How do we stop buying clothes that we never wear? It’s happened to all of us as least once. We’ve bought clothes that we fully intended to wear, but it ends up staying in our wardrobe with the price tag still attached.
I remember at the height of my shopping problem, I went through my closet and found TONS of items with the price tag still attached or garments that I had only worn once. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong?
I loved the item when I tried it on in the store or bought it online. It didn’t make sense that my mind wouldn’t suddenly change when I put the item in my closet.
Not only was I throwing money away, but my closet become disorganized and made me feel guilty whenever I opened it.
If you have a wardrobe full of clothes, but nothing to wear – then this post is for you. According to the WSJ, the average person only wears about 20% of their wardrobe on a regular basis. This is especially true for women as they tend to have larger wardrobes than men.
Then why can’t we just stop buying clothes that we never wear? It can be hard to ditch this bad habit when we don’t recognize our shopping triggers.
Recognizing your shopping triggers can help you understand exactly what motivates you to buy new clothes.
Perhaps it was because you had a bad day at work, or you’re bored, or you saw someone on social media wearing an outfit that you “needed” to have too.
Today I’m sharing tips to help you stop buying clothes you never wear. All of these tips come from my own experience of over shopping and wasting thousands of dollars on clothes.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s part of being human. But what’s vital is to learn from our mistakes instead of beating ourselves up about it.
Yes, it’s possible to change your spending habits and shop with intention. Today I’m sharing how you can curb impulse buying, get better mileage from your wardrobe, and how to buy clothes you’ll actually wear.
- How I quit my shopping addiction – 8 tips that work
- Shop your closet challenge – How to wear everything in your wardrobe
- 10 tricks to stop spending money on clothes
1. Stop buying items for your fantasy life
One of top ways to stop buying clothes you never wear is to dress for the life you live right now, instead of your fantasy life.
We all have fantasy versions of ourselves, and that’s okay. At the height of my shopping addiction, the fantasy version of myself wore designer handbags, high heels, and had a closet full of fancy cocktail dresses ready for any event.
But in reality, I was afraid that I’d ruin my designer handbags because I’m clumsy, so I always wore my cheaper bags. High heels hurt my feet, so I preferred to wear flats. And the only fancy event I went to was the annual Christmas work dinner, so I had a closet full of beautiful unworn dresses with the price tag still attached.
When we buy stuff for our fantasy lives, we often end up with a wardrobe full of clothes, but it feels like we have nothing to wear.
Yes, I know that shopping for your fantasy life is fun. But seeing those clothes hanging up in our closet like works of art can often leave us feeling guilty and frustrated about our spending habits.
It takes a lot of discipline to stop buying clothes for your fantasy life and only spend money on things you actually need.
Next time you’re tempted to buy something, ask yourself the following questions to help you shop for your real life, not your fantasy life. Remember to be honest with your answers. This can help you learn how to buy clothes you’ll actually wear.
How often will I wear this?
If you live and spend the majority of your time in a warm-weather climate, it probably doesn’t make sense to spend $200+ on a winter jacket and winter boots.
Keep your current lifestyle and living situation in mind when shopping. If your free time is eaten with work or commuting, those cute exercise clothes that you planned to wear will probably collect dust in your wardrobe.
When will I actually wear this?
If you can’t answer this question, then you probably don’t need to buy it.
You also want to be honest when you will wear the item. For example, I used to buy pretty cocktail dresses just in case I needed to go to a last-minute work dinner or event.
If I saw a dress on sale, I would buy it “just in case” so I would have it on hand. But these “just in case” moments rarely came, and when they did – the dress I had originally bought was either 1) not in style anymore or 2) I didn’t like the dress anymore and wanted to buy a different one.
How soon will I wear the item?
Would you wear the item today or are you buying this item to wear in the future?
Chances are, if you’re not planning on wearing it within the next month, then you probably don’t need it.
What are your hobbies and habits?
It’s natural for people to pick up new habits or hobbies. But it’s important to pay attention to your previous behavior.
For example, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars over the years on fitness clothes convincing myself that these expensive leggings were going to the THING that helps me develop a workout habit.
Did they help me workout consistently? No. It wasn’t until I actually made a solid fitness routine and found motivation from within, that I was able to develop a workout habit.
Before you buy anymore clothes for your fantasy hobbies or habits, be honest with yourself about WHY your previous purchases haven’t worked out that way you hoped.
Ready to get your money under control? Making a plan for your money is the first step in taking responsibility for your finances. Below are the same budgeting worksheets I used to help me stop buying unnecessary things and save my first $100,000 in my mid twenties. If you’re interested, you can grab them here.
2. Ask yourself – “Will this match with anything in my wardrobe?”
Another common reason why we buy clothes that we don’t wear is because they don’t pair well with anything in our wardrobe.
Before you buy that cute dress, ask yourself – “Would I wear this today?” or “Does it work with the pieces already in my closet?”
You’ll save money and get better mileage from an item that matches with other stuff in your wardrobe. Try to think of at least three outfits that you can build with the item that you’re interested in buying.
PRO TIP: Create a Pinterest board of all the items you have in your wardrobe. If you can’t find the exact item, add similar items to your board. This can help you get an idea if a new item will pair nicely with anything in your closet.
And while it’s okay to add a risky piece to your wardrobe every now and then, if you’re always buying these risky pieces, it’ll end up feeling like you have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear.
3. Stop buying trendy items that don’t match your personality
Clothing companies and online influencers are really good at convincing us that we need certain items in our wardrobe. Have you ever seen a blogger wear something and immediately think – “I NEED that”?
I remember buying a beige trench coat because I read in a popular fashion magazine that this was “must-have item” in every woman’s wardrobe.
The truth was — I hated the way trench coats looked on me. And every time I wore it, I couldn’t wait to get home and take it off! What a waste of money!
Now I only buy items that complement my lifestyle and fit my personality. This helps me avoid getting distracted by things that look nice, but don’t pair nicely with items in my wardrobe.
4. Only buy items that you truly love
I remember trying on a pair of jeans and was so happy that they fit me perfectly. It was so challenging to find a pair of jeans that fit me.
Did I like the way they looked? Not really. They were just blah looking jeans… but they fit me and were on sale – so I bought them.
And guess what? They sat in my wardrobe for a few years before I finally donated them with the price tag still attached.
One of the reasons why we buy clothes that we don’t wear is because we get items that we don’t really love.
Before buying something, ask yourself – “Would I pay full price for this item”? If you wouldn’t pay full price for the item, then you probably don’t love it.
Of course there are exceptions, such as when you really love an item, but you’re waiting for it to go on sale because the regular price is too expensive.
But it’s important to remind yourself that just because an item is on sale, this doesn’t mean that you need to buy it.
5. Pause before making an impulse purchase
A big reason why we buy clothes that we never wear is because we make impulse purchases.
Impulsive shopping happens when you have the sudden urge to make an unplanned purchase. It’s very common and nearly everyone has made an impulse purchase at some point in their life.
People usually make impulse purchases because they use shopping to satisfy an emotional need. Such as they had a bad day, so they treat themselves to retail therapy. Or they feel insecure, so they buy something to help fill the void.
Impulse buyers have a strong need to chase the “emotional high” that they experience when making persistent and repetitive purchases. Often times, this feeling of euphoria can influence impulse spending more than actually owning the product.
For example: You’re shopping in a store and see a pair of shoes on sale that look nice. Even though you don’t need any new shoes, you suddenly get the urge to buy them because it’s a great deal. Buying the shoes was not planned.
Deep down, you don’t actually care about owning the shoes. But you love the feeling of finding a great deal. It’s exciting and you experience that emotional lift from the act of purchasing the item.
You justify your buying behavior by telling yourself “This deal is too good to pass up. I would be dumb to not buy this”.
Before you buy something, force yourself to pause before making the purchase. Ask yourself one these shopping questions to help you figure out if you really need to buy the item.
6. Ask yourself – “Will I wear this item at least 30 times?”
One of the reasons why we buy clothes we don’t wear is because we don’t have a game plan for using the item.
An easy way to prevent this is to give yourself some time to think of a game plan before you buy the item. Ask yourself, “Will I wear this item at least 30 times”?
It’s important to consider the lifespan of the item. Try to think of at least three occasions off the top of your head where you’ll wear this. If you have trouble thinking of how you’ll style the item, then it’s probably not the right piece for you.
When you buy items that you truly love and will wear multiple times, that’s when you’ll be on your way to building the closet of your dreams.
7. Declutter and organize your wardrobe
If you have a disorganized, cluttered or over-flowing closet – it’s going to be difficult to make the most of your existing wardrobe. How can you stop buying clothes you never wear if you don’t know what you already have?
Organizing your wardrobe can help you accomplish a few different things, such as:
1) You’ll get a better understanding of your personal style.
2) This is your chance to donate, sell or get rid of clothes that you no longer love / wear.
3) You’ll become more decisive when choosing what to wear each day.
4) You’ll feel good about the clothes you choose to keep.
5) You’ll identify gaps in your wardrobe, which can help you become more intentional about future clothing purchases.
If you’re interested, below is a simple step-by-step guide on how to declutter and organize your closet.
Read Next: 6 steps to declutter your wardrobe
8. Figure out your go-to “uniform”
For my wardrobe, I like to follow the 80/20 rule. This means 80% of my wardrobe comprises of basics and clothes that I wear on a regular basis. 20% comprises of accessories and fun (bold) items that complement my basic pieces.
Take a look at your closet and ask yourself – do I have enough basic pieces that can easily mix and match with most items in my wardrobe?
If we have too many accessories or fun items in our wardrobe, it can be difficult to figure out what to wear. We end up with a closet full of beautiful things, but nothing to wear.
An easy way to stop buying clothes you never wear is to figure out your go-to uniform. Your uniform is your signature style. It’s knowing what looks good on you and what you actually like to wear.
Now that many of us are working from home, our go-to uniform may have changed. For example, my work from home uniform is leggings, a hoodie and slippers.
When I run errands, my go-to uniform is straight leg jeans, a t-shirt, a light jacket, and boots.
When you figure out your uniform, this can help you save money when shopping, save time when getting dressed, and save space in your closet since you’ll stop buying clothes you never wear.
9. Avoid buying items for one-time events or occasions
Many people buy clothes for one-time events or special occasions. This may include a holiday party, a friend’s wedding, a vacation, a work function, a baby shower, and so on.
Why do we feel the need to buy a new outfit or item for every event? While it’s fun to go shopping for an event, we usually just wear the item once.
Buying clothes that you only plan to wear once is not a wise investment. They end up sitting in the back of our closet, which doesn’t add value to our lives. Some better options include:
Borrow clothes from family or friends – Once I needed an outfit to wear to a friend’s 70’s themed party. I didn’t have anything appropriate in my wardrobe, so I borrowed a dress from my sister. I was able to save money by not buying something I would only wear once.
Buy secondhand clothes – I used to work at a popular thrift store when I was in University. This helped me to learn how buying secondhand clothes was better for the environment and our wallets.
Rent clothes – Renting clothes for special occasions can be an economical choice. There are many companies today, such as Rent the Runway, that offer a variety of designer clothes to rent.
Sell your clothes – If you have to buy a new outfit, that’s okay. Think of ways you can recoup some of the costs, such as selling the item after you wore it.
10. Pay attention to the fit and fabric of items
One of the reasons why we buy clothes we don’t wear is because the fit and fabric are not right for us. For example, I once bought a beautiful sweater, but the fabric was itchy on my skin, so I never wore it.
Before you buy something, make sure to choose items that fit you well and you feel great wearing.
Clothes should fit and flatter your body right now, not the person you want to be when you lose 10lbs.
If you do love an item, but it doesn’t fit off-the-rack, consider having it tailored. When I worked in a corporate office, I used to get my dress pants tailored because I’m short.
I also like to pay attention to the fabric of a potential clothing purchase. Does it feel like good quality, or does it feel like it will fall apart in the washing machine? Does that item require dry-cleaning, or can it be easily washed at home?
Below are more tips on how to extend the life of your garments.
Read Next: 20 ways to make your clothes last longer
If you do buy something and realize that don’t like the item, don’t be too hard on yourself. We all make mistakes from time to time and that’s okay.
Instead of letting the item sit in your closet, return it as soon as possible.
I stopped buying items on final sale and make sure to always check the return policy before making a purchase.
For items that cannot be returned, try to sell them on apps such as Posmark or Mercari. This can help you recoup some of your money.
Remember that no one is perfect. It takes practice and discipline to curb impulse spending. By following these tips, you can commit to buying fewer clothes and become more decisive about the items you choose to purchase.