When Not to Thrift: New Clothes on a Budget

Yes, yes, yes, even I’ll admit that some clothes you DO have to buy new. But, think carefully about what you really need and don’t loose your frugality! Don’t run out of time and force yourself to buy new. Don’t immediately assume that a specialty item must be purchased new–coats, party dresses, and jewelry can all be found used–I promise!

Here’s what Frugal Husband and I buy new:

  • Socks (for obvious reasons)

  • Underwear (for even more obvious reasons)

  • Performance shoes like hiking or running

  • Workout gear (mainly because it is hard to find used stuff that isn’t totally worn out)

  • Basics that cost less new than used (usually jeans, t-shirts, pj’s)

  • Bathing Suits (I’ve never seen one in a thrift store. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t buy one if I found it… )

  • Men’s Suits:

    • Frugal Husband owns one very nice, custom tailored suit bought online from Indochino for $450. Highly recommend it!

    • In our experience, used men’s suits are often expensive and ill-fitting. Get one good, correctly fitting suit that you’ll wear for years and years and years.

    • We chose grey for its versatility: it can be worn in all four seasons to weddings, funerals, and anything else requiring gussying.

    • Tangent, but, check out GQ’s helpful guide to suiting for menfolks. Smaller and tighter than you think, gents!

    • P.S. Ties, tie clips, and dress shirts can all be found used.

Here’s where we shop new:

  • Kohl’s:

    • Love, love, love their jeans, basic tops, and dresses for Frugal Wife (that’s me!) as well as their yoga gear. Good prices on shorts and swim trunks for menfolk.
  • REI:
    • Steer towards sale items only, but, fabulous source for performance-specific hiking and outdoor wear. If you need to buy new gear, join their co-op and get cash back–we did this in a year where we needed a lot of camping equipment and it paid off. Frugal Husband and I purchased our winter hiking pants and wind shells at about 75% off during the summer one year….and after we got home realized we’d gotten identical black coats and beige pants, so, we look pretty cute on the trail!
  • Costco:

    • Randomly has good clothes occasionally. Their sizes run quite large so sometimes the smalls are still too big for me and Frugal Husband. Our #1 source for faux smart wool socks.

  • Wal-Mart:

    • Great for men’s workout gear and pj’s. Cheap, comfy, and stands the test of time.

  • Target:

    • I’m on the fence about them, because their prices are actually not all that great. But deals can be found, especially in the shoe section.

  • Gap Outlet (for Men):

    • I don’t know why, but they mark their men’s sale stuff down to almost nothing! We’ve gotten Frugal Husband several pairs of pants and jeans for–I am not making this up–$10 and under! However, their regularly-priced stuff is too expensive and they often don’t have good deals for the ladyfolk.

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10 Responses

  1. mm says:

    Please consider not shopping at Walmart – it’s really not worth saving a few bucks to support a company that discriminates against women (largest gender discrimination lawsuit ever filed against them on behalf of 2 million women with egregious facts), routinely violates wage and hour laws, has been the target of investigations and lawsuits for violating environmental regulations, and generally has a terrible, oppressive business model. There are better ways to save money.

    Also, some of your generalizations don’t ring true for me. For example, The Gap can have the same clearance price bargains for women’s clothing that you’ve found for men’s clothing. Also, second-hand suits are an amazing thing to purchase. Even if you have to spend a little on tailoring, it’s still far less than a new suit.

  2. Meghann says:

    I used to work for corporate Gap Outlet and can attest to the great deals to be had for women as well. Women’s wear make up the majority of their inventory and do take deep discounts as well.

  3. Toria says:

    I mildly disagree about workout gear. Leggings and pants I would never buy used, but I have acquired some fabulous fitness tops from thrift stores!

  4. Alison says:

    TJ Maxx is my favorite place to buy workout gear (and other stuff). I’ve also found great workout shirts at goodwill (wearing triathlon shirts you never competed in is a great conversation starter).

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