My Year Buying Only Used Clothes

It was time to shake things up. After several babies and the fluctuating sizes that go along with that, I wanted to make a renewed effort to dress well. I don’t mean fancy, after all I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I don’t need to “dress to impress.” But I didn’t want to succumb to a daily wardrobe of workout clothes and sweats. I don’t actually work out, so I just can’t justify it. Plus, I feel better when I’m wearing real clothes that fit well. But how do I fight the frump without breaking my budget?

Around the same time, I read articles about the environmental impacts of consumerism. The clothing industry’s model of “fast fashion” is wreaking havoc on our landfills and generating a huge amount of waste. How could I refresh my wardrobe without contributing to an ever-growing ecological issue?

Buy used.

Sounds great – looking good for a fraction of retail and helping the planet. Yay! But spending hours combing thrift stores… I don’t have time for that. So I explored my options and made it a personal goal to buy only used clothes for an entire year.

Here are my tips and tricks for refreshing your closet with quality pieces while keeping your New Year’s Resolution of saving cash.

Where I shopped:

  • Online resale stores – and have hundreds of thousands of items to browse through in the comfort of my own home. I’m able to search for specific items, colors, brands, etc. Nervous about buying clothes online? ThredUp has measurements for each item, so I don’t have to be surprised by a skirt that’s too short.
  • Consignment stores – Local stores such as Clothes Mentor, Fashionista Exchange, and Clothz Minded (and more!) have a totally different vibe and operation than thrift stores. Consignment stores are selective about items and brands, so they’re a good option for in-person shopping.
  • Personal online sales – Sometimes people are cleaning out their closets or even resell thrift store finds via Instagram or Facebook. I bought several things this way through friends or random Instagram sellers. A benefit of this is that it’s more personal, so I can ask questions about the fit of an item or the measurements. (a PayPal account is a must for this method)

How I tried trends:

  • There were a couple very specific trends I wanted to try, but my online go-to’s and local consignment store were coming up empty. So I turned to a new source: eBay. I was able to do specific searches and find my desired items. For example, I was curious about Lularoe, and I was able to find several options on eBay for a fraction of new. I also scored a pair of distressed maternity jeans in the last two seconds of an auction – thrilling!

How this saves money:

  • Minimizes impulse purchases – I don’t just walk through Target and magically find a new shirt in my cart. And I love sales, but an online ad can’t entice me to click on something I wasn’t actually planning to buy. Shopping used requires a little more effort, so those impulse splurges are off the table.
  • Discount of used – Pre-owned clothes are just cheaper than new, period. I regret not tracking throughout the year, but I’d estimate I saved almost $400 since I was paying an average of 50-70% off retail prices.

Shopping and buying new clothes is fun for me! So I found a way to do it while sticking to my budget. It was a challenge at times, but at the end of the year, I feel good about the economical and ecological advantages of my pre-worn wardrobe. Plus, I feel good in items that look great and fit well.

Wife of 12 years to Brett, and a laid-back SAHM with a crew of three girls (7, 4, 2) and a boy (newborn) through birth and adoption. A Kansas girl from the start, she grew up in Lawrence, went to SBU, then taught everything from pre-K to high school. After nine years in Austin, she's back in the KC area balancing introvert tendencies and active children. Her happy place is in the kitchen, trying new recipes and experimenting with old favorites. When not hugging her minivan or slow cooker, she's pursuing eating well and dressing well – on a budget! She talks food, family, and fun on her blog Life on Olive Street.