Erasmus said, “When I get a little money, I buy books. If there is any left, I buy food and clothing.” I am totally in agreement with Erasmus on this. Erasmus lived in AD 1400 or thereabouts, and did not have utility bills, gas for the car, or internet and cable fees, but neither would we if we would embrace that 15th century lifestyle.

#1 son and I hawe a difference of opinion on the appropriate cost of shoes. He invaribaly chooses shoes in the $75-100 range. I think sneakers should not be more than $20. So when I was complaining that my gym shoes are no longer doing their job, he gave me a long-outgrown pair of his.

Don’t be disgusted, here. They are nice and clean. They are also really, really comfortable. None of those twinges in the instep after a vigorous workout. I love them. I completely understand why they cost more than mine. They are a good exmpale of “you get what you pay for.”

I am already really good at saving money on clothes. I do this by never buying clothes, no matter how I look, unless there are actually holes in immodest places.

No, no. I take that back. I have Overcome Agoraphobia and now will buy clothes if it is absolutely necessary and my daughter is with me. I have not found it necessary to buy clothes for myself since last March, and see no likelihood that it will  become necessary. All my cold-weather clothes are three or four sizes too large for me now, but I wear them anyway. You can really save a lot of money this way.

Having established that I am a complete expert on the not-buying of clothing, I will share with you the real truth on frugal clothes-buying. Because I have four children, and don’t want them going around looking like ragamuffins, and have therefore had to buy clothes for many years, however little I want to. So you can trust me when I tell you that there is one main secret to buying clothes frugally:

It’s all about cost-per-wear. The $5 tank top that you wore once, and which looked shabby as soon as you washed it so you never wore it again, is more expensive than the $100 purse that you carried every day for a year.

That being so, buy good quality clothes, take care of them, and wear them forever.

Clothes can be bought second-hand and on sale, but don’t lose sight of the main issue. Your cost-per-wear should eventually be under a dollar. If that’s not going to happen, then it had better be a wedding dress.

In fact, clothing is one of the few necessary things that really does go on sale, at actual low prices instead of pretend ones. In order to take advantage of this, you have to know something about fabric and clothing construction, so that you can tell what the clothing is worth. That way, you can tell a real sale from a fake one. You also have to be able to recognize a trendy item that will be outdated too fast for the sale price to benefit you. If you must have trendy items, buy the cheap knock-off version, because it will look okay for the brief time that you will want to wear it. And wear it with good-quality stuff, to fool the eyes of your observers. (I assume, if you want trendy stuff, that you have observers you care about.)

It is also true that making your own clothes will almost always be a better value than buying. It is true that you can sometimes buy a sweater for less than it costs you to make one, but you cannot buy a garment of comparable quality for what it costs you to make it.

I’m saying “almost” because the exception to this can be used clothes.

Now, I made a wedding dress a couple of years ago. It cost about $250 all told. You can buy a wedding dress for less than that. It will be made of fabric that feels like motel curtains. Obviously, the cost-per-wear is not optimum for a garment like this, but we overlook it for a wedding gown. It was still an excellent value compared with ready-made.

I also made this trendy skirt from an old pair of jeans that had long before passed the $0-per-wear mark. This skirt, which compares favorably with the $89 one from the mall that I was copying, cost nothing.





Being able to sew well enough to remodel used (wait — say “vintage”) clothing and recycle scrounged fabrics can lead to the greatest possible savings. As with anything else, having some skills can lead to economic benefits.