3 Rules to STOP Wasting Money on Thrifted Clothes

thrifting pin

One of the main reasons I love thrifting, is that it saves me so much money on my wardrobe and allows me to buy brands that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to comfortably afford. It also gives me a low risk opportunity to take style risks and try new looks out. 

On the other hand, because there are so many cheap clothing items, it can be easy to find myself spending too much and buying an abundance of items I don’t need, which then defeats the purpose of thrifting to save money. 

The result is that over the years I’ve developed some guidelines for myself to help minimize wasting money on thrifted clothes. I’m going to share with you my thrifting “rules” so that hopefully you can avoid my mistakes!

I have to LOVE it, not like it.

There are days when I’m at the thrift store feeling really body positive, and it feels like everything I try on looks good on my body. Obviously I can’t get EVERYTHING that fits. Other times there are pieces that fit well and are high quality pieces, but they just really aren’t my style or preferred color palette. It is SO tempting to get these things just because they look good on me.

However, I am not just a clothing hanger.

I have to remind myself that just because something is a nice piece that fits, it doesn’t mean it’s a nice piece for my wardrobe. Therefore, I only buy something if I LOVE it. If I’m at all unsure, I typically place it immediately in the “put back” pile. I would rather look at my wardrobe and find joy in it as a collection of pieces that I love, than a collection of pieces that were good deals, but that I’m not excited to wear. 

It has to fit NOW.

As someone who has gained a few pounds since getting an office job that I plan to lose to get back to my “pre-sitting on my butt all day, every day” weight, it can be SO tempting to purchase clothing that I love, but that doesn’t fit right now. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a goal dress or pair of pants. When the scale isn’t showing a change, it can be really encouraging and affirming to try on that goal outfit and find that it’s closer to fitting.

The problem comes when you fall into the trap of buying a lot of stuff for someday when you reach your goal weight.

Sometimes life happens and it takes people a LOT longer to get to their goal weight than they thought it would, and by the time they get there, their personal style has changed. Sometimes they don’t lose weight in the way they thought they would, and that piece is suddenly too big in the hips or chest. I see people all the time in decluttering communities who are hanging onto bins and bins of clothes for years that they’ll fit into “someday”.

I realized I just don’t have room in my closet for “someday” clothes, so I try to stick with things that fit me now. There will always be amazing outfits at the thrift store that fit me at my goal weight, so it’s really not a loss to skip over something now. Ignore the FOMO.

No repairs, stains, or modifications needed.

The final trap I’ve learned to avoid is buying clothing items that I need to alter before they are ready to wear. I don’t think this is a rule that everyone needs to follow, and I can’t say that I never buy something that needs a repair, but my experience with myself is that more often than not, I won’t ever actually get around to doing the thing that needs doing.

I’m not the best seamstress, so hemming and taking in items is something I need to pump myself up about. Minor alterations like cutting a sweater into a crop top are the exception as long as I don’t have a collection of other things at home to alter that I’m avoiding. When it comes to items with stains, especially if I don’t know if I’ll be able to get the stain out, I find it’s almost always better in the long run for me to just leave it behind. Chances are the next time I go thrift shopping, I will be able to find the same type of clothing item without needed to do extra work to be able to wear it.

Thrifted shirt that doesn't fit
This sweater failed all three rules. It was too small, needed a cleaning, and I didn't love it overall, even though the color and material were perfect for me.

The would I wear this tomorrow test.

Ultimately, these three rules make up what I like to call the “would I wear it tomorrow” test. I try to ask myself if I would be willing to wear the clothing pieces I’m looking at tomorrow. If the answer is no, I typically leave it behind because chances are, if I’m not willing to wear it now, I’m probably not going to actually wear it later. 

Sometimes it’s worth it to buy seasonal items out of season and formal outfits ahead of events, but I still think asking myself whether I fit the item now, love the item now, and would be happy wearing it immediately in it’s current condition is a good framework to decide if I’m making a good purchase. 

And those are the guidelines I try to follow to make sure I’m spending my money wisely on thrift store clothing. Do you struggle with overspending when everything is such a good value? Do you have any rules you follow for yourself? Let me know if the comments!


Hey, I'm Lisa! I have a love for thrifting, cooking, entertaining, and updating my old house...and I'm doing it all on a budget! Follow along and hopefully you'll find something that inspires you to live your best life, even if it's with limited finances. Whether you're looking for ways to stretch your dollars, trying to save more and spend less, or just here for the thrift hauls, I hope you'll stick around =)
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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Marti

    I absolutely love your blog on everything you’ve got it girl. I taught my daughter on how to be thrifty. She is your age and we both have fun and now that money at my age is no longer an issue because I watched my hard earned money. I still love thrift shopping. It’s repurposing clothing.

  2. Abby Driskill

    Absolutely love the 3 rules. I would add 1 more that my mother God bless her soul , taught me. If I have used , looked at, seen or worn something in 6 months I put it clean into a box and bring to the consignment shop where they purchase it, or give credit . I then use that cash to get updated items I can normally afford. It also clears the clutter . My mom would save it all to have a garage sale 1 time a year. She passed before consignment stores were popular. Honestly it works for just about anything and everything. Keeps me from buying or wasting money.

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