Save Money On Clothes - Without Looking Like A Wino

Save money on any item of clothing, from sneakers to prom dresses, without looking like a wino.

Whether you're seventeen or seventy, clothing is important. It protects you from the elements, gives you a place to stash your wallet or lip balm, and allows you to make a really cool fashion statement.

The only problem is the rising price of clothing. Some pairs of jeans - regular old denim - can cost over $100 apiece! Is it worth it? Usually not, especially when you consider that the fifteen-year-old boy in the family is going to outgrow them in a few months anyway.

Here's how to save some money on clothing. We aren't talking about scavenging the city dump for a few leftover rags. We're not going to buy forged Tommy Hilfigers from some guy at a flea market. Instead, we're going to comparison shop, know when to buy, and look for quality versus image.

Buying well-made clothing is better than shopping by brand name any day. You can usually trust that certain manufacturers will produce the finest clothing - but don't count on it. Be a careful consumer: examine the stitching, layout of the garment, and reinforcements in high-stress areas. You should also check the material: if it's some cheap, thin little rag, it's probably not worth whatever you'll spend on it.

With that all-important knowledge in mind, let's start shopping! But wait - is this a sales season; a time when everything is five thousand percent off if you use your in-store credit card? If you can hold out for a big sale, go for it: waiting a few weeks, or even a couple of months, for new jeans and shirts can save quite a bit of money.

Some of the best times to shop include:

-back-to-school (especially for children)

-the start of the new fashion year (because nobody's really going to notice if you just bought "last season's" jeans - and if they do, so what?)

-seasonal sales (summer, for example)

Keep an eye on sales papers for sales ads. Most clothing stores will take out ads in the local newspapers at least a few days before the sale begins, giving you plenty of time to head their way. You can also rely on word-of-mouth, a phenomenon that works particularly well with teenagers. ("MOM! Tommy just got a brand-new pair of jeans and his Mom only paid fifty bucks for them! Can we PLEASE go? I'll DIE if you don't!")

Speaking of stores: have you ever tried outlet malls? The larger ones are great for finding a huge selection of brand-name clothing at discount prices. And, just like any other store, these can have sales prices, saving you even more money.

In many cases, they're selling the products at deep discount for one of two reasons:

They're "seconds" - items that aren't quite up to standard. The dye could be a slightly different color than the rest of the lot. There might be a couple of dropped stitches here and there. One inside pocket might be slightly smaller than the other. Nobody's going to notice these tiny flaws, so why shouldn't you buy? They're brand-new items at bargain-bin prices.

They were in the "regular" stores last season. Again: they're brand-new and fairly inexpensive, so there's plenty of good reason to check them out.

Internet merchants are also cashing in on the clothing trade. You can purchase just about any brand, style, or item you want online. Be sure to check prices in several different online stores, which is made easy with comparison-shopping Web sites. You should also know exactly what size you'll need, so as to save on return-shipping charges if you order the wrong thing.

When you're just going to bum around the house or play flag football with your friends, is there any reason to buy brand-new clothing? Of course not! You can always pick up very cheap garments - in very good condition - for a few bucks apiece at the local thrift store. (Some even offer coupons and discount offers to save even more money!)

Think about it this way: a pair of running shorts can run to the tune of thirty dollars new. You can get something very similar, with only minimal signs of wear, for three dollars at the thrift store. Just remember to run your purchases through the wash cycle when you get them home.

Thrift-store shopping is also a great place to find items that you know will only be worn once or twice. For example: girls who aren't overly into the dress thing will find themselves in dire need of appropriate clothing for, say, a school dance. Knowing fully well that they're only going to wear the dress a couple of times, they can pick it up for ten bucks at the thrift store. There are no guilty feelings that come from buying an overpriced item that will only be worn a few times, and she can always donate it - or sell it back to the thrift store - later.

Then there's the good old economic slump, which causes shoppers great joy when they see the "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS - EVERYTHING MUST GO!" signs outside various stores. While this can be a very hectic and stressful way to find the perfect pair of basketball shoes, you can save fifty, seventy, even ninety percent on a high-quality product that normally runs over a hundred dollars.

The catch is that you don't necessarily know when they're going out. You have to keep dropping in, paying attention to the signs and advertisements around the store, and hope that the item you want will be there when the price is good enough for you.

While this won't be everyone's ideal way to save money, making your own clothing can be a rewarding experience. All it requires is a sewing machine, a pattern (which can be bought at any fabric or discount-department store), and a little practice. If you're a veteran sewer, you already know that material is cheap when purchased by the yard, and that a few hours of effort can produce the perfect clothing for whatever you might need.

In fact, you can mix-and-match to save money AND find the perfect outfit. For example: if you find a skirt at a store and bring it home, you can find patterns and fabrics to create two or three blouses that match it perfectly. You look great, feel good for having accomplished something on your own, and the money you saved can now be spent on a night out.

The bottom line is simply this: you don't have to pay full price. There's always a bargain or discount to be had, if you're vigilant and willing to wait a few days or weeks for your sale to come around.

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