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I Quit Buying New Clothes – This Is What I Learned

I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

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I had been staring at my clothes for well over 30 minutes, trying to work out what to wear, when I realised I had a whole bunch of clothes that still had tags on them. I’m pretty sure I had forgotten I’d even purchased them.

It was like a smack in the face – here we were talking about saving money to buy a house, and I had what felt like literal wads of cash just sitting in my cupboard unused and forgotten. I stood there and said to myself ‘I quit buying new clothes’. 

I’d been budget conscious before, but this was less about saving money and more about saving space and saving my sanity. 

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I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

So What’s The Point Of Not Buying Clothes?

It was the start 2018 when I realised I had way too many clothes that I either didn’t wear, didn’t like or didn’t fit. I was also 3 months postpartum after giving birth to my daughter and had gone on a major clothes buying spree when I realised none of the clothes I had were breastfeeding friendly. 

My husband and I had a reasonably sized walk-in closet and 80% of it was jam-packed with my clothes. Plus I had clothes in all 3 other bedrooms in the house. That didn’t even include our work uniforms. To say we had a lot of clothes is a massive understatement. 

Add to the overabundance of clothes, we also had all the new baby gear around the house, the rocker, the bassinet, all the baby clothes… quickly our lovely airy, spacious home had become clutter and overstuffed. We hadn’t even bought ‘a lot’ of baby items, I’m more of a bare necessities kind of person. 

I realised something had to change. I had previously gone through stages of decluttering, but this was different. I didn’t want to just remove things from the home only to replace them with more new things. I wanted to remove things, and be more conscious about what I kept, and what I would then bring into the home.

I started to declutter my clothes by first removing anything that wasn’t in ‘wearable’ condition – these clothes would be recycled as rags in the shed for my husband. Then I removed all the clothes that I didn’t like anymore. At some point during this process, I came to the clothes that still had their tags on. I had literally never worn them, and often only purchased the clothes because they were on sale and I didn’t want to miss out on a bargain. 

I know from previous money mindset work, that this is was a big weakness of mine. And I knew it was like a habit. 

Buying clothes was a habit. 

I’d go shopping and always look at clothes. Even if we were going to the shopping centre for something totally different, I’d always end up at the clothes stores checking out the sales racks in case I would miss a bargain. 

I knew if I was going to break this habit, I’d have to go cold turkey. 

I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

The ‘No New Clothes’ Challenge

And so the challenge was set. No new clothes for a year.

At first, it sounded like it was impossible. I mean, who can give up buying new clothes for a whole year? Especially someone who loved to shop like I did. But we had big financial goals to achieve, and I felt like I was drowning in the clutter in our home – not a great feeling for a mother of a newborn baby. 

I wanted to be as prepared as possible so I gave myself small exceptions (needed a new dress for my brother’s wedding coming up) and I had some plan to rejig the goal if I were to keep losing weight after having my baby, but the bones of it were there. No new clothes for a year. 

This was going to help me break my spending habits, break my ‘need’ to buy new clothes every time we were out, and help us save towards our financial goals which we had set. 

How To Quit Spending Money On Clothes

The first few weeks of the challenge were fairly easy. I think it was like the ‘honeymoon’ period. I knew the challenge was there and I was determined to make it work. 

By the third week, it became more of a conscious effort. When we were out, I’d find myself wandering towards the clothes stores and had to stop myself from going in. I knew if I was going to survive the year without buying new clothes, I needed a better plan. I started to outline some ideas to help me quit buying on new clothes:

I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

1 – Avoid Shopping Centres

I didn’t realise how much time and socialising I did around shopping centres until I started this challenge. A lot of the places we like to eat are at or near the shopping centre, so I was going there often to catch up with friends for coffee or have quick lunch dates with family. 

If I was going to make it through the year I needed to avoid shopping centres and the temptation that came along with them. 

Once I started, it wasn’t that difficult to keep up with. We found new cafes to meet up at, and surprisingly, we actually spent longer chatting and enjoyed our time more because the environments we were in were more relaxed and calm than a shopping centre environment. 

I also changed where we would get our groceries from. Our previous grocery store was in the shopping centre, so I switched to a different one that was stand alone. 

2 – Close AfterPay and Store Cards

I didn’t have an AfterPay account, but I wanted to include it on this list because I can only imagine how tempting it would be to keep spending when you see the AfterPay signs everywhere. 

If you have any store cards, or lines of credit at any stores, be sure to close them too. They are so tempting and make shopping far too easy. 

3 – Keep Your Financial Goals In Mind

At the start of this challenge, we had some big financial goals in mind. We wanted to be completely out of debt, and we wanted to save for a deposit for, and purchase a new home in 2018. We had already paid a massive amount off our debt, but I knew we needed to kick things up a notch if we were going to make these goals happen. 

I created a cute little graphic with our financial goals written on it and saved it as the home screen image on my phone so I would see it every time I picked my phone up. Because I always had my phone with me, this meant I was able to keep my financial goals in mind all the time. 

Anytime I was tempted to buy clothes, I would ask myself if this would move me towards or away from our financial goals. Of course, the answer was away, but it made me far more aware of what I was doing with my money. 

There were also times when I was so tempted to buy clothes, but instead I would transfer the money I would have spent on them, over to our savings account so I could see the money in there increasing and actually see the benefits of not spending money on clothes. 

I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

4 – Be Realistic

As I mentioned before, you need to take into account events that are coming up in your year that will require you to purchase new clothes. I had my brother’s wedding where I knew I would need to buy a new dress, so that didn’t come under the ‘no spend’ because I had already accounted for it. 

I also kept in mind that as I had just given birth in October 2017, my body shape was changing and I was still gradually losing weight. My plan was to reassess in a few months how I was going with the fit of my clothes, and see if I needed to purchase a few new items at the same time, then keep the challenge going. 

It can be easy to get caught up in the ‘no new clothes for a year’ part, but the purpose is to break a habit and make more conscious choices. If you’re going to do this challenge too, don’t’ let finishing the challenge mean you have to wear clothes that are too big or don’t fit or don’t make you feel fantastic. That is not the purpose here. 

5 – Reinvent Your Wardrobe

When I started the No New Clothes Challenge, I was in the process of sorting and decluttering my clothes. I was finding pieces I had totally forgotten about and going through it all meant I was able to give new life to clothes that had previously been shoved at the back of a closet somewhere. 

I also started to think differently about my clothes. I wanted new denim shorts as my old ones were quite worn and saggy, and I happened to find a pair of jeans that had a boot cut leg that I didn’t like. So, I chopped off the legs of the jeans and frayed the edges for a ‘new’ pair of cute denim shorts. 

If you’re handy with a sewing machine you could get super creative with this. I’m not, so I just went chop happy on some items. Some things worked – like the denim shorts, and shortening a dress to make it into a cute work out top, and some things didn’t. But I had fun reinventing my wardrobe and getting a little creative with what I had. 

I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

What I Learned From The Challenge

When I set out on this challenge I honestly thought it was going to be incredibly difficult. And in some ways it was. But it was also a lot easier than I expected too. I don’t know if that is because I had just built up in my head that I was a ‘spender’ and that’s what I kept telling myself, or if it was because we had such big financial goals that I was so determined to achieve. Whatever it was, it worked. 

More than just saving money, the no spend challenge taught me a lot about my spending habits and it also taught me a lot about myself. these are some of the things I learned:

1 – Buying Clothes Because They’re On Sale Is A Bad Money Mindset

I would joke around and tell my husband that buying something for $50 when it was originally $100 was pretty much the same as saving $50! I knew it didn’t work like that, but buying things when they were on sale in some way made me feel like I was justified in my purchase. I was even proud of not paying full price for things. 

I now realise this was part of my money mindset and that it’s okay for me to purchase items at full price, if I am being mindful about the purchase. It was never about ‘saving money’, it was always about not paying full price. 

I realised my mum was the same too, we tend to take on a lot of our money mindset from our parents. I explained that if an item is on sale for $100 but usually is $200 we are more likely to purchase than we are if the item usually is $100 and is full price. If it is an item we love, we want/need and we see value in, it shouldn’t matter if it is half price or not. 

I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

2 – Buying Clothes Won’t Make You Happy

We’ve all heard of the term ‘retail therapy’. Again, this now seems like it was used as an excuse to give myself permission to shop. If I’d been busy at work or wasn’t feeling great I’d go shopping, looking for that retail therapy. 

But here’s the thing, I’d feel good after a purchase for a short time, maybe a few minutes, maybe for the duration of the shopping trip. Then, later that day I’d start to feel guilty for all that I had purchased, and over the next few days I’d forgotten about it and was back at square one again, looking for that happy high I got when I’d buy new clothes. 

Buying new clothes won’t make you, me, or anyone happy if we are relying on it as our source of happiness. Sure, a gorgeous pair of jeans that fits perfectly makes me happy, but I don’t have to buy them to be happy. 

3 – Just Because You Have Money, Doesn’t Mean You Have To Spend It

When I started earning a higher income, I naturally believed that I would be able to save more and meet my financial goals more easily. But that wasn’t the case. The more money I earned, the more I seemed to spend. 

Sadly I kept this mindset for way too long and it wasn’t until the challenge that I realised that I didn’t actually have to spend the money I earned on clothes or shoes or anything. 

4 – You Deserve It – But You Also Deserve Better

One of the biggest cop-outs when overspending is justifying it by saying ‘I deserve it’. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of big shopping spree’s I justified by using this exact line. I worked hard, I didn’t spend a lot of money in other areas, all my bills were paid… I deserved it. 

Of course, I deserved it! But I also deserved better. 

Sure, I could buy another pair of jeans and yeah, I worked hard. Or, I could put that money towards buying our home and reach our financial goals, which I also deserve. 

Since the challenge, I’ve stopped saying ‘I deserve it’ whenever I purchase something. I don’t feel like I need to justify my purchases like this anymore. 

I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

5 – If You Achieve Your Goals, You’re Not Failing

At the 4 month mark, I ended up having to buy a shirt, and I was so annoyed. The shirt was $12, it wasn’t going to derail our financial goals, but that wasn’t the point at the time. I felt like I had failed. I felt like I had to give up on the challenge because I couldn’t do it. I did everything I could to avoid buying that shirt, but I was being silly, I just had to suck it up and buy it. 

For about a week after I felt like crap. But then I realised, I was simply shifting ‘feeling good buying clothes’ to ‘feeling good not buying clothes’ and wasn’t learning anything from it at all.

I gave myself a bit of a reality check – we were still on track to meet our financial goals and had already cleared all of our debts. Buying one shirt didn’t mean I was failing. I thought about the purchase, weighed up whether I needed it or not (I did) and made a decision. THAT was the point. I wasn’t aimlessly buying clothes. I was doing so with intention. 

The challenge totally changed my perspective on how I spend my money, not only on clothes but on everything from groceries through to household items. I don’t feel like I have to buy something every time I go out, I don’t feel like I have to justify my purchases and I don’t feel like I need to buy clothes in order to make myself feel good. 

This challenge has been one of the best things I have ever done. In September 2018 we purchased our home and I know if it wasn’t for the challenge and the way it changed my money mindset, it wouldn’t have been possible. Who would have thought setting a challenge to quit buying new clothes would have had such a positive impact on my life. 

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you’re determined. 

I needed to save money to achieve my financial goals. I decided to set myself a challenge and I quit buying new clothes for a year, this is what I learned.

4 Comments

  1. Closing credit card accounts could hurt your credit score if your cards have long credit history. I wouldn’t close them, the store may close them due to inactivity and may still hurt your credit score. If a person CS is good like over 700 then no worries.

    1. I can’t speak to this in depth as we have a different credit reporting system here in Australia. I would, however, say that if you can’t control your credit card spending and you end up in an out of control financial situation, then that could hurt your credit a lot more (not paying bills on time etc). It’s important to know your own limitations and to find ways to manage your credit score in a way that works for you.

  2. I think this overall has a lot of good points! If you’re getting out of debt using the Dave Ramsey baby steps then it doesn’t matter if your credit sinks because you aren’t using credit for your financial decisions and instead using cash for your purchases. Using cash makes the exchange of money more “real” and you naturally end up spending less. I do have a question though, why did you have to buy a new dress for your brother’s wedding? Judging by what you said in the beginning of the article about the amount of clothes you have, you didn’t have anything that would work already? Not judging, just curious.

    1. Hi Tiffany – thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I’ve never liked using cash and carrying cash around, instead, we use our debit cards for our account and use an accounting software that allows me to categorise what we have spent money on. Knowing I’ll have to categorise an expense makes me think twice before buying frivolously and has the same effect for me in naturally spending less money. As for the new dress – I was still breastfeeding and didn’t have anything that fit or that was breastfeeding friendly. 🙂

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