Eliminate your dependence on foreign (and domestic) clothing

Eliminating Lady Temptations: Step 4 (see other steps)
by Mrs. Money Mustache

This past weekend, MMM brought a big box up to our bedroom.  It contained clothing we had packed away into boxes way back in June, just before our trip to Canada, as we rented our house this past summer and wanted to clear out some of the clutter for our incoming tenants.  As I started sorting through this box to put things away, I suddenly felt defeated.  With clothing piled high all around me, clothing I hadn’t even looked at in months, I felt the excess of my younger years coming back to haunt me.

I don’t want all this stuff!  It’s too much.  A normal person does not need this much clothing!  I looked around at all the shirts, yoga pants, and sports bras and remembered all the random purchases I had made back when I thought that moving to Boulder and having a new active lifestyle meant buying new stuff.

What struck me at that moment is just how much I have changed.

Between the ages of 25 and 29, I spent a LOT more money than I do now, even while I thought I was being frugal.  We “only” went out to eat once a week, we biked to work 3 times per week (and carpooled the remaining 2 days), and we were saving quite a bit.  But, after having “The Talk” with MMM (after minor arguments about some of my habits), I realized that my two big problem areas were books and clothing.  The books part was easily resolved: I started using the library and in the process found a new love.  The clothing part was a bit harder. I probably spent $50-100 per month, for several years, on this habit. When you add that up, it’s several thousand dollars of clothes and shoes that marched themselves into my closet.

Now, you might be thinking “if you have enough money, why is that a problem area?”  Well, it’s because we had a Goal.  We wanted to be financially secure before having a child, to the point of BOTH of us being able to stop working to raise our child.  This goal was very important to us, and this obsession with buying clothing was getting in the way of it. And being with my future child was much more important than owning a bunch of activewear.  Plus, I knew that my addiction to clothing was not making me happy in a lasting way, and was thus a self-defeating habit that I often regretted.

So, I stopped.  I just stopped buying clothes.  I had a lot to choose from, so I went through everything and created a wardrobe of things I liked.  I didn’t even give anything away yet – it was all still so new.  But, I actually looked at all of it and realized just how much I really had.  I pulled out everything that was hiding in drawers, stuff that I had put away in boxes, and I analyzed each item and decided whether it belonged in my closet and in my life.  Interestingly, a lot of it failed this test – even things I had bought recently (often online) were not getting worn, as they didn’t fit or were not practical.  What a waste!  Once I had it all in front of me, I realized I had Enough.  I could live the rest of my life with this wardrobe.

That doesn’t mean that temptation didn’t strike every  once in a while.  If I went to work and saw a friend with cute shoes, I’d start thinking that maybe I deserved some cute shoes too.  But, instead of just going online to find a deal on cute shoes and clicking “buy”, I would wait.  I would say: “If I still want this in two weeks, I will get it.”  Sometimes I’d even go online and add it to my shopping cart (sometimes just that simple act was enough to make me get over it, although I wouldn’t recommend it as it can lead to disaster).  But sure enough, I found that the two weeks would pass without me even thinking about the shoes. I simply forgot and was on to something else, which I then forgot about in two more weeks.  My two week policy matured to became one month and more, and recently I waited 6 months before buying a new pair of pants.

But back to Olden Days Me: Eventually, I quit my job in Boulder and started working from home.  At that point, my urge to buy clothing completely went away.  I now had too much clothing and never had the opportunity to wear any of it.  I was finally brave enough to give a lot of it away and felt really good about the fact that people who really needed it would be using it.

For MMM, it’s easy to avoid buying clothing or pretty much anything else.  He literally feels mental pain when purchasing something and considers it for a very long time (often after writing out a sheet of equations).  For me, it was a lot harder and I had to slowly change my perspective on things.  The longer I do it, the easier it becomes and it is absolutely a life changing experience.

I have a long way to go.  I still make excuses to drive occasionally, even though I know I am perfectly capable of biking (and strangely, every time I bike I feel fantastic, so why do I even make excuses?).  I still live an incredibly lavish life and feel like I should be doing more to reduce my environmental footprint and correspondingly increase my happiness.  But, I’ve got it pretty good.  I am happier than I have ever been in my life and it all started that day when I decided to stop buying and start living.

So, as I sat there with all that clothing around me, the internal weeping turned to laughter.  My son came running into the room to see what was going on and we piled the clothes up high and started throwing them around and jumping into the pile.  Ultimately, by eliminating my clothing habit, I gained time with my child.  And, the value of that time is priceless.


  • rjack October 14, 2011, 6:50 am

    Great advice!

    I have also found that using a 2-4 week “evaluation” period dramatically reduces my desires for new stuff.

    • Leda Forsythe October 9, 2017, 7:00 pm

      I haven’t tried the two week rule. I rarely buy clothing unless from a thrift store or a staple. I find that I can still embrace fashion being super frugal. I do spend money on running shoes, after a certain number of miles need new ones. I am working on not buying products that is my weakness. I am going to apply the 2-4 week rule for all products. I have been also avoiding any stock piling. I wear only dark color scrubs at work because they last longer.

  • Brave New Life October 14, 2011, 7:28 am

    I’m more like MMM in that I feel a literal pain buying things like clothes. Even as a regular runner, I have a 1.5 year old pair of trail running shoes with well over 1000 miles on them (and a few holes to boot).

    I do share your problem with driving, however. Regularly I find myself driving my motorcycle when I could have easily taken my bicycle. If you have any tips or mind tricks for that – I’d love to see a post on it someday.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache October 14, 2011, 4:49 pm

      I think you’ll be seeing a post on that real soon, Brave. Stay tuned!

    • Jon Bendtsen January 14, 2012, 7:45 am

      @Brave New Life: just “store” your motorcycle on craigslist just like MMM blogged about earlier this year.

  • Frugal Vegan Mom October 14, 2011, 7:40 am

    I can totally relate – I used to work in the mall, love the mall, spend all my money in the mall (as a teenager). Fifteen years later, shopping makes me dizzy. If I ever need to buy something, I feel so torn over it I reassure myself with “you can always return it”! (Which I do more than half the time….)

    But, I have a hard time giving any advice to other people about this because I remember how FUN shopping used to be and I just gradually grew out of it – no moment of clarity of goal that inspired me to stop buying.

    • Trimatty471 November 14, 2014, 4:19 pm

      I can relate. I went through a period of always shopping for clothes, including shoes and designer pocketbooks. Because I was trying to keep up with my coworkers. But it rarely wore half the stuff I’ve bought and some of the shoes were un comfortable. About a week ago I convinced myself that I needed new sweaters. However, when I went out shopping, I could not find anything that I liked. So while switching the winter clothes to my bedroom closet and placing the summer clothes in the back room closet, I noticed that I already at least 14 sweaters. A lightbulb went off and I realized that I had enough,

  • Brandy October 14, 2011, 8:44 am

    I always feel the need to buy more clothes, because “I don’t like anything I have.” So then I just buy more stuff that I don’t end up wearing. I have finally realized this cycle and how much clothing I have and have started giving it away and stopped buying. Some stuff I have kept for over 10 years because someone special gave it to me, but I don’t like it. And, I have no idea why I thought I needed 10 pairs of black pants. It feels great and stressful getting rid of the clothing. I almost feel like a hoarder with my clothing. I will look at a sweater that I haven’t wore in 5 years and think, well maybe I will wear it this year. I have gone through my closet once so far but I think I am ready to do another sweep and get rid of more of the stuff I couldn’t part with before. Thanks for this article, it helps remind me that I need to purge my space!

  • madge October 14, 2011, 9:31 am

    oof, this is a hard one for me. i can’t even think about how much i’ve spent the last few months on clothes, shoes, and makeup …

    it’s not like i’m sitting on a big pile of cash, either! it’s more that i have been in super frugal mode for a few years — been living on savings while i start a business (haha, a clothing business, no less!).

    something snapped a few months ago when i (1) got a well paying short-term contract job and (2) started dealing with a huge amount of stress in my family. online shopping has been one way i dealt with this stress.

    but, seriously, i have more than enough clothes, more than enough makeup, and more shoes that will fit in my closet! so it’s time to put the kaibosh on more purchases.

    i’ve been doing the wait 2 weeks thing … but usually at the end of 2 weeks i still want whatever i wanted! i think, for me, i just need to declare a moratorium on all non-essential spending (on myself) until the end of the year. the sun is shining financially right now, so i need to stack that hay instead of sending it to sephora.com!

    • Bakari Kafele October 14, 2011, 11:59 am

      I wait 6 months.
      I often end up buying what I originally wanted, but the pattern has been that even though I tell myself 6 months, I end up waiting about 2 years.

      And with purchases delayed and spread out that much, even if I end up buying it, that leaves plenty of time to stash money away in savings.
      And it seems that while I am waiting for my 6 months to be up, thinking about what I will be getting eventually, it keeps me from thinking about what else I might want someday, so the list grows slower than it would if my time frame was a week or two

    • Mrs. Money Mustache October 14, 2011, 4:56 pm

      The first step is admitting you have a problem, so yay! :)

      I agree that sometimes the 2 week thing doesn’t work. You can try 6 months, as Bakari suggests. I think the “Buy nothing for yourself until the end of the year” is a great challenge!!

      If you agree to do it, I will join you. Are we on?

      • Madge October 14, 2011, 7:23 pm

        mrs. money m, let’s do this!! thanks for joining me — it’ll make it that much harder to back out :)

      • et October 14, 2011, 7:30 pm

        I’m on!
        Buy nothing (except food, utilities, a scheduled trip and a paid for workshop) until the end of the year – or maybe longer…..

      • Mrs. Money Mustache October 20, 2011, 12:17 pm

        Woohoo!! So, have you bought anything yet? We might need an official post on this at some point.

        I have an idea brewing about not buying new anything for a year. The focus would be on eliminating all unnecessary purchases and for anything that is necessary, buy it used instead.

        • madge October 21, 2011, 9:52 am

          i have not bought anything yet! i have really wanted to though! but am staying strong.

          i’m excited to feel more and more badass as i resist more and more delicious eyeshadows and boots! thanks for getting this going mrs. mm!

  • Jenny October 14, 2011, 9:47 am

    We have a tiny closet – and it helps a lot because there just isn’t SPACE for anything anyway. I wear very few things on rotation and hate buying clothes for myself. I just lost a lot of weight, and got my new wardrobe entirely from the thrift store. Jeans for $3.99? Yes, thank you! I also gave away almost everything else. I also do the same for my kids – selling their old clothes and buying new-to-us used ones.

  • Lisa Marrin October 14, 2011, 11:13 am

    Luckily I hate shopping. Actually I like food shopping but HATE clothes shopping. Even luckilier (lol) for me, is that my aunt and cousin are clothes horses and I get regular bags of hand me downs from them. woohoo!

  • Dancedancekj October 14, 2011, 11:26 am

    I think it is rather unfair that women have more societal conditioning for clothes shopping. I know personally many women and gay men (and some heterosexual men) my age routinely indulge in “retail therapy”, when it is usually anything but therapeutic.
    I used to work retail, but got out of it really quickly. I just couldn’t believe the turnover of clothing, and the outrageous prices for a few simple pieces of cloth. And the supplementary items thrown over the changing room doors to encourage the customer to buy more. The philosophy of “layering” to sell more items per customer. The constant pressure to keep selling and keep up numbers. And the hawking of store credit cards. I hated it, because I couldn’t see the reason to sell people a bunch of stuff they didn’t need, or necessarily want in the first place!
    The whole culture of clothing retail has just really gotten out of hand. I think we’re starting to see it return to a normal level, such as with Gap announcing they are closing down a lot of their stores.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache October 14, 2011, 4:46 pm

      Wow! That is an interesting story. Thanks for sharing it. Retail therapy is a very real, but very scary thing. I guess people just need to figure out a healthier outlet for their emotions. Hitting a punching bag works pretty well.

  • Pretirement Shannon October 14, 2011, 11:52 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! It is so refreshing to hear a woman’s perspective on this. Especially the part about pressure when at work. This is my area of weakness as I justify having nice clothes for work as portraying the “right image” with clients. I’m not sure how to get around this. Being well put together makes me feel more confident in business situations. Any ideas on how to approach this differently?

    • Bakari Kafele October 14, 2011, 12:02 pm

      Its reasonable to want nice clothes for work to present the right image – but clothes are good for more than one wear! If you have, say, 10 sets of nice work clothes (one for each day of the work week, for two weeks) why would you need more?

    • Mrs. Money Mustache October 14, 2011, 4:44 pm

      Bakari makes a good point. After you have a certain amount of nice clothing for work, it doesn’t make much sense to have more.

      When I started Real Estate work, I found myself needing nicer clothes as well. I bought about $100 worth of stuff and mixed it up. I found that I could wear the same black pants pretty much all the time and just have 3-4 fancier shirts and it all worked out. People don’t notice pants as much. Plus, I could wear some of the stuff I already had, like a pair of brown jeans with a fancier shirt. I also had one pair of nicer shoes that I wore all the time. Your confidence comes from within – being prepared, feeling good about yourself, etc… Yes, you want to look good, but you don’t have to have a huge wardrobe for that.

      As I mentioned to Naomi below, the more fit I am, the more confident I feel. I always feel incredible after I work out and take a shower. I could wear anything and still feel ready to conquer the world.

      • EarningAndLearning April 24, 2017, 2:38 pm

        That is so true about how feeling fit & strong makes one feel attractive! It also makes all clothes look better on us. Thank you for that reminder to get fit!

        I also want to add in that having a “capsule” wardrobe which I googled & researched then concluded for myself that it’s having a limited colour scheme (black, white, with some grey and tan) and making sure your carefully chosen, limited selection of items mix & match easily. Deliberately planning & choosing items this way (building on what I already had, I got a few key pieces I needed that mixed & matched beautifully) has given me a not-very-full closet of items I love, that match and look great. I haven’t bought any new clothes since I completed my capsule wardrobe & won’t be needing any new items this year either, except maybe new black flats as I wore the last ones out. Feels great!

  • Julia October 14, 2011, 12:06 pm

    Mrs. Will you be listing and of your Athleta on Ebay? Let me know! It is a weakness for me too! One that I have not yet overcome :)

    • Mrs. Money Mustache October 14, 2011, 4:38 pm

      Bwahahahaha! I think you missed the point of the article. ;) No, I’m going to be donating all the clothing I don’t need. But, maybe YOU should sell some clothing on Ebay.

      • Julia October 14, 2011, 4:45 pm

        Ha! Totally kidding! Sarcasm is a little hard to read ;) I am actually in a group of women that has an annual clothing swap with each other. We bring all of the clothes that no longer fit or that we are bored with and swap with each other. Clothing is not even a line on our budget for our family of 5. With the huge surplus of clothing in the world one should not have to spend money on it (especially kids clothing).

        • Mrs. Money Mustache October 14, 2011, 4:48 pm

          I had a feeling you were kidding, but you never know… I love that clothing isn’t even a line item on your budget for your family of 5. Excellent!!

  • Naomi October 14, 2011, 2:12 pm

    I’m too ashamed to say how much I’ve spent on clothes and shoes over the past 7 years. Once, I added it up in Quicken and I was so horrified that I’ve never looked again.

    I still struggle with it. For example, I’m completely bored with my work during the day, have no pressing deadlines, sitting at my computer…may as well check out what’s new at shopbop! I always find something I want. And it’s always expensive.

    How do you get over *wanting* stuff? I don’t want to want stuff. In fact, I want the opposite. That’s why I read these blogs, I suppose.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache October 14, 2011, 4:37 pm

      Here’s what you can do when you are sitting around bored at work: make a to-do list! It can be for tomorrow, it can be a set of goals, it can be a life list, it can be a challenge (buy nothing for 30 days comes to mind), or just writing about how you suddenly have the urge to buy something (and why that might be). Maybe writing about it will help you understand why you want things.

      Also, if you have any web sites you frequent to buy items, remove them from your browser bookmarks. Better yet, erase your entire cache so that your browser doesn’t even remember you ever going there.

      Another idea is to go for walks. When I was working, I would take a walk when I needed a break or was bored. I probably walked 3-4 times per day.

      Also, this may or may not be relevant to you: when I feel good about myself, I want less stuff. The healthier I am and the more I have going on in my life, the busier and more attractive I feel, so I am less tempted to buy things to “make me feel good”. Honestly, exercise is THE number one thing that makes me feel good about myself.

      Finally, if you subscribe to any magazines, watch TV, or go to the mall for fun, stop doing those things. These things make you want to buy stuff. As soon as you get rid of your television and cancel all your subscriptions and start hiking instead of going to the mall, the rest will follow. Eliminate the temptation and find something else you are interested in to replace it.

      • Naomi October 15, 2011, 12:42 pm

        Wow, thanks, Mrs. MMM, these are great ideas. Deep down, I probably knew these things. I just have to implement them.

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple October 15, 2011, 8:00 am

    I like the clothing swap idea. My triathlon team did that this year, but used it as a fundraiser. I wasn’t able to go.

    I really don’t like shopping for clothing or shoes. But my biggest problem tends to be age and life-related. I simply don’t stay the same size forever. IN the space of a month, I need 2 sizes of clothing due to water retention. And age and stress have tended to put weight on me too. I’m working that back off, but it means that I have skinny clothes, medium clothes, and fat clothes, covering a 15-lb range. And I’m not even sure the skinny clothes would fit if I were at my skinny weight any more. They are pretty old and have shrunk a lot. And as you age, your hips widen, so pants might not fit, even if you remain the same weight.

    So here I have a box that has 3 pairs of jeans and a couple pairs of shorts and a pair of crop pants. They are just waiting for me to lose these last 5 lbs so I can try them on. If they don’t fit, then they are gone.

    Of course the answer is to always remain the same weight. I can seem to do that for 2 years at a time, but my clothing tends to last a LOT longer than that. The result is that I have more clothing than I really want.

    • Katie October 18, 2011, 6:03 pm

      The 3 sizes of clothing thing is always a problem eh? When hubby had gained some weight I put his “skinny” clothes in a box labelled “too small”. He wanted to throw them out and buy bigger pants. A few months later after working on his fitness he opened the box and the stuff fit again, hooray! Good thing we kept them because he hates shopping for anything but tech :)

      I think if you’re going to keep clothes that don’t fit, because you think they might fit again, it’s good to sequester them from your daily wear clothes so they don’t frustrate you every time you try to get dressed. Put a date on the box, and try them on again in a while. Or just have demarcated places in your closet for “big comfy PMS clothes” and “feeling skinny clothes”.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache October 20, 2011, 12:30 pm

      I’m wondering if you really need 2 clothing sizes to cover a 15 lb range… shirts would still fit regardless, so the only issue would be pants/skirts that are slightly too big, right? A belt could probably fix that easily.

      I have fluctuated in weight as well, especially after being pregnant. After I had my baby, I was about 20 lbs heavier than my “normal” weight for a couple of years. I allowed myself 2 pairs of new pants and then worked my ass off to get back into my old clothes. For some of my “skinnier” clothes, I didn’t even think it was possible to get back into them (wider hips, bigger belly?), but I can now easily fit into them. Having to wear the same 2 pairs of pants for a long time was a big motivator to get myself back to my healthy weight! All that biking around didn’t hurt either. ;)

      • CBear September 13, 2016, 4:55 pm

        As someone who is usually pretty small and is currently pregnant, I’m happy I found this comment and your posts. It helps motivate me regarding fitness and pregnancy. Would you do a post on diet/exercise for women and keeping it super cheap?

        It’s hard feeling nauseated and still eating right/working out.


  • Jasmine October 16, 2011, 1:13 am

    My fiance has this tendency to buying clothing whenever we go out. I think he genuinely thinks he needs them or doesn’t have any of them. When he was transferred out here to Colorado I was left in Nebraska to pack the household. I took that opportunity to go through all our clothing and made a really really big donation… most of it being to big or small to fit us. After I had weeded things down to a reasonable number of undershirts and the like, I moved. Not one week later a package came that had (I kid you not) 64 undershirts in different colors. I am pretty sure he hasn’t seen or used more than ten.

  • Angela October 19, 2011, 3:53 pm

    Wow, this is a great article. I also get bored at work and in the past would find myself browsing online to see what I might need to boost my wardrobe. I think I might have been addicted to Anthropologie at one point, but am proud to say I haven’t stepped in that store in a year and I can walk to one from my office. Now I just read your blog to combat boredom and also go on regular walks around the neighborhood of my office. No one really notices that I am gone and it’s a nice break in my day. Thanks for inspiring me.

    • Amonymous June 29, 2016, 1:38 am

      I also read MMM to combat boredom at work. I say it’s very productive! :)

  • PaddyMac October 19, 2011, 5:59 pm

    I think it’s unreasonable to just say you won’t buy clothes again! I have a huge closet and so don’t need to throw much away (unless I run out of hangers). I have clothes I bought years ago that I still wear. But a few times a year I like a good trip to Chicos and a few new outfits. It feels good to meet friends or go to an event with clothes that are spiffy and new. I’m by no means a fashion queen, and have never paid extravagent amounts for shoes or handbags or makeup. But I’d be miserable if I thought I wasn’t allowed to buy a few new things or I should feel guilty about wanting to wear nice clothes. Put yourself on a budget you can afford and that is proportional to your income. The problem is people earning $36K a year spending 10% (@ $300 a month) on clothes and makeup and then not saving anything for retirement. Work out a big picture budget, set aside enough for needs and saving for the future. From the remainder, figure a percentage for how much is reasonable for your “wants” and then buy without guilt. The goal is consumption smoothing – enjoying your life now AND later.

    • MMM October 19, 2011, 8:36 pm

      That’s an interesting comment and a fairly adult way of thinking about things – except you might be surprised that it goes almost completely against the whole purpose of this blog!

      The Mustachian way is not to equate buying things with “enjoying your life”. Especially buying a regular stream of things like new outfits several times a year. And we’re not going for Consumption Smoothing – which is often used as the justification for consumer debt. We’re going for plain old Consumption Reduction. You have described exactly the typical consumer mindset. It is possible for ANYONE to unplug completely from this mindset if they think about it carefully.

      It’s about learning, over time, that consumption is actually a fake form of happiness, and your happiness will increase the LESS manufactured things you crave. Your consumption should have nothing to do with a percentage of your income. It should be viewed as your current level of neediness, and as you get stronger, your need to consume will drop further and further, even as your achievements in life grow.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache October 20, 2011, 12:24 pm

      Hi PaddyMac! I’m sure you’re doing better than the majority of the population, so congrats!

      As MMM mentioned, there is something beyond “consumption smoothing” that is very rewarding. You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to wear nice clothes, but maybe you should ask yourself why wearing nice clothes makes you feel good?

      From a woman’s point of view, I know that wearing nice (and new) clothes can boost confidence (which is why I used to buy clothes all the time!), but I now have a different trick. I have a few things in my closet that are part of my “nice clothes” section. These clothes don’t get used regularly, so they always feel new when I put them on. I also have about 3 dresses (including my own wedding dress, which is just a regular dress) that I rotate through for weddings and special occasions (most women I know buy new clothes for events such as parties, weddings, and trips).

      The fact that I have WAY too much clothing means I shouldn’t be buying anything else. It doesn’t make any sense. I just need to find new joy in my old stuff and find other ways of making myself feel good (usually with being outdoors and exercise!).

  • PaddyMac October 26, 2011, 12:36 pm

    Mrs MM: I probably do the same thing as far as having a “nice” section of the closet for going out etc. Since we work at home, I can wear crappy clothes all day and no one will know. But since we are involved in speaking at conferences and consulting, I like to know that I’m not showing up year after year with the same outfit from the “nice” side. (One fan once told me that he could always find me in a crowd by looking for “that colorful jacket”. I guess I’d worn it about three years in a row. Ouch.) It’s great that you are happy with what you have. But I just got two pairs of jeans from Chico’s and love em. I don’t see why I need to deprive myself of nice clothes that make me look and feel good if I can afford it (and I can afford a lot more than what I spend, truth be told). If the closet gets crowded, I donate a few things.

    • dll November 29, 2016, 8:26 am

      As a man I have never understood how the idea that it is a faux pas for a woman to be seen in the same outfit became a cultural norm. Does anybody know? What a marketers dream to inculcate a whole society with a value that propels continuous consumption. There is NOTHING wrong with wearing the same outfit!

  • Kathleen July 27, 2012, 11:39 pm

    Mrs. Money Mustache, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to read your blog. My boyfriend has been talking nonstop about this website, and he has been driving me up the walls!! I finally gave it a shot, and wanted to see for myself what was so stirring about the information you and your husband have to offer. After reading your blog on clothing, I realized that I have a serious problem. I am a fashionista, and I always have to wear the latest fashions. Of course, this lifestyle entails the purchasing of massive amounts of clothing that has been manufactured overseas. It’s unsustainable, inefficient, and highly expensive. What makes this habit worse, is that I am a poor college student that has no business spending my money on such things. My boyfriend always complains about the ridiculous amounts of shoes and clothing I have, while I feel as though I never have enough. This is indicative of a societal illness, I would think. I don’t want to live this way anymore. In fact, I came up with a plan to thrift or get hand-me-downs and transform them into a creation all my own. I will be spending less, and maintaining my desire to dress fashionably. Win-win.

  • Qwerty October 24, 2012, 9:40 pm

    This is a great idea, in theory. I just had a baby and now that my 6 months is up I am going back to work (my husband is taking the next 6 months off), and going back to work means I need to look professional. Now, before I read this blog i would have just gone out and bought new clothes, but instead, I pulled out everything I had, to see what i could still wear. Well, I am up 10lbs from before I was pregnant, and not one pair of my old pants fit. Not one. So i need to buy some new stuff, which I will do on a predetermined budget. But wow, that’s aggravating. Luckily i have a skill where I am able to buy clothes without paying full price.

  • Zalo August 8, 2013, 5:10 pm

    Clothe shopping in the mall makes me freak the fuck out; I get overwhelmed with all of the choices and exorbitant prices, and especially with the almost superficial, plastic patina everyone around me seems to have.

    I much prefer the warm, casual sense of community at garage sales, thrift stores, and Craigslist-like-venues.

    It still pains me to buy things, though, especially clothing. I often get buyers remorse after purchasing anything. I wonder if that’s an issue.

  • Kirsty September 17, 2013, 3:58 pm

    I used to buy lots of designer clothes when I was younger. I got caught up in all the hype and fancy advertising and actually believed that all these expensive things were turning me into a better person. Then one day I got talking to a friend who owned a clothes shop. She told me the only thing that made these clothes/handbags/shoes expensive was the profit. Boy did I feel stupid! That definitely cured me and now whenever I get tempted to buy something new I think of that line – THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES THESE THINGS EXPENSIVE ARE THE PROFIT! I’ve applied this line of thinking to everything not just clothes. The upside is the money I’ve saved means the house will be paid off in another two years!

  • Mira September 26, 2013, 8:34 pm

    Late to the party, but totally relish the Mrs MM posts.

    I have a trick. I am a professional/corporate type, 29, and I have been doing this for years, esp when living in the everyday temptations of NYC…it works well. Similar to what Mrs MM mentions above as a mind-trick, but it’s fun, too.

    First of all: You don’t NEED anything. Get NEED out of your head.

    1. If you are out and unfortunately get sucked into window shopping or in a store, which happens, everyone teeters in this weird place between wanting to BUY BUY BUY and wanting to exercise Voluntary Simplicity and living zen moments of not needing more crap…Take a picture of the item. Half the time that solves it for me right there.

    2. With clothing or other STUFF, one in one out is the rule. You will find that if you closely follow this rule, which is something necessary in smaller apartments anyway, you will not want to buy it anymore because you don’t want to think about throwing/giving out a perfectly good item in exchange.

    3. Actually stop and visualize what this thing you want to buy will look like in 3 years. This will also often do the trick.

    As an aside if there’s an object of some sort or clothing or whatever which is truly functional to you and beautiful to you, it will speak to you and you can buy it. It’s just my experience that this is like 1% of actual stuff. This just helps weed out that stuff so you can have a more satisfying life. Your mind tricks you into wanting stuff that in fact you don’t want and can’t store.

    Also, finally– I think (for me at least) there is some connection with having once spent significant amounts of money on clothing, accessories, etc which now enables this Voluntary Simplicity and the actual enjoyment of seeing the results of the restraint. I think if you are born wanting and stay wanting it is a lot harder to grow out of…so if anyone has daughters it’s not a bad idea to kind of let them go through a phase as long as it’s coming from a good place.

    • gpisabela January 22, 2015, 4:06 pm

      One of the best comments on this blog. This comment “spoke to me” so to speak. I need to write down these tricks somewhere. As for the “born wanting and stay wanting” – that was me. I grew up poor, always wanting, never having. At some point I could buy whatever I wanted, and I did! Only after that phase I could appreciate balancing wants versus needs. I think the sooner the phase, the better – more time to spend in “wise” mode.

  • Moonwaves March 5, 2014, 10:21 am

    I know this is an old post – I’m slowly working my way through the archive – so you might have already done a follow-up but just in case this hasn’t yet been mentioned anywhere, I find the idea of Project 333 (http://theproject333.com/getting-started/) really interesting. You take 33 items of clothing, shoes and accessories (there are some exceptions, like underwear and sportswear) and that is your wardrobe for 3 months. Everything else gets boxed up and put away out of sight. Realisitically, I think a lot of us don’t actually use more than about this much stuff regularly anyway, even if there’s ten times that much in our cupboards.

  • Amazing Alice May 18, 2014, 8:32 pm

    An awesome piece of advice is to sell your stuff instead of buying more. It will really make you hurt at lot, clothing is exteemlu hard to sell, in fact I have managed to sell nearly everything from my house I don’t need (pictures etc) but no one wants to buy my clothing. So it’s a completely bad use of money to buy expensive new clothes!!! Make it hurt people! Make it hurt !!!

  • Jen August 30, 2014, 12:08 pm

    I had an eye-opening experience when eliminating half the stuff in my house a few months ago when I sold it. I had purchased lots of designer clothing over the years and wanted to sell some with a consignment shop. A couple items still had tags attached and were beautiful pieces but I did not have any occasions in Denver to actually use them. I thought I would get some tiny percentage of what I had paid. The shop owner literally did not even want to look at them, she was drowning in so much clothing, she could not give it away for free on the sidewalks.

    I now take an extremely long time to weigh the cost with a very good reason why I think I will get much pleasure from the item. So far since moving I have paid $5 for a tank top from Wal-Mart so I can exercise more. Most of the time I work from home and wear the same thing every day now that I have more flexibility with work. I can’t say that I regret owning beautiful things but I do wish I had not bought as much.

  • AH October 4, 2014, 7:02 pm

    I, too, am new to MMM and am making my way through the archived articles.

    About 5 years ago I made a new years resolution to not buy anything new (clothing). This originally had nothing to do with money but the true cost of our stuff in terms of exploitation of foreign workers. I am a teacher, and I felt it was time to align my words and actions. Well, all these years later I still shop almost exclusively at thrift/second hand shops. Being conscious of where to spend our money is not only important to gaining wealth but is a statement of who we are and the values that we hold dear.

  • Tigerlilly November 12, 2014, 11:21 am

    Hahahahaha. I have been at this quite awhile now, and I just switched out my summer and winter tops. It turned out that I actually had two winter tops,to wear under sweaters, one I really don’t like and another with some holes in it.
    Time to visit a thrift store!

  • Wiselizabeth December 5, 2014, 11:43 am

    I used to have the same problems with clothes, until I discovered capsule wardrobes. The idea is that I keep only about 25-35 items (other than undergarments and workout clothes) in my closet at any given time. Everything has to go together and make me look and feel great. Each season I make a list of what I want in my wardrobe and go through the clothes in storage. I ONLY buy if there’s a category I can’t fill, and I try to but high-quality secondhand from consignment or thrift stores. It’s a lot of fun to rediscover my old clothes each season, and the extra thought means I always look pretty good. Project 33 is a great resource for more information, and searching ‘capsule wardrobe’ on google or pintrest brings up lots more info.

    I’d love to keep it even more simple, but this system keeps me looking professional in my line of work. I also use a similar system for makeup – one usual ‘face’ plus a couple extra (low-end!) eye shadows and lipsticks in case of rare dress-up days. True minimalism (no makeup) would be a hindrance in my field, but this allows me to avoid having a bunch of extra stuff I don’t use.

  • Anna March 29, 2015, 11:30 am

    There are two things that really help me with this: Avoiding retail stores but going to thrift stores when I need something (especially on half-off day); and cleaning out my closet. I find if you go through and organize everything in your closet and try things on that you haven’t worn in years, it reminds you about all the cute things you already have that you don’t even wear. Then you don’t feel as much need to buy new things. It’s like shopping in your own closet. The things that don’t fit, hide them in the back of your closet and pull them back out another six months later and try then on again. If you’re never going to wear them again, donate them. Just making more space in your closet so you can actually see the things you have will make you feel like you have more.

    Another odd tip for anyone who happens to be traveling in a country where the currency is weaker than your country’s– you may be able to find cute clothes in the market there or even go to a tailor and have clothes custom-made for cheaper than they would be at home. Then you can stock up and not have to buy anymore for a while.

  • Chad July 13, 2015, 1:22 am

    The waiting thing is a useful tip. Often what catches your eye at one point fails to enamour you a week, month, or year later.

    At the same time, waiting an absurd length of time like six months is very often just dumb. Clothing being one of the worst examples for this. Clothing is seasonal. What is appropriate in summer won’t be six months from now in winter, so why in the hell would you wait until the season when that kind of clothing has nothing to offer you? Of course you’re not going to be particularly inclined to buy a sweater in the middle of summer.

    At the risk of revealing my considerable intolerance of extremism, if you find yourself in the habit of waiting six months to make purchasing decisions on anything that isn’t a large purchase (not by extremist standards!), you’ve gone nutty.

  • Fairy8i8 April 7, 2016, 8:16 pm

    For me, I read a lot of the minimalist blogs. I didn’t know how much was “enough” because I felt there were holes in my wardrobe of things I thought I needed. I finally created a spreadsheet to itemize everything I wanted in my basic wardrobe- including specialty and sports specific items. I decided to allow myself 200 items with all accessories. I then decided to create a basic wardrobe of 100 items including socks and underwear. It gave me such clarity and allowed me to see the items I was missing. Buying another t-shirt would not help me feel satisfied with my wardrobe because I already had more than the number I “needed” in my 100 item basic wardrobe allotment. However, a pair of sunglasses would go a long way because I currently don’t own any, and I find myself often wishing for a pair in the summer. Now when I have the urge to shop, I look at my list to see what I don’t have, or if a shirt or pair of pants has seen the end of its life (because I actually wear out my fewer clothes), I have a good picture of what I need from the store. I think taking the time to put together a wardrobe plan is not only fun, but it is incredibly freeing from the shopping bug because it allows you to know what you need and wait until you find just what you want. And there is nothing wrong with waiting on a purchase. I still have not bought those sunglasses over a year later because the ones I love are at Banana Republic, and they are a BR Pick that isn’t included in sales, and I can’t bring myself to spend $80 for a pair of sunglasses. Yes, I could buy a cheaper pair, but it just shows that even things on our “need” list are not always needs, but things we just want.

  • Lady Locust August 8, 2016, 5:07 pm

    Here’s a chuckle for ya~ after 20+ years, I threw away the swim suits I wore in high school:) (as well as pitching/donating a goodly number of other items)

  • Stoic in Progress August 12, 2016, 6:56 am

    Hi, Mrs. MM, and fellow readers working through the archives. :) I have a dilemma with thrift store shopping that I hope you can help me with.

    I grew up very poor, and growing up most of my wardrobe was hand-me-downs, free clothes from a local church, or thrift store purchases. Now that my husband and I have created a comfortably middle-class life, my hesitation to thrift store shop is not from the negative associations with the struggles of my childhood and youth – quite the contrary. I was a little embarrassed at the time that we couldn’t afford to buy new clothes, but I was also deeply grateful not to be naked. :) I learned to pick through the used offerings to find items I would genuinely enjoy wearing, and this helped me feel better about myself, especially during those painfully self-conscious teen years.

    My problem now is that, because I can afford to buy new clothes if I choose to, I feel guilty that if I thrift store shop I would be taking away nice items from a woman or teen girl who might financially HAVE to shop at the thrift store. This guilt is compounded by the fact that I became a social worker, so I interact on a daily basis with families that are struggling to get by and provide the basics of shelter, food, and clothing for themselves and their children.

    Does anyone else feel this guilt when considering or participating in thrift store shopping? Any tips for a way I can mentally reframe this, so I can try to benefit from guilt-free savings the rare times I need to shop (like now, in my second pregnancy when I need a couple pieces of summer maternity clothing due to having been pregnant fall to spring with my first)?

    As a sidebar, my family doesn’t buy much clothing so we tend to wear out what we own. If anything still seems to have life but we don’t wear it anymore, I definitely donate it to the thrift store, but that doesn’t help change how I feel about shopping there.

    Thanks for any suggestions!

    • Nick October 20, 2016, 12:07 pm

      I have the same dilemma but continue to shop at thrift stores. Here’s why:

      I believe the thrift stores need my money. They have a fair amount of overhead and labor, and not a huge profit margin. Hopefully by continuing to shop there, they will stay in business and my patronage will influence yet more second hand stores (and less new clothing stores) to open. More for everyone.

      Furthermore, I am a non-millionare, and I’m assuming you are also a non-millionaire. Thrift stores are the ideal price range for non-millionaires to shop for clothes.

      And as a last bit for thought- if you found a great deal on a used car, would you pass it up for a more expensive one for someone less fortunate?

    • Lauren October 20, 2016, 2:04 pm

      As someone who worked as a job coach at a Goodwill for three years, I would say you shouldn’t feel guilty at all. Here’s why: (1) most thrift store’s missions don’t center around selling cheap items to families in need or stoics in training (although that’s a lovely benefit), instead they are either about providing job training (e.g. Goodwill) for people who have difficulty getting jobs (people with disabilities and/or people who have been incarcerated, although Goodwill in particular has been under fire for the last few years for paying people significantly under the minimum wage) or about donating profits to charity (ValueVillage, St. Vincent) so the more you spend, the more they benefit, and (2) most thrifts stores have an excess of goods–at Goodwill they rotate clothes off the floor every few weeks and ship huge boxes of them to developing countries (where unfortunately they can depress the local textile business).

      • RS February 22, 2020, 11:33 pm

        As a side note Lauren, Goodwill also has some outlet stores where everything goes into big bins, and they rotate them out every so often. Most of the stuff is priced by the pound (with a few exceptions). After that then they may go off to other countries.

  • Natasha January 26, 2017, 5:24 am

    Thanks for posting. I’ve been binging on this site for the past few days and it has put a major fire under my butt to get my finances in the best shape possible. I’m taking any steps as what is recommended in many of these posts are mind over matter which takes time to overcome and COMMIT to. Clothing and shoes are definitely my Achilles heel with eating out a close second. Posts like this help me put things into perspective and prioritize my wants and needs.

  • Raegan March 16, 2017, 8:30 am

    Okay, I have a confession: when I comment I don’t actually read all the other comments. I usually do an alt+ f search and type in a few key words. I know I’m in the clear here because I searched both the key words I wanted to talk about and neither came up, which was shocking to me that other no one within the Mustache community hadn’t touched on these.
    Keyword #1: sew
    I am always sewing to save money. You don’t have to be a pro to get a lot of bang for your buck out of sewing. I alter bras when the elastic wears out (for any guys reading this, bras are super expensive [especially good ones]). I add clasps to jeans after the button tears out.
    Keyword #2: dye
    This isn’t as much about clothes, I’ve used this mainly for towels, but it would be a useful strategy for undies, bras, and socks (if you don’t buy black, which has other benefits [cue black socks scout song]). Dying is easy (that sounds weird) if you can make kraft macaroni and cheese, you can dye. We like to get nice white towels for guests to use. After numerous uses (even after washing with bleach) they get kind of dingy looking. My solution is to dye them a darker color. I always try for black, but I always end up with grey. They fade and get dingier and I dye them again. There is no reason to throw out a towel unless it is threadbare or has holes and then they make great rags.
    Those are my thoughts on avoiding purchasing clothing and other linens.

  • Last Ditch Laura March 25, 2019, 9:20 am

    I have a method of clothing acquisition that is a bit unusual, but has served me well. It’s not the cheapest way, but it’s cheap, and it keeps me from buying things I won’t use. When I have something I like, when it wears out (or if I simply want a duplicate), I look for the exact same thing on eBay. I know how it fits, I know I’ll use it, and if I wore out the first one, I’ll likely wear out the second one as well. As for being worried that people will think I’m always wearing the same thing, I figure that if they think, “Look at Laura. She’s wearing the same thing again,” that person will be onto their next thought in just a moment anyway. Occasionally I buy an article of clothing at a thrift store, but that is only to replace something worn out, if I can’t find a duplicate of a favorite item on eBay. I do not waste time deciding what to wear. I know I love everything in my closet, which means I have more clothing satisfaction with few clothes than those who have bursting shelves.


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