1. Buy same-color socks in bulk. If the dryer “eats” one, you have an automatic match in your dresser drawer—and you probably won’t need to buy a new pair of socks. And you’ll pay less buying packs of socks instead of individual pairs.
2. Freeze your pantyhose. Yes, we’re serious. Fill a plastic bag with water, drop in your new stockings, zip up the top, and toss the bag in the freezer overnight. Thaw the concoction at room temperature. You’ll strengthen the fibers in the stockings, cut down on runs, and save the cost of additional pairs of hose. You can continue protecting your stockings by freezing them once a month, without water, for one night.
3. Hang on to cool buttons. Keep nice, fancy, or unusual buttons when you recycle or toss worn-out clothing. You can use them to change the look of a garment that’s starting to bore you or enliven a plain shirt that needs a little pizzazz.
4. Buy next year’s attire now. Go shopping toward the end of the selling season. (Buy spring and summer clothes in July or August rather than March, when prices are highest). This will mean some planning and forethought—you’re going to get most of the wear out of the clothes next summer. But the payoff is enormous.
5. Be a savvy consignment shopper. Don’t patronize just any. Find one close to a wealthy neighborhood, where you may be surprised to find stacks of hardly or never-worn clothes, many from top designers—and some items with the tags still on! You’ll get amazing bargains on extraordinary clothes you won’t find anywhere else.
6. Avoid “one size fits all” clothing. Most manufacturers who label their clothing this way are pulling the wool over your eyes. You will usually find this designation on lower-priced clothing, mostly on tops for teenagers. It’s easier—and cheaper—to mass-produce and inventory a garment when it’s all in one size. But the only garments that are truly “one size fits all” are some socks, which are made of fabric that’s stretchy enough to adapt to a broad range of foot sizes. Otherwise, when you see “one size fits all” on a garment, keep shopping.
7. Keep the receipt. If you pay full price for a new blouse, hold on to the receipt in an envelope in your car. Two weeks later, drop into the store with your receipt. If the garment has gone on sale in the meantime, go to the register and ask for credit.
8. Use the store credit card—strategically. If you’re making a big purchase at a department store, go ahead and get the extra discount they offer for accepting a store credit card. But be sure to pay off the balance immediately so you don’t have to pay finance charges; store credit cards often have exorbitant interest rates.
9. Wash jeans inside out: And use cold water on the gentle cycle. If some of the dye escapes from the fabric during the wash, it has a better chance of being reabsorbed into the legs, making the jeans look newer, longer.
10. Fix, don’t toss, costume jewelry: Use nail polish to reset loose stones in costume jewelry easily and inexpensively. Simply use clear nail polish as the glue; it’s a quick fix no one will detect.
11. Let your boots breathe. Don’t store any shoes or boots in the attic or basement during the off-season. The shifts in temperature will prematurely age them. Place them in a closet that allows air to circulate and they’ll last longer.
12. Don’t clean your clothes out of habit. Many people believe you should wash a garment every time you wear it. But that’s a waste of detergent and effort. When you get home from work, change into your T-shirt and jeans, then evaluate your work duds before you throw them into the hamper. If your clothing passes this five-point check, put it on a hanger, air it out for two hours, then return it to your closet.
- Does it need repair? Any rips, missing buttons, falling hems, or broken zippers?
- Does it need a dry cleaner’s care? Tough stains, particularly oily ones, should be taken to the dry cleaner within a day. If you wait weeks, the odds of getting the stain out are dramatically reduced.
- Does it need to be laundered? Does it have any smudges or dirt?
- Does it pass the sniff test? Steel yourself and get a whiff of the armpit.
- Does your body need to be washed? If the answer is yes, then chances are the clothes that were hanging on that body need to be cleaned too.
13. Save a broken zipper. Don’t automatically throw away a garment if the zipper stops working. Try surrounding it with Velcro; you’ll avoid the work of ripping out the zipper and the cost of replacing the item.
Get the new book Reader’s Digest Quintessential Guide to Saving Money for ingenious tricks to stretch your dollars. You’ll get insider advice to cut household bills, spend less on groceries, find unexpected sales and freebies, and more. Learn more and buy the book here.