Three Years Without Shopping For Clothes

2016 is the third year in which I will attempt to go without buying any new clothing.  We have too much debt.  If we ever want to reach our extreme goal of financial semi-independence, then we need to take drastic steps to minimize our spending.  But, *SPOILER ALERT* it hasn’t been all that difficult.  I’ve come a long way from the girl who refused to wear things that were not from acceptable brands.  Now, clothes are just something to wear.  They don’t define my worth.  I don’t discuss this decision with many people in real life, because it’s not generally-acceptable behavior.  You’re supposed to allocate a certain amount of your income towards updating your closet each year, or month.  Also, people have a lot of questions about this seemingly strange decision. 



The Mistakes

First of all, I have a confession to make.  No one is perfect.  In the beginning of 2014, I did spend about $20 on a couple of clearance items at Wal-Mart.  I was in the midst of transitioning to a more frugal lifestyle and had to get just a little bit more shopping out of my system.  However, since then I’ve been doing great and feel confident in my ability to stay away from any new purchases.

What Have I Been Wearing?

I like to think that I’ve adopted two main uniforms – the work uniform and the at-home uniform.  I have a rotation of work-appropriate outfits.  I have two pairs of black pants, dark grey pants, black and white hounds-tooth pants, black skirts, and a grey skirt.  I have a bunch of blouses, or wear a camisole with a sweater or cardigan.  Most of the work clothing is interchangeable.  Notice, there is a lot of black or grey, because it goes with pretty much everything.

I don’t wear much jewelry, just my wedding rings and some earrings.  I usually wear a simple pearl earring for work.  I do have some other fun pieces if the mood ever strikes me to dress up a bit. 

My home uniform is all about comfort.  I love to relax in extra-large t-shirts, and pajama pants or yoga pants.  I usually stick with my one, favorite pair of jeans.  In the summer, I wear simple dresses and sandals

I have a couple of other outfits, for special occasions like birthday parties or other outings with the kids (because we really don’t go out anywhere else).

How Are My Clothes Holding Up?

Some of my pants are starting to get a little frayed on the bottom.  It’s not too visible, unless you’re really close to my feet.  I’m getting drastically low on nylons, so the skirts may have to wait a while until its warm enough that they are unnecessary.  Some of my comfy, at-home clothes are getting pretty worn.  Some of them even have a couple of small holes.

My work clothes are still presentable.  I usually change out of them as soon as I get home from work, before I start crawling around on the ground with the kids (Trey really started crawling this weekend).  One of my tricks is to keep my pumps at the office.  I tuck my pants into boots while walking outside in snow and slush.  This saves my shoes and pants from getting worn or salt-stained.  The boots, on the other hand . . .


Yes, that is a pair of Uggs (one of them, to be technical).  I bought them in what seems like a different life.  I was spending money on things because of the brand-names displayed on them.  These boots are one of the reasons that we are still paying off so much debt.  Fortunately, they kept my feet warm and comfortable for more than five years.  But, I’m pretty sure that they’re not going to survive another winter.

What About Wanting To Wear Something New?

There are some new things in my wardrobe, due to receiving a couple of gifts over the past few years, including a couple of sweaters and a very pretty scarf.  I received a gift card for my birthday, which was redeemed towards a new pair of work shoes.  I had actually saved it for a while, waiting until Black Friday in an attempt to get the most value from the gift card.  What a mistake!  It was stressful and I didn’t really get that much better of a deal.  And, there was that stupid coupon.  You couldn’t use it on anything in the store, except for one shelf of “regularly-priced items,” conveniently located right by the registers.  They expected shoppers to use their $10 coupon towards things like a $17 candle.  The scary thing was how many people were scooping up this great “deal.”  Hello?!?  You’re still spending $7 (plus tax) on a candle that you probably don’t need!  Sorry for the sidetrack – I still can’t get over that scam. 

Anyways, one of my new ventures is to upcyle or refashion things living in the back of my closet.  I made this really comfy skirt out of a sweatshirt (I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to wear it again) and just created an open-back shirt from a button-up blouse.  I’ve got tons of ideas on simple ways to remake my clothes (Pinterest is a huge help).  Later this week, I will be posting an awesome list of 100 projects that give me inspiration to create new warbdrobe choices – maybe it will give you some ideas too 🙂 

What Have I Learned?

People don’t care.  They don’t really notice.  It’s all you, being self-conscious.  If you’re dressed in clean, appropriate clothing, no one is going to question whether you belong.  Even if they do notice that you repeat outfits with some frequency, there is no fashion police.  No one is going to throw you in jail for not meeting your outfit-rotation quota.  And your job isn’t going to fire you. 

Also, you’re going to repeat your outfits anyways.  Everyone has those outfits that go together just right and make you feel good about yourself.  Those are the outfits that you want to wear, so just wear them!  Presidents and Facebook owners limit their wardrobe with the goal of making less decisions every day.  It makes a lot of sense.   Mornings are stressful.  Do yourself a favor and have a standard set of outfits. 

Do I Feel Deprived?

No, I am not suffering.  At first, I was a little disappointed when I couldn’t go shopping for new things.  My attitude towards money did not change overnight.  It was a gradual shift in priorities.  I had already switched my shopping venue from the mall to consignment stores, but more because I could get more clothes for less money.  As new financial goals started to solidify, I planned this complete fast.  There was a final shopping trip, in the end of 2013, when I picked up a few last items from the consignment store.  Then, as a New Year’s resolution, I quit shopping in order to save money.  As the months and years have passed, I have found it increasingly easy to not purchase new clothes.  I may take a second, admiring look at something in Target, but my brain automatically responds with “no.”  There is no more ruminating, just the instant realization that spending money on clothes is just not an option. 

I adhere to Mr. Money Mustache’s belief that debt is an emergency.  We should be putting our money to work for us, not earning to pay off accruing interest.  It would be easy to give in an rationalize a small purchase here or there, but those expenses can add up quick . . . A fact that we know all too well.  Ultimately, they are just clothes.  We are working towards something much more valuable: freedom.


  1. This is inspirational because I am really making a true attempt to save money lately, even though I may not have done great in the past. I still live at home and really should have saved more money but have not- but I have always loved goodwill- finding brand names and unique things you wouldn’t expect can sometimes be even more addicting than buying new brand name things…
    Shannon recently posted…A weekend of spring teaseMy Profile

    1. Goodwill shopping can be a lot of fun when you don’t care about purchasing things brand new anymore. I went in to buy some t-shirts to make into yarn for crocheted Christmas presents. There was so much to look at! I stayed pretty focused on my goal, except for the corduroy pants I picked up for Goofball. They were a steal, in really good condition, and he is running pretty low on pants.

  2. Some of my co-workers are into fashion, so I imagine my work uniform of jeans and a sweatshirt doesn’t sit well with them. Haha! I’ve never been into fashion, but I purchased new clothes often when I was careless with the old. Congrats on making it this far!!!

    1. Thank you! I don’t really think we’re missing out – maybe I’m getting old (33), but fashion is getting weird. I have one co-worker who tries to be really trendy and her clothes are so unattractive. I don’t think that I would buy most of that clothing, even if I had tons of money.

  3. You’d done a great job, Harmony! I love that you’ve repurposed a few items to create something new. I don’t think I’m crafty enough to do so but I love a good frugal solution that helps you resist needless shopping.

    I haven’t banned clothes shopping, but I’ve dramatically reduced it since having kids. Shopping for clothes with kids isn’t very fun, and as you mentioned in the comments, trends start to seem a bit ridiculous as you get a little older, and wear the “mom” hat. I also don’t go many nice places now–and when I do, I have plenty of hand-me-downs from my fashion designer sister. So I mostly just replace shoes and jeans when they truly wear out.

  4. Dang that is amazing! I have managed a one year ban but I definitely couldn’t do 3. I guess I’m hard on my clothes, shoes in particular (and yes, I would also get a bit bored with my wardrobe to be totally honest). In awe of you.

    1. Thanks! Shoes are tricky – I used a gift card from my birthday for one new pair of work shoes. I am trying really hard, but might need to pick up another pair of pumps or winter boots before this year is done.

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