Why I Haven’t Purchased Any Clothes in 2.5 years (and counting)

Babywoods and me hanging out in our hand-me-down threads

Babywoods and me hanging out in our hand-me-down threads

Amid all the massive life changes Mr. Frugalwoods and I have going on right now–from moving to our Vermont homestead to buying two cars to becoming first-time parents–I want to pause today and reflect on something that has continued on in the background for the past 2 years and 5 months. I’m speaking, of course, about my clothes-buying ban!

In January 2014, I set forth a self-imposed and self-created goal of not buying clothes for one full year. I was successful in this pursuit and after my one-year mark passed, I decided to re-up the ban for a second year. That year also elapsed without a clothes-purchasing event (despite my pregnancy) and I’m now 5 months into my third year of not buying any clothing whatsoever.

Today’s post is the latest in my series on the experience of not purchasing clothing. You can check out the previous installments below:

Frugality: It’s Always About More Than Money

My initial reasons for enacting this ban were financial. Since we were embarking on our extreme frugality regimen, I reasoned that clothes (especially where I’m concerned) are often purchased for reasons other than pure need. Indeed, I used to buy clothes more for fun than anything else. What can I say, I like clothes! I was a thrift store shopping maven and found all sorts of great deals on new-to-me threads. The only problem is that I didn’t need all of these clothes. My closet was oversaturated, as Mr. FW–who was relegated to like 1/8 of our closet–can testify. Sidenote: I originally wrote that Mr. FW had 1/3 of our closet, but he heartily protested during the editing process that it’s more like 1/8. I capitulated this was true…

Frugal Hound rocking some secondhand duds

Frugal Hound rocking some secondhand duds

But as so often happens with frugality escapades, not buying clothes transformed me profoundly and in ways that far transcend the mere saving of a few hundred bucks. The non-monetary benefits of living a simpler, more purposeful life are thrilling to discover and I never cease to be amazed at the changes frugality has wrought in my life.

Principally, not purchasing clothes had the consequence of making me increasingly less concerned with my appearance writ large. Not obsessing about being at the height of fashion every time I walked out of the house caused me to reflect on the ways in which our culture makes women feel badly about themselves.

We’re told by advertisers that there’s something drastically wrong with our skin/eyelashes/ankles and that acquiring their product/potion/shoes will magically ameliorate the issue… until, of course, we’re hoodwinked into thinking there’s something amiss with yet another part of our anatomy.

One of my favorite thrift store outfits

One of my favorite thrift store outfits

I bought into this mentality for years and poured money into cosmetics and clothes. I got expensive haircuts and painted my nails every week. And to what end? These fabricated devices didn’t make me more confident or self-reliant. Quite the opposite, in fact. Now that I’ve shunned most of this stuff from my life (and have Mr. FW cut my hair), I actually am more confident and more secure in who I am and what I look like. Which is imperfect. And flawed. And that’s just fine. I’d rather save my money than buy into the notion that I need to fix my appearance.

I used to be extremely critical of my body. Nearly every time I looked in the mirror, I had something unkind to say about some part of me. I was fat, I had a long forehead, my arms looked weird… the litany goes on. But when I stopped purchasing clothes, I also stopped this self-directed diatribe of negativity.

There’s nothing quite like a shopping ban to make you appreciate what you already own. Prior to the ban, I’d rake through my ample wardrobe and bemoan that I couldn’t possibly create an outfit out of these rags. Rags, I tell you! Now, I delight in creating novel outfit combos with clothes I’ve owned for years. There’s something about not consuming that imbues us with reverence for the stuff we have. We start to see our belongings as precious, in a sense, and not simply as disposable, ephemeral things marching along the consumption chain.

Short-Term Actions Become Lifelong Habits

Found this tunic in the trash, paired it with my red garage sale belt and Kohl's leggings

Found this tunic in the trash, paired it with a red garage sale belt

The longer I persevere with this ban, the more natural it feels. As with most repeated behaviors in life, if we’re able to push past the initial discomfort of making a change, each incremental day feels less and less arduous. In my experience, that initial start-up phase lasts about a month. A week is too short and anything longer than a month seems untenable at the outset.

But a month? A month is the perfect balance of long enough to get a sense of the change, but short enough to stay motivated. I honestly wasn’t sure if my ban would last more than a month. But after the termination of the first 30 days, I thought, huh, this isn’t so bad and I’m proud of myself, so I’ll keep going! Little did I know then it’d last three years.

I won’t say that I’ll never ever buy clothing again–that’s not practical or realistic. However, I will say that my approach to this ban is much like my approach to budgeting. The fewer restrictions and parameters I put on it, the more likely it is to persist for a longer duration. According to this same philosophy, I don’t budget because its my fervent belief that as soon as you identify a budget, you’ll spend every single cent up to the limit. Spending is like a gas–it’ll expand to fill whatever space you give it. I prefer to live as a person who doesn’t spend money and doesn’t buy clothes. Thus, when I do spend money, it’s the exception to the rule, not a matter of course.

Mrs. FW, You Haven’t Purchased Any Clothing? At All?

Nope, none. And yes, I mean underwear and socks too (if you’re wondering how my underwear has lasted so long, it’s because I have these awesomely durable undies). I also haven’t purchased any shoes, belts, coats, purses, or jewelry. The all-inclusive nature of my ban stems primarily from the fact that I simply do not need anything.

It’s also true that I fear the slippery slope of buying–if I could purchase a purse, then why not just one dress too? Sometimes, it’s easiest to eliminate an activity entirely. I have, however, accepted hand-me-downs, particularly of maternity clothing since I did go through an entire pregnancy during this ban. I also took hand-me-down nursing bras and tank tops since I’m nursing Babywoods.

The Environmental Impact of Consumption

I've worn this thrift store dress to many a wedding

I’ve worn this thrift store dress to many a wedding

Another motivating factor for me in carrying on with this ban is decreasing my overall sartorial consumption. I have plenty of clothes–more than enough clothes, truth be told. Probably too many clothes! I went through an epic bout of decluttering before Babywoods was born and donated huge quantities of clothing, but I’d say I probably still own too much. I did another round of decluttering in preparation for our move to Vermont and gave away more outfits. While I’m glad I was able to donate these clothes, I wonder why I had so many in the first place.

This brought me to reflection on the very core of our consumer culture and our relentless obsession with MORE. We all seem to be on an endless drive for bigger, better, but above all else, more. My clothes-buying ban is my tiny little way of inoculating myself against this tide. Of saying that I have enough in this arena of my life.

I was struck by an NPR story I heard last week about the environmental impact of failing to donate clothing. Our decision to consume impacts far more than our own lives, wallets, and closets.

Take these excerpts from the NPR piece:

“…One potential savings, carbon emissions – the EPA estimates that what [clothing] we do donate each year, that 15 percent, is like taking over a million cars off the road.”

Happily making do with clothes that are a few years old

Happily making do with clothes that are a few years old

More to the point: “…the more we discard, the more we buy. And the production of so many clothes hurts the environment.”

This is staggering. It’s also reminiscent of an earlier NPR piece I was similarly struck by, which addresses fast fashion and the resulting waste of consuming so many garments each year.

There are several ways to combat this overconsumption and waste cycle: 1) consume less; 2) purchase used when necessary; and 3) donate everything.

This article, as NPR so often does, introduced me to an organization I hadn’t heard of before: Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART), which estimates that 85% of clothing ends up in a landfill! Per their website: “SMART members use and convert recycled and secondary materials from used clothing, commercial laundries and nonwoven, off spec material, new mill ends and paper from around the world.” In other words, they recycle and reuse all kinds of textiles and clothing that we might assume no one would want. Ratty old gym shirts, ancient curtains, and dilapidated coats? These can all be donated to, and recycled by, SMART.

In addition to donating to SMART, there are the traditional options of donating to a thrift store or through the Buy Nothing Project (which is where I sent my latest batch of unneeded outfits).

Not buying new clothes is as much an environmental statement as it is a financial one.

Avoiding the purchase of new things also helps decrease this consumption overload since it serves to both cost less and reuse existing material goods. Babywoods has almost entirely used clothing–the only new items in her wardrobe are a few gifts she’s received. Otherwise? It’s used for this bebe.

Closing Clothing Thoughts

Babywoods rocking her used clothes

Babywoods rocking her used clothes

Although clothes are a necessity–for reasons of legality and comfort–the way in which we purchase them often far outstrips the category of pure need. It’s easy to gloss over the line item of clothing in one’s budget on the pat assumption that surely it’s a necessity and can’t be eliminated. However, much like groceries, clothing is an area that’s rife with the opportunity to frugalize.

Questioning why we’re purchasing clothes will, very often, lead us to realize it’s not out of need. We buy clothes as a hobby, because we crave something exciting and different, on the pretense that they’ll make us more successful/desirable/likable, and–the oldest reason of all–to keep up with those omnipresent Joneses. Of course sometimes we legitimately need an article of clothing, but in my experience, this last reason is the least frequent driver.

I’ve had countless major life events happen during my clothes-buying-ban–weddings, a pregnancy, conferences, family reunions, Christmases, graduations, heck I was even on The Today Show!–and every single time? I wore something I already own. And I looked good too.

Recognizing that our individual decisions deeply impact the collective whole is a central element of living a frugal, simple life. It’s actually quite easy to consume less and waste less, it’s just that our dominant culture doesn’t reinforce or promote these ideas because these ideas don’t make money for anyone.

Have you ever done a shopping ban of any sort? How was that experience?

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106 Responses

  1. CarolineRSA says:

    Hi there!
    I am a new reader, from RSA, and I’m 4 and a half months into a clothing ban, and 4 days into my first extreme frugal month. My husband and I are enjoying reading through your posts, learning so much, and really re-thinking our lifestyle. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Wow, great job! I feel I buy clothes far less than I used to and far less than most people I know, but your efforts are amazing and admirable!! Just this morning I decided that a favourite top has now reached its prime and I need to discard it. My immediate thought was that I will need to replace it, but actually… I have plenty of tops. I do not need to replace this one!! Thanks for the inspiration as always!

  3. Yes! This is amazing. I don’t understand people’s obsession with clothes. My wardrobe consists of about 30 different pieces of clothing, all designed for hiking. The clothes aren’t super cheap, but they last FOREVER and are really comfortable.

  4. Congrats on 2.5 years without clothes shopping! I have never done a shopping ban, mainly because I simply don’t like clothes shopping to begin with. But I agree that there’s a huge amount of pressure on women to look a certain way, and choosing to reject that goes a long way toward contentment, confidence, and dialing back consumption. I have to say that it is completely amazing you received hand-me-down nursing bras! The one I bought was destroyed by the time I was done nursing.

  5. We haven’t purchased clothes since November 2014. We were wasteful, living an unsustainable life. Now, we have fewer clothes than ever, but it no longer matters. We’re happy with what we have and the impact it’s had on our life.

  6. Good for you on starting and keeping with the ban! I agree, you end up just buying clothes you don’t need. …That old shirt doesn’t need replacing, it still serves its purpose…

    I try to set limits on how much I buy each year and that goes for both work clothes and non-work clothes. I’ve done well with this and cut it back year after year as I have built up my wardrobe adequately and hold onto things for years and years before replacing. Most of things I buy these days are simply replacement items, like shoes I’ve worn through and holes in my socks, etc.

    What’s impressive is your all-inclusive ban. Now that is something I can strive for! Thanks for the update and keep going!

  7. Sahbee says:

    Hallelujah! Good for you, girl! I feel like my routine is often to unintentionally go on a ban for a year, then make up for it by “stocking up” a lot the next year. I have much to learn. Thanks for the inspiration! One question about Ex-Officious undies. I bought some after reading about them on your blog. I love them, but find they snag so easily! In my zippers, in the wash. Have you had that issue or am I just a particularly snag prone individual? 🙂 Any advice???

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      OH no–sorry to hear about your snag issues! I’ve actually never had mine snag before… so I don’t think I have any advice. Good luck!!

  8. Kristen says:

    I have adopted only buying clothing to replace items that need to be replaced. In the past 6 months or so I purchased 3 pairs of underwear as my dog ate 3 pairs of mine and I finally replaced my shoes that were literally falling apart and causing discomfort to wear. They are the shoes I wear the most, usually at least once every day when the dogs and I go for our walk. It was time! I am loving the freedom of not worrying about shopping!

  9. Susan D. says:

    I recently needed a pair of jeans. I only keep a couple pair of nice looking jeans on hand, but one pair had been relegated to the painting/cleaning pair. So, I waited until 88 cent day at our local Good Will store. I only picked jeans that had the color of tag that indicated that price, and found quite a few nice looking pairs. I tried them on, found a brand-new looking pair of Mossimos, and bought them. Thrilled to death-I would never pay $50 or $100 for jeans. Good Will is the only place that I buy clothes now, but also only when I really need them.

  10. Marcia says:

    That’s pretty amazing. Last year was my clothes buying ban year. With a few exceptions. Running shoes, swimsuits, underwear and shorts.

    This year I’ve purchased several pairs of shorts.

    For me, 2014 was the year I lost most of the baby weight. In 2015, I realized that baggy underwear is not comfortable. For my work clothing, I could wear a belt. I swim twice a week and wear out two swimsuits a year.

    This year I realized that I had no casual shorts that fit. Only workout shorts. I was dreading a second summer like this. Plus I’d lost more weight. I decided it was ridiculous to look like a hobo, considering its shorts weather year round.

  11. Justin says:

    Very impressive. I rarely shop for clothes. But I don’t know how you go without new socks and underoos. Those are disposable after some length of wear in my experience (though a week long supply of either is only about $6-8).

    My only purchase of clothes this year was a $3 pair of brand new Jos A Banks shorts (from the thrift shop of course!). I wear shorts out for some reason.

    • Britt says:

      We’ve switched over completely to Exofficio and Smartwool and other nice, durable, USA-made wool socks. We each have about 5 pairs and my oldest pair is going on 8 years old. We run/walk/cycle/hike about 4 times a week and most weekends we’re camping or fishing, so we really push their limits.

  12. Jane says:

    Ok, you’ve convinced me to do a clothes ban myself! I actually really enjoy having a minimal wardrobe, and only own about 40 items of clothing all up (including jackets, socks, shoes and underwear), but I’ve noticed that I’ve fallen into a habit of constantly tweaking my wardrobe here and there, trying to perfect it. It’s like “if I just buy that summer dress, my wardrobe will be complete.” But then I realise my cardigan is looking a little old, so I just need to upgrade that one, and then my wardrobe will be perfect. And so on! I think by just putting a ban on buying more stuff, I will shift my mental focus to more important things in life, not to mention save money. So thanks for the motivation to do so!

  13. Dorothy says:

    Sorry to hijack the discussion, but Babywoods looks so very happy!

  14. Holly says:

    I started my clothing ban because I was working to pay off a large credit card bill & started cutting out necessary expenses. It’s coming up to a year in July when my credit card should be paid off as well (cross fingers). At that point I would like another pair of athletic pants. But I’m thinking long and hard about any future purchases, and I may start another clothing ban in August. It also helps if you are happy with the clothes you have already & have the quantity you need to get by during a clothing ban.

  15. Patrick says:

    Great and timely reminder for me – thank you.

  16. 2.5 years is amazing! Congrats! I am 5 months into my ban and I am already wearing holes through some of my ballet flats and shirts! When I do end up buying new items I am going to have try to buy higher quality so that they last longer than the cheapy items I have now 🙂

    • Kate says:

      That is my motto now — buy less, buy better. I splurged on two tops and a pair of slacks at J. Jill in April, and I have already worn all three items about 5 times now. I decided to set a budget for myself of $100 a month — most months I spend nothing at all — and now that I know I CAN spend money on clothes, I suddenly don’t want to as badly. Go figure.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Yeah–I used to buy higher-end used clothes, which does mean they’re lasting quite a long time. For cheap new clothes, I’ve found that Kohl’s stuff lasts forever!

  17. It’s probably been over a year since I’ve purchased any clothing…although this is probably more accidental than an enforce behavior. Now that I’ve reached early retirement I find that I just *don’t need anything*.

    I wasn’t much of a clothes hound before, but even less so now!

    Congrats on 2.5 years! How has frugal hounds’ spending been during that time? She seems like a total clothes hound. 🙂

  18. Ree Klein says:

    I haven’t gone to a J.O.B. for three years now (now self-employed) and so my clothes-buying has dropped to near nothing. I, too, wear less makeup and cut my own hair. It’s amazing how much less you feel you “need” these things when you aren’t going into an office building where there are “standards” that run deeper than the Employee Handbook!

    I’m happier, work harder and enjoy life more in my old clothes, old car and and old home. Your comments on the environment dovetail so well with the book “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominquez. Have you ever read that book? It’s an older book (in keeping with the theme that old can still be good!) but it’s one of my favorite books on financial independence.

    Cheers! Ree

  19. KT says:

    I heard that NPR story as well and I am so down with this concept of donating, buying second hand and reducing consumption! I buy nice items at a women’s resale store in my town and sell as much (of my own old stuff), there as well – it’s like an even trade! And they are nice clothes, too! As for donating, I just dropped three bags off at Goodwill and have more to take later. When my kids outgrow their clothes, we pass their clothes along to other families we know with younger sibs who are always the right size for things we no longer fit in to. Also, any time I don’t buy something, I take that money and put it away some place else- like pay a bill! Destination Financial freedom!

  20. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    I must say I enjoy clothing but I do stick to a specific budget to get it. My husband said this weekend he was surprised by an outfit I was wearing. He liked it but it was more colorful than normal and less covered up than usual. I had to reflect on this a little. I spent many years (beginning in childhood) being ashamed and embarrassed of my body. First because I developed faster than my peers, later because of my weight. I dieted and went up and down for years. Many years ago my doctor told me frankly if I didn’t lose weight children wouldn’t be an option. I did what I was told and the weight just would not go away! I finally decided to have a gastric bypass. I lost half of my body weight. I went on to have my two girls and have since put on some weight but not like I was. However, I have come to accept that it will always be a struggle but I have control over how I react to it. I feel more confident…I mean, this body brought human beings into this world. That’s important. I’m going to wear what makes me feel good and happy. There are parts of me that are not perfect yet still beautiful. I don’t wear makeup every day, but when I do I do it up in a way that makes me feel great.
    There are two little girls that watch my every move. They are told all the time how much they look like me…how can I look in the mirror and call myself ugly or fat when they are watching. Their precious minds will think if mommy thinks she fat and I look like her then maybe I’m fat. I don’t ever want them to feel shame about how they are made or what they look like.
    I’ve grown up…and I am just as I should be…and I am happy to be me!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you for setting such a wonderful example for your girls!!! I had that same realization that Babywoods will hear me if I say negative things about my body and so I stopped cold turkey. I want my daughter, like yours, to love how she looks!

  21. Mikel says:

    I need to instate the ban, as well. I am a chronic clothes and skincare/cosmetics products buyer. I do donate all my used clothes and accessories, though, so am feeling pretty good about not junking up the landfills. Thanks for the inspiration to attempt a ban!

  22. Hannah says:

    I’ve been reading all of your posts regarding your clothes ban and think the entire thing is awesome, but for some reason this one in particular inspired me: my 6 month clothing/shoe/purse ban begins now!!

    Love all your posts thanks for always sharing your insights and tips!

  23. Marilyn says:

    I like this idea a lot, and have contemplated my own clothes-buying ban. However, I am in the process of losing 70 lbs (20 down so far!) and am not sure how I would accomplish it with my size changing every couple of months. If I had a bunch of clothes I could just wear, that would be one thing, but… I don’t. Once I’m done losing the weight, I’d like to try not buying anything for a while. In the meantime, I’m sticking to secondhand. I’m also trying to stick to things that aren’t so dependent on a perfect fit – skirts and dresses instead of jeans, for example.

    If anyone has any other tips for minimizing spending while changing sizes, I’m all ears!

    • Kate says:

      A belt can make a loose-fitting top more flattering. Wear tank tops and T shirts under loose fitting blouses so the blouse looks like a jacket. Belt a skirt that is loose in the waist. A decent tailor can take in the waist on anything. I once had the seat taken in on a favorite pair of pants (which I had to donate because i couldn’t button the waist any more… menopause, you know). Concentrate on how brave and awesome you are, and what an inspiration you are to others!

  24. Laurel says:

    You can get great deals too on ebay. I like them especially for shoes. It’s hit or miss finding your size in the thrift shops and ebay makes that a lot easier.

  25. Veronica says:

    I discovered that I was constantly buying clothes because I was bored and online shopping was convenient. I’m drastically paring down my wardrobe and filling in holes with secondhand or ethically made pieces that actually fit and flatter my body (currently, I’m being swallowed in large amounts of fabric). After that, I plan to start a ban of my own!

  26. Caroline says:

    The only area I will not consider used is shoes, especially for children. I don’t mean a very lightly-worn pair of (say) dress shoes or whatever, but hard-worn footwear should never be passed on if there is any alternative. Life long back and foot problems can be set up, it’s really not a good idea. I hope Estelle – who looks totally gorgeous in anything and everything, thrift, nearly-new, handmade, whatever – gets sturdy, well-made shoes when the time comes. That’s not to say I go and buy designer kicks at all, but my boys have properly-fitted, decent quality shoes seasonally. That’s my one concession to buying new without exception.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, we typically buy new shoes as well. I’d say 95% of our footwear was purchased new because, like you said, it’s so important to have good fitting shoes!

  27. Lena says:

    Ok – I’m sold. I’m going to try a clothing ban next month. Every month, the hubby and I challenge ourselves to do something different (buy nothing, alcohol free, no Facebook…) So it looks like June will be a clothing ban. All of my clothes come from the thrift store as it is but I usually make one trip a month to get “necessities.” Wish me luck!

    Ps. I don’t think babywood could be any more stylin’

  28. Emily says:

    Next month I’ll have completed a full without clothes shopping. I’m excited to “finish,” but like you, I don’t think my old shopping habits will ever come back. It’s definitely changed how I view clothing, shopping, and myself! So little of it is actually a necessity.

  29. Miranda says:

    I have a small wardrobe, about 2 weeks of clothes, so they get worn out quicker. Plus, I hate shopping for clothes, so I usually buy cheaper stuff that doesn’t last. But still, I only buy when clothes wear out. I prefer not to think about clothes.

    2.5 years is great! Good for you.

  30. snowcanyon says:

    Fantastic!!! Great blog and great accomplishment!!

    My problem is I run through shoes, socks, and hiking pants like there’s no tomorrow. How do you avoid replacing shoes? I get mine resewn and resoled, but eventually they undergo complete structural failure. I know you loooove hiking, just wondering where you found hiking shoes (I can’t stand boots!!) that have lasted so long. I shred mine in a year at most.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      My hiking shoes are Merrils from REI and somehow they’ve lasted along with my winter boots, which are Sorels. I try to only wear my hiking shoes when I need to–the rest of the time I wear old tennis shoes. But, other than that, I don’t have any tricks!

  31. Mollie says:

    Mrs. FW, I channeled you last week as I had wardrobe panic about an upcoming wedding. I had a dress lined up, then got asked to participate in the ceremony, and started making thrift store shopping plans because the dress I intended to wear is less church-friendly than I’m comfortable with in my new participatory role. I made myself go back through my closet, and I DO have an alternate dress that would work fine. No shopping involved!

    As a side note, my clothing journey has been about recently discovering that I don’t actually like or feel comfortable in too many of the clothes I own. I buy things because I’m supposed to have something that looks sort of like that item to fit in. I don’t have a ton of clothes in the first place, so I’m trying to become very intentional going forward about buying things I really like, that will last, will suit multiple types of occasions, and then pass along what doesn’t actually look good or fit me.

  32. Teresa says:

    I am in my second year of clothing ban. The only item I had to purchase was a swim suit. I have bought nothing else in the last two years. Thank you for the inspiration. We can change the world and shave money making us much more successful people.

  33. April says:

    Mrs frugalwoods, just wanted to share, I used to go to the thrift store almost every week. I’ve started tracking Expenses and decided I would limit myself to $15 once a month. I’m so proud of myself for this last month, and I don’t even feel like I need anything, so I’m not going to go!! Inspired by you!! You’re right about the month, and how your feelings change.

  34. Trish says:

    How do you deal with the wear-and tear on your clothes after a ban of this long? I did a year long shopping ban for 2015, and while it worked great, I find myself “paying for it” now in 2016 as all of those items are approaching threadbare. I didn’t have a large wardrobe to start (I’ve always live at a “capsule” wardrobe level), and I try to always repair things multiple times before donating/discarding, but have really been battling a worn-out wardrobe this year. Mostly shoes. Any advice?

  35. Congrats on making it so long! I’m still pretty far in the opposite direction–I have barely enough clothing to wear different ones to work. I think things like, “I only own one pair of shorts. I should probably get another so I can do the wash.” (Goodwill, $1.99.)

    Keeping my wardrobe small is definitely a deliberate choice! I do find that I need to replace things more often than it seems you do. I buy new white socks (for wearing with my PJs) fairly often–annually? Maybe every year-and-a-half-ish? And I generally own only one pair of “nice” jeans, which last one season as nice jeans and another season as biking jeans and then simply fall apart. I think it’s because the stretchy stuff doesn’t last as long.

    Something that’s frustrating me is that my kids have school uniforms, so it’s like they have two whole wardrobes. Sigh. But I do limit their clothes, too:

    1. Staying on top of laundry so they don’t need as many uniforms.
    2. Buying fewer casual clothes since they are just for weekends and breaks.
    3. Mending uniform pants rather than replacing. (But PLEASE let the weather turn soon! I am out of khaki patches and Big Brother’s pants are rapidly losing structural integrity.)

  36. Pat Pickett says:

    Applause! I went the same route years ago. Yes, I loved buying clothes. I’m still not totally over that addiction. I buy brand new sandals every summer and they have to be Italian. Yeah…pricey but that’s really the only thing of real luxury I indulge in now. It did occur to me that since I’m an artist, why in the world wasn’t I using my creativity to create new outfits out of old clothes? It is actually more fun (now that I have the toxins of buying out of my system) than fighting my way through traffic and other customers at Dillards. Really proud of you for having discovered this so young.

  37. Mike says:

    The idea of it being difficult at the beginning, but if I press though, I learn a new way of living.

    For me, the biggest change in my life, has been my diet. Just recently, I learned in many countries, breakfast consists of vegetables. So I started eating veggies for breakfast. I like these micro goals that add up to big changes.

  38. I love this! Everything really is connected, and feeling peace and contentment in one area of life spills over into all others.

  39. Christine K says:

    While I can’t actually remember the last time I paid actual money for clothes, I can say that the local college move-out just provided me with an entirely new (to me, and some actually NEW) wardrobe. I believe the NPR story, because it sure seems to me that clothing is regarded as disposable by many people. So crazy, since so many materials and man-hours go into the garments 🙁

    My “spending ban” is bottled water. I used to buy it like crazy out of habit as I grew up in an area where the tap water was not really drinkable, but a few years ago I decided that I’d try tap water here. Haven’t bought bottled water since. Now I wonder what I was ever thinking, paying all that money for cases of bottled water every week, dragging them into the house, stuffing the recycle bin with plastic bottles…

  40. Josh says:

    The challenge is having clothes that don’t start looking dingy after several washes. I buy most of my clothes from a thrift store & wear them until they can only be used for rags. So I usually get two new sets of clothes each year. So 2.5 years is really impressive to me.

  41. sharon says:

    ok so i’m convinced. i was on the fence, but this has convinced me to do the clothes ban. and today, after some thought, i realized i have a goal in mind…i’m way farther down the line than the frugalwoods age wise, so i’m coming from a different place, but now that i have a goal, know my ‘why’, and have done more research, i think this bad and more frugal way of living can compliment the life i live NOW, and be good for our future as well. so this is all a long winded way of saying i think perhaps this can be a lesson for any age group. there are always ways to save and save big, always new goals to shoot for, and always a new reason to be frugal. thank you mrs (and mr) frugalwood for pointing out the benefits. i so look forward to many more articles…i particularly love the posts devoted to clothing…it’s not going to be easy because i am an emotional shopper (and eater!) and rarely if ever buy from need….it’s my pleasure, my hobby and my comfort. have mercy!

  42. Sarah says:

    Love this! And in addition to SMART if you’re a composter you can compost old natural fabrics. Pure wool, cotton, silk, linen, hemp, ramie and their blends. Of course it’s better to donate first, but some things just don’t have any more life in them. 🙂

  43. Ali says:

    I’m a couple of weeks away from a year long ban, with a few caveats in place – namely things I knew needed replacing and things I ended up being forced to replace. It has been surprisingly easy and I’m going to continue on indefinitely.

  44. Amy says:

    I had to laugh, I buy very few clothes, like you I work from home (yoga pants is the uniform) but I had just decided to buy a new dress for my son’s college graduation and I saw this post and thought, I don’t need a new dress, I can wear the same dress I wore to his high school graduation. Haha.. so thank you and good luck with the move.

  45. The Roamer says:

    I am amazed at you being able to keep up the ban not through pregnancy but through nursing. I applaud how you were able to find comfortable used nursing bras. This is something I felt I should have spent more money on so it’s cool to see that you can find good goods without a big cost.

    Also baby woods is looking so adorable. Cant wait to see you all again at FinCon

  46. Norm says:

    We regularly spend under $1,000 annually on clothes. About 1/4 of that is mine, so if it takes $250 a year to keep me super handsome, as my anonymous blog will (not) attest, that’s okay. I don’t see the point of an outright ban. Ex: I usually buy one pair of new boxers a year, but am noticing threads coming off of some older pairs, so I might have to up that to two or three new pairs this year. Which will probably be an extra $10. Big whoop.

    I do a twice annual clothing purge for donations to get rid of the old stuff being replaced by the new, so I am perpetually at just the right amount of clothing.

  47. Ms. Montana says:

    For years I have kept the same number of hangers in my closet, and refused to add new ones. So if I bought a new piece, one had to come out. That rule was broken for this pregnancy. Now that baby #5 is 4 months old, I am holding off even trying on new clothes till I get rid of all the baby weight. I have never enjoyed shopping for clothes, but with my postpartum body, it’s dreadful. 50% of my motivation for maintaining my weight is to be able to avoid clothing shopping.

  48. Holly says:

    You guys look great and far more interesting in your thrift store and hand me down attire than you ever would in new store bought just-like-everyone else clothes. It’s hard to put together a creative outfit when you’re overwhelmed by the choices. If I could just take my own advise and get on the clothes-buying ban bandwagon. Well, no time like the present, today is the time to start!

  49. Emily says:

    Great post! Wondering how you handled your postpartum clothing needs? Did you have a stash of bigger-than-usual “normal” non-maternity clothes? Love the blog!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Good question! Yes, I did have some larger clothes from when I gained weight during grad school, so I wore those jeans and tops for a few months after Babywoods was born. I also kept wearing some of my hand-me-down maternity outfits. Very glad to be back in my regular clothes now!

  50. I have been shopping for all my clothes at thrift shops almost 25 years. I don’t miss full price retail at all.

  51. Danell says:

    Throwing clothes literally in the trash is something I’ve never understood. Why fill the landfills with something someone else could use? I “educated” a friend of mine a couple years ago that didn’t see anything wrong with throwing out clothes when he felt they were no longer nice enough to wear. Trust me, they still had PLENTY of wear left in them and I’m sure someone else would be happy with them. I always ask when I donate if they recycle in some way the clothing that is too bad to be sold. My local thrift store does, so I take them everything. I will have to listen to those NPR audios when I get a chance. Thanks for another great post!

  52. Parul Sharma says:

    This is such a timely piece, it was yesterday that someone was telling me how they easily spend over 100$ a month for shopping. Believe me it is a lot of money from where we come.
    I had a serious shopping condition some 7 years back and I spent over 1/3rd of my salary buying shoes and clothes simply because there was good sales. Thankfully online shopping doesn’t excite me as much or I would be down in the ditches. To be true the reason I stopped shopping was because we started travelling some 50-100 days a year in 2013. It was a choice between some really beautiful heels I would rarely wear and a night in a place I have dreamed of. The shopping spree I talk about above would have been enough to support two of us in Maldives for 2-3 days today.
    Now the problematic part- I gained weight and clothes don’t fit as well as they used to. I handed probably 2-3 bag full of clothes to my sisters a few months ago. and it was so relieving. Now I am looking for someone who would do the same for me. The problem is I can’t seem to find a suitable donor.

  53. Suzewannabe says:

    I learned a lot while researching the clothes donation, consumption industries. Just the tip of the iceberg and more complex than I thought.

    #1 export from the US? Clothes?!

  54. Laura Gail says:

    First off, your baby is 100% adorable! Second, I’m 22 weeks preg and you have totally inspired me with the no clothes shopping. I recently discovered your blog though Blondeonabudget.com because I read your comments on her threads. Both blogs inspired me to cut out clothes shopping this month and spending money on anything but groceries and bills etc. No eating out, Starbucks, maternity shopping or even baby shopping… and I have to tell you it’s like its been a huge stress reliever to me. I didn’t realize how stressed out I was over purchases. I want to get a good value and make the right choice so shopping creates a lot of stress for me. Regarding the clothing, I use a 10 item wardrobe anyway but lately this has made me appreciate my clothing even more and I’m taking way better care of it than I was before so that it can last longer. Someone gave me some maternity clothes but all of her stuff is long pants and long sleeve tees which don’t work really well in the heat of an Alabama summer. So… I’m trying to make do with what I own. I have a few things in my closet that have elastic waistbands and I’m working hard on my exercise and nutrition so I don’t gain excess weight over what my doctor has advised. It’s been great to make it halfway through my pregnancy in all my own regular clothes. I don’t know how things will be by mid to late summer but I’m sticking with my current goals and not worrying about the future. I just want to thank you for your transparency. Your willingness to share your life has so inspired me as my husband and I are working hard to pay of his student loans from his Masters degree and our minivan. We also want to pay off our very reasonable (compared to others around us) mortgage. We estimate that we can do all this(student loans, car and mortgage) in 7 years. But, I believe if we continue to make some of the changes in our lives like you and Mr. Frugalwoods have, then it will go much faster. Blessings on you and your precious family!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Way to go, Laura! That’s awesome! Yeah, I made it pretty far in my pregnancy wearing my regular clothes. And for warmer weather, dresses are wonderful–if you can get a few hand-me-down maternity dresses, you’ll be set! Best of luck and many congrats on embracing a simpler, less stressful lifestyle 🙂

  55. Thank you for the inspiration to ban myself from shopping for new clothes. I’m in my third year of not buying anything – the only exception was a bridesmaid dress for my sister’s wedding, because she wouldn’t negotiate. However, I thankfully found it on eBay, so I didn’t have to spend $200+ at a bridal boutique.

    I did receive new socks as a Christmas present. My mom kept asking me whether there was anything else that I wanted, but I just kept telling her socks, only socks.

  56. Kate says:

    I love your inspiring posts in this arena not only for frugality but also for women. You write so eloquently about these topics, and you had inspired me when I first stumbled upon your blog to try a no-new-clothes ban for a year. Being 6 months into it already, it’s been great and I’ve mostly forgotten about it. I save so much time now when shopping in larger stores, as I can skip that part altogether. It hasn’t been easy coming back from maternity (as I gained a tremendous amount of weight and nothing fits right) but I’m making it work and am slowly getting back into my old clothes. Thanks for the inspiration!

  57. Cognitive Miser says:

    I found your blog recently and have been *wondering* about your nursing bras! I bought about 7 or 8 with my first pregnancy. The expensive one with 3 umpty million five-star reviews on Amazon? It didn’t work for me – it fit OK midway through my pregnancy but I ended up a J-K cup when my milk came in, and it wasn’t nearly stretchy enough to accommodate. Another expensive one wore out after a year of nursing. My favorites ended up being some $12 bras I found on Amazon. The straps slip a little, but they have been durable and stretchy enough to handle my usual size DD up to my max size J-K. My first pregnancy was primarily in winter – this time I’m due in September. I spent about $25 at the consignment store on six summer maternity tops and bought one more $12 bra before I discovered your blog, but I am now resolved to not buy anything else! I have a family wedding this summer but I am inspired to make something work!

  58. cs says:

    Your post inspired me to do the same, well I made it for 4 months anyways before I bought a pair of new to me shoes. I don’t have many clothes so I am on the lookout for some good deals, but now my perspective is that I can do without until I find a few things I really like. No more settling because I think I have to have them, I have been doing fine without them, but a few new to me items would help round out what I have.

  59. beth says:

    Well, I lost enough weight that my jeans slide off my hips when I walk and my tops are so lose they don’t look right so I’m going to have to replace them. They’re thrifted to begin with so back to the thrift store they went. I’m looking for church rummage sales b/c I can get better-than-goodwill prices. I guess losing weight is a justifiable reason for buying clothes!

  60. Great post!
    I realized that I had way, way too many clothes when I traveled indefinitely. I had this huge bag of clothes, most of them I did not actually want to wear on my trip.
    I realized that I could have survived indefinitely off of the clothes I already owned.
    This trip completely changed my mindset on feeling the urge to buy new clothes.

  61. Another great post that highlights the links between frugality and environmentalism! Keep up the great work!

  62. Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods. I just finished reading a great book and thought of you. It’s called “Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later.” My kids are much older as one will be a senior in HS in the fall, one will be a freshman and then I’ll have a 6th grader. I read this book as it caught my eye because I consider myself a “mean mom”. It reminds me very much of your philosophy on life and her style of writing is actually very similar to yours. Thought you might like to take a look at it. All my best!!!

  63. Thank you for sharing. I share your opinion on this after putting myself in debt at a young age. Materialistic items are only valuable to the person who makes them valuable. I would rather spend my money on things I can cherish and memories I can carry with me forever. I don’t see the point of living up to the fashion industries endless fashion

  64. Kate says:

    You inspired me to try a clothing ban of sorts – not as hardcore as you but I am only buying used, and even that – hardly. Being pregnant last year actually made me realize how little clothing I need. I got by for months with 5 pairs of pants, a skirt, and some shirts – and it actually made getting dressed easier. So now I am working on a very intentional wardrobe and gone are the days of buying lots of cheap things. I also really appreciated your tip on PACT underwear and socks. A big part of my motivation is environmental and so am glad to have a source for ethical socks & undies.

  65. BeachMama says:

    Hope you don’t mind if I share a link – here’s a great way to recycle jeans that are too rough/torn/holey to donate:


    If you’re not familiar with this organization, they turn your old jeans into home insulation 🙂

  66. I’d say I do semi-participate in this ban because I absolutely detest shopping and really just don’t care much for fashion. Many of my current outfits were hand-me-downs or items I’ve had for years. However, I do find myself at the bare minimum needing to buy a couple pairs of jeans each year when my current pair give out (no thigh gap for me!). I’m terrible about actually getting my clothes to the donation centers though because with no car, the thought of lugging stuff 2 miles to the closest center just always gets pushed off to another weekend. I could call a taxi…but then I don’t want to pay for a cab to go donate clothes. 😛

  67. TomTrottier says:

    Clothes are more important when you are mateless, less so after.

  68. ZJ Thorne says:

    I definitely have (and am about to wear on a date with the girlfriend) my prom dress. I am now happily at a place where I can save up for only good quality pieces, but most of my wardrobe has been hand-me-downs for as long as I’ve known.

  69. Margaret says:

    I listed to the NPR article as well and then read the book http://www.amazon.com/Overdressed-Shockingly-High-Cheap-Fashion/dp/1591846544
    Given the quality of the clothes made today, I’m curious how your clothes have held up over the last few years?

  70. Hannah says:

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing all these changes in your life and things that have continued onward! I shop when Im lonely and that’s been tricky to work through. Do you ever worry you’ve missed out on anything? Truth be told, I get a lot of satisfaction out of clothing-I know there are always cheaper options, or gifted/thrifted/swapped garments-and that shopping cant be more than an item full of self-projection, just the same…I really, really, love new things.

    Tanget: Do you ever look back to your pre-extreme frugal years and regret the money spent not saved? I definitely do that, but I also really liked the memories/experiences that came…I’m just talking to myself here, I know there are frugal options with equally/more/less nostalgia provoking potency.

  71. Lisa says:

    I just went through a major decluttering of my wardrobe and although I made a huge dent (3 garbage bags full!), I still feel like I have too many clothes. This is so inspiring! I want to commit to buying better clothes, not just cheap fashion, and hopefully one day I can do a clothes shopping ban, too!

  72. SJ says:

    I think I’m at the end of a very-nearly-100% 2.5 clothing ban. It’s been a great run, but, yeah, I think I’m about done. Most of my clothing weren’t bought brand new to begin with.. they were hand-me-downs from friends or relatives or second-hand purchased. New clothes were cheap brands from Old Navy and Target from a time when we didn’t have money for much beyond my husband’s tuition. All my clothes are fit and styled for a young woman’s body, particularly a young woman from the mid-to-later 2000’s…. but I’m no longer that young woman.. and it’s 2016. In addition, I’ve been living in a cool climate of the Pacific Northwest and my husband just got a job offer for steamy, tropical Southeast China! I will simply HAVE to acquire a new wardrobe! I won’t deny that I’m *elated* by the opportunity to have new (or new-to-me) clothing, but I am doing my due diligence and will be very careful about my future wardrobe purchases. I plan to buy a capsule wardrobe of the highest quality and durability (and the job will afford it too!) before I move since I’m a very average western size woman. I will stay away from patterns and funky colors.. things that will see me through my early-mid 40’s (I’m still not quite 40 though!) ..and last to about the time that I anticipate getting into menopause and all the associated changes with that. Gosh, where does time go???

  73. Stockbeard says:

    Goodwill will also gladly take very old and used and unwearable textiles, as long as there is no mold on them. They do have a sorting center where everything that can be sold at their stores is kept, but overused stuff is sent to other places that do recycle the textiles.

  74. Are there any suggestions if you are dating/engaged/married to someone who really likes buying cheap clothes? I haven’t purchased any new clothes in about that same time period as the Frugalwoods. However, if you are married to someone who likes to buy nice new clothes, how do you argue convincingly to avoid buying new things?

    • Christine K says:

      Cheap like nice labels but from the thrift store, or cheap like “fast fashion” from a retail store? If it’s the latter, the book mentioned above (“Overclothed” or something like that) is a real eye opener. I think I saw a similar documentary on Netflix that could be good to watch with them too. If it’s the former (nice clothes from the thrift store), maybe convince them to Ebay what they don’t use/ask them to set a limit on what they have at any given time?

  75. Lisa says:

    Awesome!! I had to donate 99% of my clothes after having my kids because my body changed and things just did not fit. I am rebuilding with a capsule wardrobe and buying only what I need and things that are high quality. I have a hard time shopping at a lot of stores because of the human rights issues in garment factories and the fact that I want natural fibers – where have they all gone?? Eventually I’ll have what I need and just stop…otherwise it is an endless cycle.

  76. We’ve done shopping bans on junk food and alcohol, but I had never considered clothing! I used to love shopping at Clothes Mentor for secondhand clothes, but I wasn’t in need of new clothes. I’m now of the mindset that shopping shouldn’t be considered a “hobby” or a “fun activity.” I’m approaching it from a survival standpoint. Maybe Mr. Picky Pincher and I should try our own clothing ban, although we admittedly don’t buy clothes more than once a year or so. It’s always good to try new frugal goals!

  77. I have challenged myself cloth-buying ban for a few years back. It was really hard to control myself from buying any clothes especially after getting my paycheck. I think I was able to pull it off for 5 months. Though partly unsuccessful, I am glad that I did it as it helped me save more money. I have to congratulate you Frugalwoods!

  78. New fan of your site (and proud Italian greyhound owner!) I’m trying so hard to get clothing under control. Especially in relation to decluttering. Working in an office I am afraid to mentally commit to a ban but I am trying to go for quality and just buy a lot less. I have bought too many cheap things that didn’t last a season and it makes me disgusted. Lots of purchases I have regretted. It’s a terrible waste.

  79. My body changed completely after having three kids and I have had to buy everything new. My feet grew half a size and I had to donate all of my old shoes. I am a short little Hobbit person with a round little Hobbit post-babies tummy, and finding pants at thrift stores is almost impossible. I compromise by only owning 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts, one pair of dress slacks since I work from home, and 2 dresses, and keeping the wardrobe very simple. I bought high quality that will hopefully last years. My winter gear is from LL bean, and that is supposed to last eons.

  80. Linda says:

    You inspired me to try (do) a shopping ban…I did have to buy some underwear, but I haven’t bought anything else since last August. I have acquired new to me clothes from my daughter and a friend….they gifted me with their cast offs! Lucky me😀

  81. Ivonne Llanos says:

    I am not a big cloths shopping, and in general no a big fan of buying things. I have always spent my money in activities than things. I find difficult to decide what to wear when I get a lot cloths, so I have ever had few cloths. However, like most of you said, society push us to buy cloths, push us to wear a different outfit for every party, etc. I used to work in a hotel as waitress, while I was doing my studies, and because we used uniforms I had so little cloths, then went I finished my studies and got a job in an office, I felt that I have to buy more cloths and dress in certain ways, I even sometimes feel ashamed of coming with the same cloths for about 3 months. lol.

    So this year, I had a similar experience to the ban clothing. I had some financial problems so I decided no to pay rent (Live in London, rent is almost 1/3 of my salary) and live in my friends coach for a few months. In order to do that I had to reduce my stuff, that was an amazing liberating experience, as I said I do not have many things, so the little that I had I reduce it to 2 luggages and one box. that was all (just to say that I am not original from London, I am from Colombia and all my family still lives there). I had to reduce my cloths to just a 5 Jeans (I use Jeans for the office), some T-shirts and shirts, one Pijama, 3 bra, 5 underwear, one pair of running shoes, 2 sport outfits, one pair of boots and three casual shoes. that was all. Also that I can’t buy any cloths because I can’t store them.

    The experience has be a mix of feelings, at the beginning I was struggle with the idea of no having many stuff but then I just feel liberated. I don’t have to think what to wear, Just go an grab something out of the few items that I’ve got, I feel I dress more practical than for appearance.

    so having a lot cloths is not only to save money but time as well, oh Do you know that genius like mark zuckerberg has only t-shirts and Jeans. the reason is to save time thinking and taking a decision what to wear. I completely agree with him. However I respect and admire the fashion Industry, it is beauty there, but that I am afraid is not for me.

  82. Lisa says:

    Out of curiosity, what would you do if you needed extended sizes that are not readily available in stores? Both my husband and I are very tall, and we need clothing that can accommodate our longer bodies. Most discount stores don’t have these sizes in-stock, and I buy most of them through the on-line portal of my second retail job so I can get a 50% discount on them. These sizes aren’t very common so I don’t see them on resale sites or in thrift stores, and I’m definitely not going to be getting hand-me-downs from any friends. I’m also trying to get my husband’s and my wardrobes to properly fit after years of buying clothes (especially for him) that were too short in the arms and torso. I’d love to see us reduce our clothing spending, but is focusing on building up wardrobes of quality, properly-fitting pieces now really against the spirit of living frugally?

  83. Prakash Ghai says:

    No clothes bought for 2.5 years? That is just so wow. I just want to ask you how many times did you get tempted to end the ban?
    You must have come across a really pretty dress or something on sale that was really worth it or something you had been waiting to buy and that was finally on sale.

    So, How did you manage to refrain yourself from all this?

  84. rosario says:

    I always think about 2-3 times before I buy clothes and if I still want it then I THINK about purchasing it and then I MIGHT get it.. There are things that I spend money on but clothes is one area where I am soooo tight…..

  85. both your kid and you look gorgeous.
    you’ve got beauty from inside out. no need to adorn with new clothes at all 🙂
    i do the same, i still wear dress clothes i got 14 years ago when I was 18 to work banquet… people though i looked great.
    i say if we all spend more time, energy, resources on taking care of ourselves, we’d all look great with a fat wallet too!

  86. Laura says:

    You and Babywoods are too cute! Stop messing with my ovaries!
    One thing I’m realising is that the idea of clothes as an expression of self is an illusion. No purchase is going to magically express who I am, and if it feels like it does today, it probably won’t tomorrow. After years and years of “just this one more thing and then my wardrobe will be complete”, I’m finally going cold turkey on clothes, too, and it feels awesome! This blog has played a big part in that, so thanks 🙂

  87. Denise says:

    I am going to start my clothing ban for 1 year on 1 September 2016. It will be tough but I like to challenge myself. I live in the DC metro area so everyone expects you to dress a certain way. I have everything I need and I don’t understand why I continue to buy more. For me it is also psychological–I grew up poor and having a lot of clothes was not a possibility. I was also made fun of for not having a lot of clothes. I was doing capsule wardrobes in elementary,middle, and high school before it was popular. Now that I have money and make a decent wage, I can buy clothes. I think I am buying too much, but less than my friends. I have great pieces and like Mrs FW, I love consignment and I love a good deal!!

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