"I will never do that again! NEVER!" In my journey out of debt, that is one exclamation I found myself making time and time again. Most of the time my poor decisions were made out of necessity (i.e., making my mortgage payment on a credit card) or mental fatigue (i.e., throwing out mail from creditors, unopened).

Though I'm not here because of out of control spending per se, I've definitely had the opportunity to examine my spending habits in gross detail ("gross" being the key word here).

One very costly problem area for me is clothing purchases. Now, I realistically know that I will buy clothes from time to time and there is money in the budget for that. But... I just felt like I wasn't getting enough bang for the buck. I was buying stuff but never seemed to be wearing anything new! How was that possible?

Once I took a step back I could identify some ways to be smarter about outfitting my wardrobe. Here are some of my budget-friendly rules...

  • Always, ALWAYS try things on. I hate dressing rooms. They are torturous and cruelly lit, so my inclination is to not go in there. The result of that is that I'd buy things on a lark only to find out they didn't fit or suit me. By that point maybe I'd lost the receipt or pulled the tag off or otherwise forgotten about it entirely. And then, well, you're SOL with an item that was once appealing but is now dreadful. Just make the time, face the music, and hit the dressing room.
  • Give full-price items the two week test. I rarely buy things at full price, as a general rule. But there are exceptions, those things you fall in love with. Best thing to do? WAIT. If I still remember it and want it in two weeks, then I'll consider making the purchase if funds allow. By that time it may even be on sale! Nine times out of ten though, the crush subsides and I let it fall by the wayside.
  • Keep receipts for returns and price adjustments. Returning items is not a crime. Sometimes we change our minds, am I right? But how many times have you passed by a store only to see that a wrap dress you just bought for work has recently been marked down? Most stores will credit you the difference between what you paid and what the sale price is as long as the receipt is dated within a certain period of time before the sale (it typically varies from two weeks to 30 days). And you just need to present the receipt, not the actual item, of course. The same principle applies with coupons you might come across post-purchase. Return and re-buy!
  • Stay away from disposable clothes. Sometimes cheap clothes seem like a bargain but more often than not they don't have much staying power. It sounds like common sense, but I've found the most cost-effective plan is to look for quality at a reasonable price. It can be done without spending extravagantly!

How have you made compromises in your clothing allowances? I am looking to stock up on consumer-related tips and ideas, especially with the (gulp) holiday season right around the corner!

Related links:

The Trunk Sale

Out With the Old and in With the Income

Trade Secrets for Shopping for Cheap but Chic Clothing

Stacey Pavlick

Stacey is a participant in the CareOne Debt Management Plan, soon to complete her second year on the plan. She is also a contributing writer for the My Journey Out of Debt blog and Single & Settling In blog. She is currently an operations manager for a title insurance company and moonlights as a music reviewer for SpectrumCulture.com. She combines her passion for writing with her passion for getting out of debt to share her struggles and successes along the way. Compensated CareOne Blogger

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