Why I Stopped Buying Clothes in 2018…Sort of

Saturday, August 11, 2018

It’s not because I decided to stop wearing clothing, I can assure you of that!

In my frugal farmgirl world, clothing is one of the “four walls” of life (housing, food, clothing, transportation).  It’s probably part of your four walls too.

But, the kind of clothes, or the brand and designer of clothes is a completely different matter. Clothing, yes, it’s important.  A $500 suit for work…not so much.

When I took a cold hard look at how I wanted to increase my savings and thereby increase my investing, clothing was one category that rose to the top of the list.  Not because I spend enormous amounts of money on clothes, or because I’m a clothes horse, on the contrary. In a normal year I don’t spend a lot on clothes, or so I thought. This is where reality met the road, as it were.

I thought that because I was shopping super clearance sales, using coupons and combing thrift store 50% sales I was making a killing. What I quickly found out was my clothing expenses were killing my budget. Sometimes I really hate Quickbooks!

Don’t get me wrong, my clothing expenditures were still modest by normal standards. But who the heck wants to be normal? Normal people are usually broke.

My decision was pretty much made for me right then and there. I felt at this stage in my life I had enough clothes in my closet to get through the work week, enough grungy clothes for farm chores, enough nice pieces for social events, and enough items I could cobble together for vacations.

Simply put…I didn’t need any more clothes.

There it is. The challenge was set. I would forgo buying clothes beginning with in January 2018.

I spent a weekend reorganizing my closet and assessing my wardrobe by clothing type—work, casual, jeans, seasonal…you get the idea. This worked out well. I started putting outfits together in my head with what I had available, and felt confident this was not going to be difficult at all. Only one small problem, I’m a thrift store hound. I love combing the racks finding deals on top notch designers for pennies compared to the retail price. I thought, “How can I pass up such a great deal?” But it was this kind of thinking that lead me to spend more than I needed to in the previous years. The only remedy was to go cold turkey. You heard me right. Not step foot inside a thrift store for all of 2018. And so far, I’m proud to say, my only trips to the thrift store have been to the back door to drop off donations rather than shop.

And, ya know what else? I haven’t missed it one bit. My self-imposed clothes buying hiatus has paid off in more ways than one. I no longer make a trip to the thrift store part of my Saturday errand running routine. I no longer swing by the mall on Sunday just to see what’s there. I no longer have the month-end 50% off thrift store sale marked on my calendar, and I no longer tie my abilities, intelligence, skills, work ethic or worth to my clothes. I’m just as smart, work just as hard and accomplish just a much in an outfit that is year’s old. And, I’ve really begun to dislike the phrase, “look the part”, meaning dress in expensive clothes so people take you seriously, or you look more professional. Don’t get me wrong “I do” dress appropriately for meetings, presentations and social events. I haven’t reverted to wearing a feed bag, but the label on my clothing no longer drives who I am as a person, a competent person.

I think I’ve only stepped foot inside a department store 3 or 4 times this entire year. And this is where the “sort of” comes in. When I first started my no clothes journey I had $125 in gift cards from Macy’s and I knew I would be getting a few $10 off cards from Kohl’s. I’m not one to pass up free money, are you? So I strategically determined what I needed based on my closet reorganization and this is what I decided to buy, or try to buy, with the $125:

  • Under garments
  • Evening dress for a work event
  • Black slacks

This is what I was actually able to buy.

  • Under garments (regular price, $55 each. Sale price, $40 with a buy one got one ½ off)
  • Dark blue evening dress (regular price, $139. Sale price, $39.99 with another 20% off)
  • Skinny leg black slacks (regular price, $75. Sale price $24.95)
  • Mustard colored casual top (regular price, $24.95. Sale price $12.95)

All told, I spent $129.89. True, I didn’t get everything for the amount of the gift card, but my outlay for almost $350 in useful clothing that I will wear for years was just $4.95. Not bad, folks!

SO—this is where the “sort of” in the title of this article comes in as well. I occasionally get super offers, like $25 off any purchase of $25 or more, or $10 off any purchase of $10 or more, and I’m not willing to let those go to waste just to adhere to my self-imposed moratorium on clothes, because eventually I will need to replace clothes.  I use these offers very strategically though, on things I know I will need or on pieces that are versatile enough to create new outfits with the pieces I already own.

So what have I purchased with these offers, you may wonder?

  • A $25 birthday gift card from J Crew got me a V-necked cotton sweater and a teal tee shirt off the clearance rack. Total price: $28.15. My out-of-pocket: $3.15.
  • One $10 off offer from Kohl’s got me 2 cami’s that I use to layer. Total price: $0
  • Another $10 Kohl’s offer got me a short sleeve and long sleeve tee that I can wear under sweaters or blazers. Total price: $12.06. My out-of-pocket: $2.06
  • A Nordstrom Rack coupon got me a pair of much needed pumps for $30.
  • My one non coupon purchase of the year was a short and long sleeve tee from J Crew. Out-of-pocket: $7.15.

So—what does a frugal farmgirl wear for work, chores, casual and fun?


For my day job, I mostly wear casual pants with a nice top or sweater in the colder months. If I have meetings, presentations or speaking gigs I wear a more traditional work outfit that consists of slacks or skirt; blouse, cami or shell, and a blazer.



For chores, I usually wear an old pair of Levi jeans that I bought for a dollar about five years ago, and any number of free tees that I’ve received for volunteering at charity events.

Casual outings, concerts in the park, street fairs and festivals will find me in an array of jeans, shorts, skirts and various tops, sweaters or coats, depending on the weather.



I’ve had gala events for work, special celebrations, funerals, family events and gatherings with friends, and I’m sure these will continue in the years to come. But, here’s the reality: I’m okay with wearing an outfit I’ve had for years. I’m okay with wearing thrift store finds or hand-me-downs from friends because I frankly don’t care that someone else thinks I should change out my wardrobe at the turn of every season. And, I’m pretty sure that no one at the gala knew the dress I was wearing was free with a gift card. Over the years I have acquired an array of accessories that enable me to change up outfits to look new and modern, or casual to dressy, and I’m just fine with that.



These days I’m more interested in acquiring life experiences than acquiring possessions. I don’t want to feel owned by my clothes or other possessions, obsessed about whether I have the latest trendy style. I’m comfortable in my skin and in my clothes. A person’s style is their own, to express themselves in a variety of ways. I love switching things up—from country girl to boho to tailored, because I am all of these, and I love it.

I’m grateful for the time I have NOT spent shopping because I’ve been able to fill the time with more productive pursuits, like yoga, hiking, spending time in nature, exploring new areas of my county, reading and educating myself. Just yesterday a friend and I packed a dinner, fruit, dessert, water, and chairs and headed to the coast to watch the ships come in while the sun set over the jetty. It was beautiful and relaxing. If I had spent the day shopping, or mindless wandering the stores I would have been too tired to enjoy such a wonderful evening with a good friend.

My other motivation for not buying clothes is the increased amount of money I can save. This is a priority of mine for 2018. I want to increase the percentage I save in all areas, not just clothing. This increase will eventually translate to increased financial independence. It seems like a small step, but small steps are how we cover long distances. I view this as part of my journey towards a satisfying and fulfilling retirement; one where I have a great outlook on life and meaningful experiences. If I have to give up buying new clothes to reach that goal then I think it’s a worthy trade.

I’m not sure how long I will continue my clothing moratorium, but if I continue getting great coupons that allow me to purchase a few new pieces while only spending a few bucks then I think I’m in it for the long haul.

As of August I’ve spent $47.31 and added 12 new pieces of clothing. I can live with that.

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