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6 Realistic Life Hacks for Saving Money on Your Wardrobe

6 Realistic Life Hacks for Saving Money on Your Wardrobe

There are so many articles out there telling you how to save money and cut corners.

However, half the time the advice is so altruistic it would take you months, if not years, to completely change how you interact with the world. You know the advice I’m talking about – the “before you make a purchase take a minute and think if you’ll really be happy with the transaction later” tip.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s good advice, but it’s just unrealistic – especially for a lot of us who are living in a big city and need to pay for rent, internet, food, transportation, insurance, etc. where anything leftover goes to keeping our sanity for one more week.

The other half of the advice is such small changes that it would take an equally long amount of time to nickel and dime your way to making your rent payments. While storing the old change you found in your car and couch can amount to something, someday – it’s not going to help you in the short term.

Like instead of buying name brand coffee, buy generic coffee and save 12 cents on every purchase – YES, that does add up, but while you are piling up those miniscule savings, your bills are piling up.

So how do most of us handle this?

We do what we always have done and cut corners. Our car can go another month without an oil change. Our phone still works, you just can’t read anything in the top right corner or swipe your finger too fast. Our jeans aren’t ripped, they’re just fashionable.

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Well, I can’t help you with your car or phone, but I have found some pretty nice tricks to reducing the cost of your wardrobe, which I quickly discovered was eating up about as much of my monthly expenses as my car payments were.

1. Deals Are SO Easy To Find

The first thing to realize is that certain stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s that have deals all throughout the year that should be taken advantage of. Both of those stores also have credit cards that offer additional savings to their subscribers. Additionally, small to medium sized stores run promotions throughout the entire year in order to compete with these huge clothing stores, so keep an eye out.

It seems a lot harder than it actually is, due to how much these stores need to promote, but social media is a great way to stay on top of it. You can start checking social media, as every store has a Facebook or Twitter page, but that can be tricky from the shopping perspective since you will be hardwired into looking up your favorite stores or the biggest brands and get caught back into the cycle.

Instead, look for Facebook deal pages or discount pages, as these places get approached by the smaller to mid sized retailers to promote their campaigns. Some companies run campaigns or contests throughout the year to promote their company and offer sweet deals (like free shoes for a year from KicksUSA or $2k from ModCloth) and others offer steep discounts on designer items! Definitely keep up with these pages. You never know when you’ll get lucky!!

2. Don’t Buy When You Can Rent

If you have a job where you have to dress professionally or are just someone that wants to mix up their wardrobe, it can get pricey. However, with sites like Rent the Runway, where you can rent clothing and accessories, or Bag Borrow or Steal, where you can rent handbags, there’s an opportunity to be fashionable and financially responsible all at once!

Additionally, there are sites like StitchFix, BirchBox, and Warby Parker that help you to save money by making sure you love what you want to purchase before you fully commit. How many times have you bought something online but it didn’t look like you thought it would when it actually arrived. There’s nothing quite like that disappointment.

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StitchFix has you fill out a survey and then a designer will personally pick out outfits for you. If you like what they sent, you can purchase the items. If not, you simply mail it back. BirchBox sends you beauty samples that you can try out before purchasing the larger versions. This can save a lot of money in the long run. Finally, Warby Parker allows you to select a number of glasses to try on before making the final purchase. These and other similar companies are a great way to try on our try out items without going to the store!

3. Take Advantage of Credit Card Deals

A lot of people don’t do enough research to take advantage of credit cards like they should. Not only are cashback bonuses, store cards and other deals a great way to save on clothes, but they can be very helpful in other areas too.

As mentioned above, many stores offer cards specifically for purchasing items from that store. Stores like Target offer 5% cashback just for using the card to make in-store or online purchases. Definitely worth signing up for cards that can save you a little (or a lot depending on how much you tend to splurge at Target).

If you’re someone who loves to travel, but don’t think you can afford it, check out some credit cards with no international transaction fees, no annual fee and sign up bonuses. This college student spent three weeks traveling in Europe by using credit card rewards and cashback bonuses, so it really works!

For example, by using the Discover Miles card you get 1.5x miles on every dollar you spend. Discover also offers a CashBack card that charges no international transaction fees and can help you with day-to-day purchases as well. Also, other travel cards offer bonus miles for just signing up (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card). The Marriott Rewards card also can help you save on your hotels too!

Also, something to note about looking for a card for traveling abroad – make sure there are no international transaction fees. These fees can surprise you when you get your bill after your trip. Sometimes these fees can tack on an additional 2-3% so it’s important to find a card without those tricky fees.

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For more credit card tips, check out Nerd Wallet’s picks for best cards with sign up offers, cashback bonuses, and no foreign transaction fees!

4. Free Shipping Is Always Worth It

This one seems obvious, but still needs to be said. If a company is offering free shipping, take them up on their offer! It is only natural to want the new pair of shoes you just bought the next day since you want to wear them out this weekend, but it is not worth it.

Shipping a pair of jeans across a couple of state lines can cost you anywhere from an additional 12% and up, which immediately inflates the cost of any purchase you make. You click on an item thinking that you are buying a $70 pair of pants, which you think you might be able to afford, and then by the time you are finished with the checkout, you have spent closer to $80.

There are some ways to help with this too, of course. Amazon Prime is only $99 for the year and offers free one or two day shipping on so many items. Additionally, some stores like Forever 21, Charlotte Russe and Payless offer free shipping on orders over a certain amount. But what if you only want one $25 item? With shipping, you could be paying $30 in total. How do you avoid that?

Check to make sure they offer free returns first. Then, if they do, add some items to your cart to reach the limit that meets the requirement for free shipping.

Once you get the package, send back the items you don’t want and you’ve just saved money on shipping. While this is a bit more of a hassle, if you really want to save a few bucks, it’s a good way to do so. Or try finding stores that offer both free shipping and returns regardless of the price of your purchase, like Old Navy and GAP.

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5. Time Your Purchases

Are you a last minute shopper? Fight that urge! For Christmas, Birthdays, Anniversaries and other holidays, make sure you have your gift(s) at least one week beforehand. That means making your purchases at least two weeks before the specified date. If you wait too long, not only is there a chance you may not get the item in time, but you could have to pay astronomical fees in shipping in an effort to get it on time. Make sure you stick to sites ordering deadlines to get your items on time and for a lower price.

On the other hand, another natural urge is to buy something that we want to wear and then wear that item immediately. This is the toughest one to do because it goes against our nature. We want the immediate gratification of the purchase. However, the best deals on clothes occur at the end of a season. So instead of buying your bathing suit as soon as they are released in store, wait until August or Labor Day. Instead of buying a new winter coat or sweater in October, wait until late March or April to save.

However, if you can handle the disappointment of looking in your closet and seeing clothes that you love but can’t wear until next year, then you will be able to cut your spending by almost a third! There are even sites that tell you the best time to buy an article of clothing or a piece of jewelry.

6. Be Wary of Black Friday “Deals”

Everyone always makes a big deal about Christmas and Black Friday shopping, but don’t be fooled!

A lot of these deals sometimes turn out to be a total scam.

To make sure you don’t fall prey to these “deals,” go into the major department stores a few days before Black Friday to check normal prices. Then, when you go into the store on Black Friday you’ll sometimes notice that expensive items have been marked up so that they can put a 50% off sticker on the item. The item then turns out to be just as expensive, if not more so than before. Not all stores do this and it doesn’t happen to all items either. Just do your research to make sure you don’t get the wool pulled over your eyes.

Also, while the same scams can occur on smaller holidays, don’t discount them either. Sales on popular weekends like Memorial Day, President’s Day and Labor Day are usually swarming with sales to be had. A lot of these deals tend to be more legitimate because stores are trying to get rid of their current inventory to make room for the next season’s merchandise.

Therefore, get your calendar in check, and have an alert set for the week before every holiday, no matter how small, and just do a quick search to see what type of deals are out there. You will be astonished at home many things you couldn’t afford will be 40-50% off for a holiday like Flag Day.

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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