Budgeting / Style & Decor

8 Things I Gained From Going 6 Months Without Buying Clothes

By Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A couple of years ago, I took a hard look at my closet; it was overflowing with once-worn sorority formal dresses, endless pairs of black leggings, and quirky, outdated trends. I absolutely love fashion and collecting items that create an outward expression of myself. But, as I rooted through this tangled pile of clothes, I couldn’t even find pieces that I actually wanted to wear. Like a lightning bolt, it hit me that I was no longer truly appreciated each item or asking myself (in Marie Kondo’s famous words) “if each piece sparked joy.” 

In an effort to be more grateful and conscious about the stuff around me, I decided to embark on a 6-month journey of *not* buying any clothes at all. I wanted to be committed to a no-buy period and I chose to avoid shopping for any basics as well. By month four, I saw holes in my gym socks, but I continued to wear them because I didn’t want to cheat myself on this journey. 

I decided on six months arbitrarily – one year seemed like too long of a period for me to stay motivated. One month was too short and probably wouldn’t produce any meaningful lessons. I’ll admit, It was tough to break the impulse habit of walking into the H&M down the street from my office or browsing online, but it got easier with each month. Pretty soon, I had built enough discipline to think about the future, instead of what I wanted right now. 

In total, using the previous calendar year as a benchmark, I estimate that I saved about $1800 in my six months without clothes shopping. $1800 is admittedly a large sum. I went through receipts to help me understand where that money went, and I see that a lot of the money went toward:

  • New work outfits (I moved to a business formal environment)
  • Bridesmaid dresses and bachelorette party outfits that I wore once
  • Sweatshirts (I’m a sucker for really cute hoodies)
  • Frivolous items from Forever 21 that still have price tags

So, here are 8 lessons that I learned throughout my 6-month journey:

  1. I can live without the adorable new blouse that calls my name from the shop window. I learned that I am mentally strong and rational enough to resist any impulse purchase. Plus, there will always be something cuter next season from some other brand! Even though there were a few times where an amazing pair of heels tugged at my heartstrings, I moved on and soon forgot about them. 
  2. I will now aim to buy primarily classic pieces. I realized this when I saw that I had too many “trendy” tops that just seemed silly in retrospect. Classic doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, and you can find plenty of timeless silhouettes at affordable shops, and then get them tailored to your body. A little hemming can go an incredibly long way.  
  3. That said, without any new clothes in rotation, I could clearly see that my fast fashion pieces from Forever 21 and H&M were deteriorating faster than some of my investment pieces that I had spent more money on. Now when I go shopping, I think about what types of clothes I’ll get the most utility out of (e.g., wedding guest dress, business suit) and splurge on those, because I want them to last.
  4. I learned that I hate dry cleaning! It costs a ton (my local dry cleaner charges $15 for a sweater), and it gets really expensive to maintain. From now on, I plan to buy primarily washable clothes. There are some amazing innovations in washable work dresses!
  5. Piggybacking on the last point, I learned to really take care of my clothes. When I didn’t have any restrictions on shopping and could just go out and replace something, I didn’t keep track of my socks or treat my delicate clothes very well. When I had to make do with what I had, I invested in proper detergents (e.g., mesh washing bags, detergents specifically for lingerie), which saved the fabrics and made them look like new after each wash.
  6. I started wearing a “uniform” to work every day. This gave me so much mental space, whereas I had previously been thinking about outfits and shoes for the better part of my morning routine each day. I ended up going with a fitted knit sweater, high-waisted trousers, and sleek heels every day (and kept a blazer in the office in case I needed to be even more polished).
  7. I won’t buy anything with the goal of losing weight in order to wear it. I learned to love myself the way I am, and that clothes should fit me – not the other way around. I had purchased a lot of dresses with that goal previously, and it was never a positive reason for me to take action on my health.
  8. I learned that with the money I was using on clothes, I would rather invest it, save it, or spend it on dinner with friends and family. As much as I treasure the endorphin rush of finding clothes that make me feel and look amazing, I realized that (for me), it’s more worthwhile to work on building my future or creating experiences with the people I love.

Kelsey majored in Sociology and now works in the finance industry. She loves matcha lattes, crime TV dramas, and experimenting with meal plans on a budget.

Image via Unsplash

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