materialistic individuals care about the brand of your pants.

Luckily for you and I, there are plenty of ways to stock up for pennies on the dollar. To get started, you might refer to the principles I laid out in Before I Knew, I Bought it New.

To apply the idea to clothing, understand that you won’t EVER be buying new clothes at retail prices. Instead, you’ll look for chances to take advantage of the consumers who foolishly paid full price, wore the items 5 times, then decided they wanted something else.

Sometimes really nice people give clothing away and list it on Freecycle or Craigslist. That gets me excited.

For purchases, the cheapest option is definitely garage sales. A close second is thrift stores. The third option is huge sales on new clothing. I would shoot for 75% off or more. That’s typically the only time we’ll buy brand new.

I’m impartial to store or seller, all that matters is the product. Look for massively discounted clothes that fit well. It’s really that simple.

Will you stop buying expensive clothes? Or will the madness continue?

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