Working out a budget is a great start to help save money, but sticking to it can be a challenge. Finding hacks to reduce spending without missing out is a win – it keeps you on track. And there is no better place to start than clothes!

Many items are costing more with inflation, and the cost of living is going up. It can be hard to avoid spending on basics like food, but clothing is certainly something you can have fun with – even on a budget.

Find second-hand bargains online

We all have that friend who always looks great yet never spends much. For me it's Mel.

“Belonging to a number of Facebook groups where people buy and sell pre-loved clothing means I can often find something I’ve had my eye on or fill a gap in my wardrobe for a fraction of the cost of brand new,” says Mel.

As a bonus, Mel has connected with some like-minded people on her travels to look smart for less, and who also share the love of a good outfit!

Kelly from You+me took her love of a bargain one step further and started a business based on her keen eye for a great opshop find.

Kelly says, “I love style, but I love saving money more! And you can have both… in fact you can have better.”

“Being on a budget doesn’t mean budget dressing. My style is far more individual, colourful, not like everyone else, than ever, because I buy second hand. It just makes life more interesting!”

Kelly’s business is an online shop selling second hand clothing for sizes 14+. Kelly understands how tricky it can be to find clothes that worked for her – so she took the hassle out of it for others who may not know what to look for and find that something special but still save money.

Shop for it second-hand before buying new

Not only is buying second hand better for your wallet, it is also better for the environment. With lots of fast fashion clothes heading straight into landfill after limited use, pausing and finding quality garments that can last longer will benefit your budget and stop this cycle.

Kelly enjoys this aspect of op-shopping. “I love stepping out of that need to consume. Second-hand shopping teaches you patience and consideration with your money.”

“I have a rule, if I can’t find it second hand within six months, I can then buy new. For the most part the item eventuates, or I realise I didn’t really need it anyway.”

For her shop Kelly is focused on providing quality, style and brands that people wouldn’t normally be able to reach for. “My aim is to provide a better quality, more exciting option for the money they’d be spending elsewhere.”

So next time you have some money to spend and your feet itch to hit the mall, take time to consider what you need and if you can find it elsewhere for less – you might find you enjoy being more creative with your clothes!

Putting that money back into your pocket and holding onto it for a rainy day will serve you better than an expensive dress. Remember if you have more money in your wardrobe than in your bank account (or investments!) you are going backwards.

Clothes swaps as the kids grow

Mel does a lot of swaps with kids’ clothes and frequently gifts clothes to others, “I’ve found this really useful for my kids, especially since they grow out of things so fast. It’s also great way to build up connections in your community.”

Kids do grow out of clothes and shoes quickly, so it often means some clothes haven’t had much wear; this is especially true for babies. It’s always good to be able to hand things on, particularly when it is something special or great quality that deserves another life.

Essentials like school uniforms, or sports uniforms and boots are also good options to do swaps or buy second hand. Many schools run volunteer second-hand shops and accept uniform donations so you can pick up what you need for a much lower cost than brand new.

Likewise, sports clubs will often do boot swaps when boots may only fit for one season. It always pays to check what your options are before you head off to the shops and part with your hard-earned cash.

Shopping til you drop? Include it in your budget

For loads of us, shopping can be a form of entertainment; however, it can become a very expensive pastime. The thrill of the purchase often melts away into guilt and potentially expensive credit card bills, or too many BNPL, which can be hard to stay on top of.

We’re not saying stop shopping altogether – but our spending needs to be happy. If clothes or just shopping in general is something you love – turn it around so you budget for it, try our Sorted budgeting tool and seek out some options to have the fun without the price tag.

Take advantage of sales

There seems to be a sale shouting at us to buy new stuff every week! So we try and not get pulled in to “spaving” – the idea that we’ve saved money if we’ve bought it on sale. But use sales to your advantage. We’ve just had Labour Day sales and now we’re coming up to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day. Keep a list of what you need and if you can’t or don’t want to buy it second hand, make sure you get it at a discount.

Look after your clothes

Our last tip isn’t much help if you need to buy something now but will come in handy in the long run so start implementing it asap. Take care of your clothes so you don’t have to buy new ones as often (saving you loads of money!) or so you can sell them for a decent price once you’re ready for something new.

  • Read the care label carefully – some things really do need to be handwashed.
  • Dry your clothes outside in the sun (and save on the expensive power bill from the drier).
  • Store clothes well – sweaters last longer and don’t lose their shape if you fold them vs hanging them in your wardrobe.
  • Pick up a cheap sewing kit so you can mend any holes or snags – or find a local seamstress.

Set yourself a challenge

Sometimes sticking to a budget just isn’t enough. Maybe you need a big change to reset your habits? We love challenges for this! We’ve seen people do no-spend months where they don’t spend a cent beyond the essentials, others do no buying clothes for six months or in the case of money podcaster Frances Cook no new clothes (only second hand) for a whole year.

Want more tips for making your money go further? Read our series which covers how to save money on food, bills and more.

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