Cutting your clothing budget with garage sales could be one of the best financial decisions you make.
By the Frugal Grandma
Clothing your family can be one of the largest expenses you’ll face after rent, childcare and food. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, households spend $670 on clothing for every member of the family. That’s nearly three thousand dollars a year for a family of four!
To put that in perspective, if you cut that amount in half and put the savings into retirement savings earning 7% a year, you would have more than $120,000 at the end of 30 years.
Having an extra $120,000 for retirement might not seem like the path to the lavish lifestyle but it would add nearly half again as much as the average $255,000 balance in senior’s 401k balance. Having $375,000 to retire on rather than $255,000 would make me feel rich.
Now what if I told you I knew a way to cut your clothing budget to a fraction of the average? In fact, I spent just $58 on clothing last year.
For years people have learned the “art” of garage sales, yard sales, and buying used but still wearable clothing. I have my own method and estimate I usually spend less than 10% of what I would have spent if I had to purchase everything new.
Finding Big Money Savings from Little Garage Sales
Ok, so you may not want to buy all your clothes from garage sales and your kids might ask to be disowned at the thought. Even buying some of your clothes from garage sales could get you to those 50% savings.
I look in the newspaper or on Craigslist for sales on the day I want to shop which is usually a Saturday, though some sales are open Wednesday through Sunday. Then I use my GPS to track the quickest route between garage sales that look like they have good stuff. Don’t drive up and down streets chasing down garage sale signs. It is simply a waste of time and gas. Plus some people don’t always take down all of their signs, so you may be looking for a sale that took place last week.
Have with you a list of clothing sizes for the people you are buying for and stick to the list. Otherwise, you will go home with items you will either donate to Goodwill or put in your own garage sale. While garage sales are a great way to save money on things you need, I’ve found their usually kind of a waste for the people selling their stuff. Who wants to sit around the yard all day to make twenty bucks?
Keep in mind your kids will probably wear a size or two larger when they go to school. Here in the Midwest our sales usually go from mid-May to mid-October so buy for the winter also. Paying $24.00 for a pair of denim jeans that you passed on last summer for $1.00 is a saver’s nightmare. Hats, scarves, gloves and coats are all extremely cheap in the summer.
Used clothing stores like the Salvation Army, Red Cross and DAV are a gold-mine. You are not driving around and putting unnecessary miles on your car, but plan on spending more time than at smaller garage sales. The racks are usually pretty full and some of the clothes are not wearable. Get on their mailing list so you will be advised of when they have half off sales, discount days and color days. Most stores designate a certain color each day where all clothes with that tag are half price.
How to Save even More Money at Garage Sales
Ok, so saving money and retiring rich from garage sales sounds pretty good. How about saving even more money?
At sales, always ask if they will take less than the marked item. People expect a little haggling and mark prices up higher than what they’ll take. Don't just say, “Will you take less than this price.” Be specific. As an example say, “I have $14.00 worth of items here, will you take $10.00?” They will then either say yes or shoot you back a different amount but you’ll almost always save more money.
One last inexpensive way to stretch that clothing dollar is to join or begin a clothing exchange club with other parents. You can sew, cook, clean or whatever in exchange for clothing.
So saving money at garage sales may not have you moving in next to the Rockefellers but those little savings can really add up. Try it out for a few months and see if you’re not hooked!
I hope some of these ideas help take the sting out of purchasing clothes and maybe put a little fun in your day. Frugal Grandma
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.