The investment piece: One investment that’s no investment at all

It never fails. Whenever I venture into a store, especially a clothing store, I inevitably hear the phrase that makes me want to stage an impromptu personal-finance intervention: "It's an investment piece."

As in, "This jacket is a little pricey, but it's a classic — an investment piece." Or, "I need to invest in a pair of versatile black dress shoes." Continue reading...

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Cheap solutions: Closet organization

An organized closet is a practical thing to have. It saves you time in the morning, since you don't have to dig through a sea of shoes for a sole mate. It can save you money, as well. I know I'm guilty of buying something without realizing I already owned something similar.

But a major closet overhaul can be pricey. Built-ins are expensive, and closet systems like those at The Container Store aren't cheap, either. The good news is that there are inexpensive solutions for closet organization problems.

Separating clothes is step one.

Step One: Sorting

The first step is to clean out your closet. You knew I was going to say that, right? But it's crucial to distinguish between the good, the bad, and the ugly before you spend any time organizing.

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My year without clothes shopping

This guest post from Jill Chivers is part of the "reader stories" feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes.

Hi. My name is Jill, and I'm a recovering shopaholic. On 15 December 2009, I started a challenge to spend a year without clothes shopping. It hasn't been easy; I have a converted double bedroom as my walk-in wardrobe, and I love clothes. So, why did I decide to take a year off from clothes shopping?

Financial Reasons

In 2009, my financial circumstances changed but my spending habits didn't. I was earning less but not spending less. Tired of earning good money in a lucrative market (I used to be a corporate facilitator and coach), I started an online business in early 2009. Whilst the experience “grew me” in many ways, it didn't grow my bank account.

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Ask the readers: How do you build a wardrobe on a budget?

If you were building your wardrobe from scratch, how would you do it? Would you prioritize quality? Would you emphasize cost? Or is there some happy balance between the two? That's what GRS reader author J.D. wants to know. He writes:

I'm a 40-something guy who's lost 40-something pounds over the past year. This is a good thing. But now my old clothes don't fit. As a frugal fellow, this creates something of a dilemma. How do I re-build my wardrobe while keeping an eye on costs?

For most of my adult life, I've dressed in what I'd call Modern Slob. Or maybe Geek Casual. My wardrobe comprised jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, most of which were purchased at Costco and local thrift stores.

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Giving away, not selling, my stuff

Ever since I cleaned out my closet, I've gotten more and more ruthless, editing more and adding less.

The result of deleting items from drawers and hangers is two large brown boxes taking up floor space in the closet, overflowing with castaways. The boxes have grown into mountains, and I can't walk to the back of my closet anymore.

My intention was to sell these items, which are the nicer things that I actually like, but don't work for one reason or another. I didn't want to drop them off at the consignment shop because the shop keeps 60% of the profit and only accepts in-season clothing, meaning I'd have to keep some of this Stuff in my closet for almost a year. So I planned to sell it on eBay, thinking I could make some of my money back and maybe sell the out-of-season items.

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Dress yourself for free: How to host a clothing swap

I spend almost nothing on clothes. According to Mint, I've spent $199.50 to clothe my family of five this year. They say the average U.S. household has spent $1258.62. That's more than six times my spending.

It's been years since I walked into a clothing store, tried on styles I liked and bought myself a new pair of jeans. That doesn't mean I'm content to dress like a slob, or wear the same tried-and-true favorites season after season. I change up my wardrobe every few months with a huge shopping spree — from my friends' closets.

The Clothing Swap

My friends and I hold clothing swaps at least once a season. We all clean out our closets of anything we don't love that's still in good condition. We get together and swap our cast-offs around. I'm a walking advertisement for the aphorism, "One person's trash is another person's treasure." Continue reading...

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The one-year wardrobe project

About a year ago, at the advice of GRS readers, I started an experiment. I took all of the shirts and sweaters from my clothes closet and moved them into our spare room. Whenever I needed something to wear, I checked the clothes closet first. If what I needed wasn't there (as was often the case at first), I went to the spare room to find it. After I'd worn a shirt or sweater once, it was allowed to return to its home in the main clothes closet.

The results of this experiment probably won't be very surprising. After a couple of weeks during which I was reclaiming my favorite shirts, most of the rest remained unused. For an entire year.

On Tuesday, I gritted my teeth, grabbed the 37 shirts and sweaters still left in the spare room, and took them to a local thrift store. Some of the things I donated had never been worn (or had been worn just a couple of times). It hurt to part with those clothes. I probably spent more than $750 to purchase them (remember, I buy a lot of clothes at thrift stores), so in a way it felt like I was throwing away $750.

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How to save while shopping for children’s clothes

Moving to the D.C. area after my twins were born, we transformed from a family of three living comfortably, to a family of five struggling to make ends meet on one income. I had to get creative with our family budget, and one of the biggest line items to tackle was clothing. Four years later, I finally have a handle on it. Shopping for clothes for my three kids has been fine tuned into a system that keeps us humming along season by season. How?

  1. I get the best quality I can within my budget.
  2. I take good care of what we have (and teach my children to do the same).
  3. I resell my kids' clothing in good condition to recoup my costs.

Buy Quality Clothes — For Less
Antonio and Diego Playing in the Mud. Photo by J.D. Roth

You can save on sturdy kids' clothing — I get great longevity from Lands' End and Gymboree — by only shopping sales and clearance. In her article about the best time to buy almost everything, April mentioned which days are best to shop the clothing stores, but knowing the seasonal clearance schedule is helpful as well. For example, I send my kids to their first month of school in shorts and wait for the jeans/pants/leggings to go on sale in late September and October. Winter coats are on clearance in February; be ready to shop ahead for next year.

You can shop online, but do it wisely. I never shop online without coupon codes, and I always shop through a cashback site like Ebates. Shopping online gives me a larger selection of clearance items than local stores. Additionally, shopping online helps me stick to my list and budget, whereas in a store I am tempted to make impulse buys. Finally, most online retailers allow you to return clothing to the store for free if they don't work out.

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Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous…on Lease

Most of us, at one time or another, have seen a photo of a celebrity with an “it” bag, even if just in tabloids at the supermarket check-out. Most of the time they are over-sized totes, logo prominently displayed, on the arm of an actress or pop star. (Sometimes I wonder if the tinier celebrities could, in fact, fit inside their own handbag.)

And as ridiculous as it might seem, you can bet that if a pop star is carrying a bag, the masses are sure to want it, too.

The problem is the price sticker. Most people can't afford a $2,000 bag. Besides, usually the Hollywood elite, who can afford these bags, receive them as gifts (think product placement).

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More about...Budgeting, Clothing

Fashion on a Budget: Organizing and Updating Your Wardrobe for Spring

This is a guest post from Carrie at It's Frugal Being Green. My own "fashion" is limited to Costco and Goodwill, so it's difficult for me to offer advice for those who want to dress for success. Carrie has some tips for those who need to be fashionable and still save on clothes.

The spring clothes-shopping season is rapidly approaching, and I'm ready. I have my calendar marked twice a year — once in early February and once in early August — to clean, inventory, and organize my closet. That way, I'm fully prepared to shop wisely when the major spring and fall collections hit the stores.

My strategy
Shopping at sales isn't effective for me because the low prices lead me to buy things I don't really like or which don't fit right. I'd rather pay full price for things I actually love.

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