With the cost of living crisis putting pressure on household budgets, and the cost of clothes and shoes rising even faster than some other consumer goods, many are looking to be more budget-savvy when shopping for wardrobe essentials.
Popular brands have raised prices to offset inflation, with Dr Martens announcing earlier this year that a pair of its boots will cost £10 more this summer. Similarly, Next plans to increase its fashion prices by 6.5 per cent later this year.
Which? has rounded up ways to save money on clothing and shoes, while also being more environmentally friendly.
- Recycle old clothes in exchange for vouchers
Several high street shops now run recycling schemes and offer vouchers in exchange for old clothes. For example, H&M and Schuh offer £5 to be redeemed off a £25 shop, Marks and Spencer offer the same when you spend £35. New Look offers 15 per cent off if shoppers donate pre-loved fashion to a Hospice charity shop.
- Look for second-hand options
Buying second-hand clothes and shoes is an easy way to save money and doesn’t cost the planet. Expensive brands can often be found for a fraction of the price in charity shops, car boot sales, online marketplaces, or via apps such as Depop and Vinted. ITV2’s Love Island recently opted to partner with eBay and dress contestants in second-hand outfits, rather than cheap fast fashion brands. Shoppers could also sell their old clothes online to make up the cost of buying new ones.
- Buy children’s shoes
Those with feet size 5 or under might be able to buy cheaper children’s shoes, as children’s clothes and shoes are exempt from VAT. Popular brands including Adidas, Nike, Converse and Dr Martens do children’s versions of their most popular styles. When Which? checked in June, a pair of Dr Martens 1460 youth white boots are £70 on the children’s section of Schuh and go up to a size 5, but a full price pair of white 1460 ‘bex’ boots in a size 5 retails at £169 – a potential saving of £99.
- Hunt down discount codes
It is worth searching for discount codes and offers before shopping. Shoppers can often save 10 per cent on their basket by referring a friend or signing up for a newsletter. Coupert and Pouch are free shopping tools that automatically find and apply every voucher available in one click, and apply them to the basket. Shoppers can also get offers by signing up for a loyalty programme. For example, the H&M Club is free to join, gives all members free delivery and you can build up points with every purchase which can be exchanged for money-off vouchers.
- Weigh up quality over price
Buying a better quality item rather than the cheapest option could save money in the long run, as low-quality items usually need replacing sooner. However, that’s not to say that the most expensive items are always the best quality. Which? previously tested 20 brands of jeans from 10 of the UK’s biggest clothes retailers to see how the durability of cheap pairs stacked up against more pricer brands. We found it didn’t all depend on price. A good way to check the quality before buying is to read reviews online. If shoppers are unhappy with the quality of clothes, they may be able to get a refund under the Consumer Rights Act.
- Try renting clothes
Clothes rental schemes have become more popular in recent years. Prices vary, but renting an outfit could be cheaper than buying a new one. For example, prices for renting a dress from By Rotation begin from £9. Other similar sites include My Wardrobe HQ, Hurr, and, for children’s clothes, Bundlee. Most apps add a small usage fee, so be sure to check the terms and conditions. While renting can be a more environmentally-friendly alternative to purchasing something new you’ll only wear once or twice, dry cleaning and transportation have a big environmental impact, so check to see what rental platforms are doing to mitigate them.
- Try swishing
‘Swishing’ is the term for swapping items of clothing or footwear with other people. Instead of shopping for new garments, it’s worth getting a group of friends or colleagues together to swap unwanted clothes.
- Care and repair
People often look to replace shoes and clothes that have seen better days, but it’s worth looking for ways to fix them before splashing out on replacements. For example, a pair of men’s smart shoes on John Lewis can cost anything from £70 to £450, depending on the brand and quality of leather – but the soles could be replaced for as little as £30. For wool jumpers that are getting worn, Amazon sells bobble removers for as little as £5. Haberdashers and tailors might be able to fix broken zips or rips if you’re unable to do so yourself, but prices will vary.
- Wash your clothes less often
Washing your clothes too often could shorten their lifespan and wear them out quickly. Levi’s advises jeans be washed every 10 wears, and says they should be dried on a line (rather than in a tumble dryer) to preserve the fit and avoid them shrinking. It also says turning your jeans inside out and hanging them in a shady space will prevent them from fading and avoid soggy pockets.
- Snap up ex-display shoes
High street shoe chains Schuh and Office both have specialist websites that sell reduced, ex-display shoes that may have minor wear-and-tear. Which? found big brands including Birkenstock, Adidas, and Timberland available. Office Offcuts sells ‘end of line, ex-display and last pairs of shoes’ and all stock is new, and Schuh Imperfects says shoes may have scuffs, discolouration and other ‘individual quirks’.
- Get the most out of the sales
When bargain-hunting in the sales, Which? suggests shoppers set a budget and keep a list of any particular items they’re after and their current price. This means if they go on sale, shoppers will know exactly how much they’ll be saving, and whether it’s really a bargain. If items sell out quickly, it might be possible to sign up for alerts for restocks. For example, BackInStockAlerts.com monitors websites such as Amazon and Asos and sends an alert when a particular item is back in stock. It is also worth checking if the retailer has an app or scheme you can sign up to for early access to the sale. For example, Zara offers shoppers that use its app early access to the sale.
- Give jeans a new lease of life
Black jeans often fade with time, but shoppers could re-dye them for as little as £3. Dylon pods of dye can be used in the washing machine and cost around £6 on Amazon, while hand dye costs around £3 – much cheaper than buying a new pair of jeans. If jeans are beyond the stage of re-dyeing, they can still be used for other purposes before being thrown out. For example, old jeans can be cut into denim shorts, or can be handy for doing DIY around your home.
- Visit an outlet store
Outlet stores offer discounted clothes, often from past seasons. It could be worth checking if there are any nearby. Many brands now have outlet stores on eBay, offering savings of up to 70 per cent on clothing. Brands include Crocs, Sports Direct, Superdry, Office, Joules and Oliver Bonas. Once on the eBay website, just select ‘brand outlets’ at the top to see what is available. Popular high street bands such as ASOS and Mango also have their own online outlet shops.
Reena Sewraz, Which? Money Expert said:
“Clothing and shoes are essential for everyone, but inflation is pushing prices higher and higher. With the cost of living crisis putting pressure on household budgets, many people will be looking for ways to save money.
“There are many ways you can cut costs of what you wear. Try hunting for bargains in a charity shop or a car boot sale, or finding preloved items on online marketplaces. If you have an event coming up, you could even try renting an outfit rather than forking out for a new one. We all know the negative impact of the fast fashion industry, so not only will these tips help your bank balance, but the planet as well .”
Notes to editors:
- Which? is highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis. The series will cover a range of topics, from how to save money on household bills, to childcare and travel.
- In March 2022, Next warned it will need to increase prices later this year. The retailer said prices for homeware items will jump 13% and fashion prices rise 6.5% in the second half of 2022 to average an 8% increase overall.
- 15 ways to save money on clothes and shoes
- Where to buy and sell second-hand online
- How to buy sustainable fashion
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