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5 Ways to Stretch Your Clothing Budget

A cardigan that I upcycled from a sweater I didn’t really like

Guest post from Kristen of Life from the Lilie Pad

For me, one of the many sacrifices I’ve made while trying to stay on a budget is not spending as much to purchase clothes for myself. Instead of spending a lot on new clothes, I have been focusing on getting some “new” pieces for my wardrobe by tweaking existing items in my closet.

Here are just a few ways to save money and stretch your wardrobe, with links to projects I’ve done:

Repair, don’t replace.

Are the heels on your work shoes worn down? Did you know that you can get them replaced for about $5-10 by either purchasing new tips online, or going to a shoe repair shop? You can also replace the soles. That may be all you need to bring your shoes back to feeling like new.

If a button falls off a shirt, pick up a needle and thread and sew it back on. Holes in seams can also easily be repaired.

Work around imperfections.

If you get a hole in the elbow of a shirt, cut the sleeves to a shorter length and give them a quick hem. Do you have a skirt that fits in the waist but is just a little too short? Add a wide band of decorative fabric at the bottom. When kids get stains on clothes, or holes in places that can’t be repaired, make a cute appliqué to cover it up.

If you find yourself not wearing a pair of pants because the pockets stick out, or the waist gaps, spend a little bit of money with a tailor to have the item fitted. Many alterations cost around $10, and some you can even do yourself.

Another cardigan that I upcycled from a sweater

Re-purpose items.

Turn a men’s button-up shirt into a woman’s skirt. Sew a tank top and a skirt together to make a dress. Turn a pullover sweater into a cardigan. Shorten an ankle-length skirt to right below the knees for a fresh look.

Dress up a tired sweater or shirt.

Make flowers from fabric or felt to create a fun pin. Add ribbon trim or ruffles to the edge of a sweater. Re-work existing bows or ribbons so they are more flattering. Change the style of a sweater to update it so you’re more likely to wear it.

Pair things together differently.

Do you find yourself always wearing the same pants with the same top? Challenge yourself to mix up your wardrobe. If you need help, have a friend come over to give input. You can brainstorm new ideas together, and your friend might have a vision for a look that you never even considered.

With a little creativity, you can get some “new” items by spending little or no money!

Kristen is a wife to a great husband, and mom to a wonderful two year-old boy, and a six year-old Golden. She works as an event manager, and loves crafting in her spare time. Visit her blog, Life from the Lilie Pad.

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  1. says

    I haven’t paid full price for clothing in years. I also just discovered a local thrift store. It isn’t as good as Goodwill but about once a month they do $5 a bag on all clothing and isn’t the hour drive like Goodwill is. $5 for as many clothes as will fit in a plastic shopping bag. Sometimes I only find 5 items, other times I find a ton.

  2. Krysten says

    I think I’ll pass on most of these ideas since 1) My average cost for a piece of clothing for myself is $2, 2) We all wear our clothes until they’re either completely worn out or outgrown, and 3) I hate sewing! That being said, I DO mend them to extend their life – just no major overhauls.

  3. Marie says

    Last week Rachael Ray had a lady on the show who repurposes all her clothing or clothing she finds at thrift stores! She even turned an audience member’s prom dress into a cocktail dress on the show. She then turns around and donates her items to an organization that helps woman. Here is her website:
    I don’t have that kind of talent but maybe it will inspire others who know how to sew.

  4. Grace says

    I can’t sew or do most of this either but I have found tons of .25-.50 cent brand name yard sale clothes for hubby and I and all 3 kids :) less time consuming :)

  5. Emily says

    This has given me some great ideas! I’ve kept some items of clothing from my pre-children days that are slightly too tight or too short. Now I think I can put them back into rotation with a few tweaks/additions. Thank you!

  6. Carol O. says

    when you do buy new-to-you clothes, buy solids and accessorize with prints and textures. solids mix easier.

    • says

      Buy skirts instead of pants, because when you get fatter and they don’t fit at your waist anymore, you can just wear them around your rib cage and you have a shorter skirt.
      LOL sad but true, in my case.

        • Brittainny says

          Thank you for posting this! This is such a great idea. The sweater into a cardigan is so obvious! Why haven’t I thought of that! I do sew and am very excited to share this with my other sewing friends and have a sewing party!

          • says

            Great ideas! I love to sew and had never thought of changing a sweater like this.

            Last weekend I turned a pair of too long jeans into crops with a decorative split in the outside seam. Got lots of compliments.

  7. Lorna says

    Now I just need some magic that will make all the clothes that are too small fit me again! A diet is the obvious answer and I am working on that but I either need a whole new wardrobe or some way of making clothes bigger without making them look like patchwork quilts!

  8. emily says

    Thank you for doing a post from a working mother! Sometimes I get discouraged that I can’t do as much as stay-at-home moms. However, this encourages me to use my gifts. I feel like I am working for God, but I still struggle with how I perceive a mother’s life should be. That being said, I know I have to let go of the life I wanted to lead that life He wants me to have.

    • says

      Emily – I’m about halfway through reading “168 Hours”, a book frequently recommended by Crystal. It’s challenging me to think about how I spend my time and if it matches up with how I WANT to be spending my time. Glad you enjoyed the post. :-)

  9. says

    These are great ideas. I know right now I have one of my daughter’s dresses that has gotten too short but still fits her waiting for me to add a band of fabric to the bottom to extend the life of it.
    I also recently made a few pairs of shorts out of pants that my son had worn the knees out of or they had gotten too short. They are his favorite shorts so far this summer.
    I will have to try to convert a sweater into a cardigan. I have not tried that before. But I have made dresses with a t-shirt and some fabric added to it.

  10. Patti says

    The first way to save money on clothing is to think about what you actually need. Take your calendar and write down the clothing you need to wear: church clothes, special occasion clothes, work clothes, stay at home clothes, sports or hobby outfits, etc. plus shoes, undies, pajamas and other necessities. This will show you what you REALLY need. Then you can go through your closet and match the items you own to what you need. The things you are missing is your shopping list. Too many of us have way too many clothes but maybe not the right clothes for the right occasion. Or we may have too many casual tops but all dressy skirts and pants. You get the picture! Once you know what you need, you can fill in the empty spots with items you either repurpose, find, or buy. Once you do this, you will LOVE your closet and getting dressed in the morning. You can do this for your kids and they will grow up learning how to manage their closets. I’ve seen people buy, buy, buy but are never satisfied. Once you have the clothes you really love and wear, you won’t need a lot of extras.

  11. Charity says

    I’m not trying to take away from this post in any way, but with our budget (and I imagine others as well) we could never spend $10 to have something tailored. I can’t remember spending that amount on a single clothing item for anyone in my family. We purchase from yard sales, resale shops and thrift stores. $10 could go much, much further for us than altering the fit of an existing clothing item.

    Also, Crystal, how come we can no longer reply to each other in the comment section?

    • says

      It’s a glitch with the new template we uploaded last week. We’ve been working feverishly to get it fixed, but it’s still not fixed. I’m holding out hope it might be fixed by tonight! I’m so sorry for the frustration! :(

    • says

      I actually just took in two pairs of shorts on my own, too, saving me the $10. :-) Hadn’t tried it before. I think for many people, spending $10 on an alteration will save them from spending $30 on a new pair of paints that they like better. Personally, it’s worth the money to me to alter clothes or purchase new ones (usually very cheap! Love those Target match-ups) so I don’t spend so much time searching yard sales or thrift stores. I enjoy sewing, but don’t enjoy thrifting quite as much!

  12. says

    Articles like these make me wish I knew how to sew!! I would totally be up for altering my clothing, but the most I can do is sew on buttons. I’d imagine many of these type of alterations require a sewing machine, too. Oh, well. I usually never spend any of my own money on clothes. I hold out for birthday and Christmas gifts!

    • Andrea says

      Meredith–even sewing on new buttons or fixing an unraveling hem/seam makes clothes last longer. I know people that toss practically-new things because they are missing a button!

      Pinterest is full of ideas for updating clothes!

    • says

      If you are discouraged that you “can’t sew” try watching youtube videos or asking someone who knows to show you. I have learned a lot that way.

  13. Melissa says

    Clothes (especially kids clothes!) with stains that won’t come out can be dyed a darker color to hide the stain. Re-dyeing can also be used to breathe new life into clothes that have faded or that you’re just tired of looking at. ^_^

  14. says

    I have found Pinterest to be the best way to save money on clothes! I look at the pins of friends whose style I like, then see if I have any similar pieces that can be put together in new ways. Throw in a couple of Goodwill updates to my wardrobe (never more than $5 for an item) and I’ve been dressing much better lately!

  15. Charlene says

    One way I have gotten some new ideas of clothing combinations is when I have done my laundry and am hanging up my work clothes. I notice a certain sweater next to a certain pair of pants and realize they would look very nice together. Or when I have them hanging up to dry, I see two articles of clothing next to each other and see that they would look good together. It has been unexpected, but has given me new ideas of ways to wear what I already have. And most of what I have was either purchased at yard sales, thrift stores, or passed on from a friend, so nothing is to expensive.

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