As moms we’re often juggling many family expenses and don’t have a lot extra to spend on clothes.
However, it IS possible to update or even completely change your wardrobe on a budget.
In this post I’ll teach you not only how you can make the most of your existing wardrobe but also how to do a wardrobe makeover without breaking the bank.
Step 1: Make the Most of Your Existing Wardrobe
Purge Your Closet
You can change your wardrobe without spending any money by purging clothes you don’t need (or don’t like wearing).
A closet cleanout is not only free, it actually IMPROVES your wardrobe in two ways:
- It clarifies your daily outfit choices so you don’t feel overwhelmed by everything stuffed in your closet (much of which you don’t want to wear)
- It helps you discover wardrobe gaps so you shop for essentials rather than duplicates
If you’re afraid you won’t have anything left in your wardrobe after a purge…you’re not alone.
This is the most common fear moms express when they purge their closets.
But think about it this way: when you’re removing the clothes that you don’t enjoy wearing/don’t fit you/don’t suit your lifestyle anymore, you are getting rid of items that were never options.
You’re not decreasing your options for clothes, you’re simply making them clear.
All those pieces that don’t serve you need to be taken out of sight. You will eliminate a load of decision fatigue and you’ll start from a place of clarity to create a new wardrobe shopping list.
To follow the Frump Fighters® method for decluttering your closet, see:
Create a mini capsule out of what you already have and find new ways to mix and match your pieces.
If you love the minimalist lifestyle this might be up your alley. Simply take my clothing essentials list for moms and pare it down to the bare minimum. You might be surprised you have almost everything you need for a tiny capsule. Now use my Year-Round Outfit Guide or What-to-Wear Calendar to find all the ways those pieces combine into unique outfits!
Adapt your clothes to work in more than one season.
Find your short-sleeve, quarter sleeve and sleeveless tops in neutrals OR in colors that work year-round.
Some colors that work year-round are neutrals, jewel tones, dusty colors, mustard and olive. These tops can be used in fall & winter by layering them with a cardigan.
Find dresses in prints or colors that look good in warm months and winter months.
Dresses and skirts can be worn in cold weather by adding tights, a cardigan (or layering with a sweater), and booties.
Turn older pairs of jeans into a “new” trendy pair.
Baggy ones can be styled as trendy boyfriend jeans by creating raw hems or rolling them up. Wear them with a belt and a fitted top or partial tuck to balance your proportions.
Step 2: Shop Your Closet (Wardrobe Overhaul Essentials)
After doing a closet purge and using the above strategies to use your existing wardrobe better, you can shop your closet using my FREE Basics Capsule Wardrobe Plan List for Moms. Yes! It’s written specifically for postpartum moms, toddler moms, middle schooler moms and beyond. You won’t find heels or a pencil skirt on this list!
Here’s a preview of the staple clothing I recommend for moms:
- Gray tee
- Short Sleeve Striped Tee
- Neutral Sleeveless Top
- Chambray Button-Down
- Neutral Tunic Top
- Dark Wash Jeans
- Color Pants
- Athletic Pants
- Denim Shorts
- Long Neutral Cardigan
- Slip-on Sneakers
- and more… get the full list in this free shopping list printable (you can use the form above to sign up!).
Print your list out and then go through your closet (after you’ve purged it) to check off items that you already have.
You can learn more about how to shop your closet here.
Step 3: Use Smart Strategies to Add to Your Wardrobe On a Budget
Before you shop, ask yourself…
Do you really need to shop?
Sometimes we have lots of great clothes, we’re just bored of the options.
If this is the case for you, consider using other strategies to change things up before spending more money.
I wrote a thorough blog post about this, so I refer you there: What to Do When You’re Bored with the Clothes In Your Closet (It’s got LOTS OF GOOD TIPS!!)
Now let’s look at all the FREE and THRIFTY ways you can add essential pieces to your wardrobe (or completely change your style!).
Ways to Update Your Wardrobe or Style for FREE: Do a clothing swap with friends.
Start a chat with some of your mama friends (especially your most stylish ones!) and plan a time and place to bring the bags of clothes you purged to swap with each other for free. Here are simple steps to plan your own clothing swap.
How Much Should You Spend On Clothes
Before I get into ways to shop, let’s learn how to set a healthy clothing budget.
Having a clothing budget will remove stress and keep you focused as you work through your shopping list.
Dave Ramsey recommends allotting 2-7% of your income to clothing for the whole family (includes laundering cost).
The formula: Multiply your yearly take-home income by 2-7% (choose a percentage). Divide by 12 to determine the monthly budget.
How much of the family budget you use is up to you!
Just for reference though, on average the people in my audience have a budget as low as $15-$50/month to spend on clothes for themselves.
You don’t need a big budget, you just need to be intentional, thrifty, and patient!
That’s what I’ll cover next.
Read more about how to plan a healthy clothing budget here.
Save Money to Use Towards Your Wardrobe
Why not generate some extra dollars to use towards clothes?
Here’s a list to get you started… but you add to it ?
- Ask for gift money or gift cards on your wish lists. If your friends and family know the best gift for you is money so that you can go shopping, you’ll start to receive some that you can use when you need it most!
- Drop an expensive habit just for one month. Whether it’s buying Jamberry wraps or a Starbucks coffee, calculate how much you could put towards your clothing budget if you held off on those purchases for just one month. Wasn’t too bad? Try the same for a second month!
- Cut expenses elsewhere. There is always a way to save on groceries or simply resist an impulse buy. Do this for a month too and you’ll be amazed how much accumulates to use towards purposeful shopping!
- Clean out your closet and take clothes you no longer wear to your favorite consignment shop. After your items sell you’ll have some credit to spend at that store… or cash out to spend elsewhere. You can also try selling them on www.poshmark.com.
- Accumulate cashback on everything you order online (even when booking a hotel or buying a new oven!) My favorite cashback service is Rakuten (previously called Ebates). They pay your cashback balance quarterly right into Paypal or via a check in the mail!
- Make money with referrals: This is my favorite and most lucrative way to generate funds to use towards my shopping list!
- My go-to is Rakuten which I recommended for cashback on your purchases. You get $25 per referral!
- To be successful with getting those referral signups, don’t just post your link on Facebook. Reach out to people personally. Think of 5-10 people that would love to earn cashback on their online purchases and then email or call them! Explain how they should use it so that they actually start using it regularly. Also let them know they’ll get a $10 gift card as soon as they sign up!
- Sign up for Rakuten with my link to get a $10 gift card.
- I offer a referral program as well! If you’d like to become an affiliate a earn commission when someone buys from the Frump Fighter shop, sign up here!
- My go-to is Rakuten which I recommended for cashback on your purchases. You get $25 per referral!
Ways to Shop for Clothes on a Small Budget
FINALLY we get to how to actually shop for cheap ? Obviously there’s a lot you do BEFORE you even shop to save and make you money.
Important rule whenever you DO shop: Take your shopping list from Step 2 with you! Never shop without your list!
Focus on Essentials, Add Spice with Accessories
A hack for looking cute on a budget? Focus on getting just a handful of the most essential items that fit you really well. Then bring in the flair and current trends through accessories only. Things like earrings, your bag, hair accessories, and even shoes are a low-cost way to make your outfits look fun!
You could even have an all-neutral wardrobe and simply add a few colorful and trendy pieces each season.
This saves you money because you’re spending money on more classic essentials that will last you for years and yet updating your style through inexpensive items like your shoes and accessories.
I have a neutral essentials outfit and added color + trendiness with a bright yellow bow scrunchie
When you ARE ready to buy clothes, always hit up your consignment and thrift stores FIRST.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find much the first time you go. It’s really hit and miss.
Some days you come home empty-handed which other days you’ll strike gold and check off several pieces on your shopping list.
Option 1: Shop in person thrift and consignment stores
I love our local Goodwill, Value Village and women’s consignment shops. I almost always find some great items for SUPER CHEAP.
I also consign my items at my favorite spot so that occasionally there is a balance I can use to pay for my items!
Related Reading: How to Thrift Shop for Clothes in 5 Easy Steps
Option 2: Shop online consignment and buy/sell sites
Poshmark items are listed by each user, so prices and quality vary but there is a HUGE selection and you enjoy some buyer protection.
ThredUp lists the pieces for the user so it’s a cleaner website but you might pay a bit more. Use my link to get $10 off your first purchase.
Try both and see what you like!
Never Pay Full Price
If you do choose to buy clothes new, you should never pay full price!
I have two MASSIVE blog posts that explain all the brilliant ways you can save money. Instead of re-writing it all here, I’m going to refer you to those:
There was a LOT in this post. Read it a second time and make some notes about next steps for you.