9 Tools to Help You Seamlessly Save Money on a New Spring Wardrobe

Grace Schweizer, a TPH junior writer, prepares to sort through all of her clothes to create a capsule wardrobe.
Grace Schweizer, a TPH junior writer, started her capsule wardrobe back in college. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
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Each time January 1 comes around, people are always declaring, “New year, new me.”

Me, though? I always say, “New clothes, new me.”

As a Penny Hoarder, this isn’t the best mentality. And in recent years, I’ve largely tempered my tendency to purchase too many clothes. But man, the miracles a new pair of shoes can perform…

New clothes make me excited to venture out of my apartment. They make me feel more professional, more confident and overall more like an adequate adult.

It’s not like anyone notices when I’m wearing a new sweater or that I’m sporting a new pair of jeans. But I do, and that’s what counts.

How to Save Money on Clothes (Seamlessly)

If you are nodding your head in an amen style to the above statements, you know spending money on clothes can quickly become treacherous territory.

But there are easy ways to save money when shopping both in stores and online.

In addition to coupons, sales and promo codes, here are a few tools I’ve used to drive clothing prices down:

1. Do Some Quick Math

Nope. I’m not a math person at all, but lately, when I go to buy a new piece of clothing, I’ve started calculating its cost-per-wear value.

It’s simple. Estimate just how many times you think you’ll wear the item in hand. Now, check the original price. Divide the price by the number of times you’ll wear the item, and that’s your cost-per-wear value.

Here’s an example: I’m at Target, and I just tried on a black pencil skirt. I don’t currently own a black pencil skirt — or, at least, one that fits. It’s $28, and I estimate I’ll wear it at least once every other week during the spring and summer months. The cost per wear on that piece is about… say… $2.33 for the year. If I can manage to fit into it for the next two years (knock on wood), that’ll bump down my cost per wear to 39 cents.

Finding the cost per wear for a clothing article helps put the purchase in perspective. If I’m eyeing something like a vibrant floral top that I’ll limit to wearing once a month during the summer, then the cost per wear increases, and my likelihood for splurging decreases.

2. Gotta Get That Ibotta

Traditionally, the free Ibotta app is known to snag you cash back on groceries, but oh, how times have changed. Ibotta now has partnerships with more than 50 retailers, including Amazon, Belk, Charlotte Russe, Express, Forever 21, Gap, Kohl’s, Lucky Brand, Modcloth and even Stitch Fix.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Download Ibotta for free and sign up.
  2. Tap “Find Offers,” and navigate to the “Clothing” category.
  3. Find your go-to retailer, and tap “Shop.” This will redirect you to the store’s website. Continue your shopping business. When you check out, Ibotta will have tabs on it so you can get cash back.

A few of the offers are for in-store shopping, so just be aware of those.

When you redeem your first cash-back offer, you’ll also snag a $10 bonus if you sign up through The Penny Hoarder.

3. Put Paribus on the Hunt

Another online shopping trick: Let Paribus keep tabs on your digital receipts. Why? Because items’ prices constantly fluctuate.

Paribus is a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get money back for what you paid for shipping.

Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

4. Swipe a Cash-Back Credit Card

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, summer wardrobe), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

5. Find Rebates at Ebates

For clothes shopping, Ebates is similar to Ibotta in that you sign up, then shop through the Ebates portal. That means you can’t use the two in conjunction.

However, it’s worth checking out both platforms to see which one offers the best cash-back options. Ebates is easy to navigate when it comes to clothing because it has men’s and women’s clothing categories. Once sorted, find your favorite retailers — from Converse to Francesca’s to JCPenney.

Plus, when you sign up and claim your first cash-back offer, Ebates will give you a $10 gift card.

6. Drop It Like It’s Hot

Now that we have that tune stuck in your head…

Download the Drop app. This financial tech company rewards you for your purchases.

All you have to do is link your credit and debit cards to the app. When you make a Drop-qualified purchase, you’ll automatically earn points, whether you’re buying clothes at H&M, Forever 21 or Nike, for example.

The points will add up, and you can exchange them for gift cards to popular retailers like Amazon and Starbucks.

You can sign up for Drop here.

7. Start Kickin’ With Shopkick

No extreme physical activity required for this money-making trick. All you need to do is download the Shopkick app.

Once you sign up, the app pays you in “kicks” for walking into certain stores (including Walmart, Target, TJMaxx and more). You can redeem these for gift cards to a number of retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Sephora and Best Buy.

It pays you even more “kicks” for photos of receipts that include qualifying items you purchased in-store with a connected credit or debit card. You can also earn kicks for online purchases. Bonus: You don’t have to do anything; your linked cards will automatically apply your kicks.

We’ve got an ultimate guide to using the app here.

8. Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Ever heard of a capsule wardrobe? It’s not really a new concept, but it’s caught on among fashion bloggers and Pinterest users these past few years.

The premise is to limit your wardrobe to only staple pieces. You can mix and match these pieces to create an exponential number of new outfits.

The Penny Hoarder’s Grace Schweizer started her capsule wardrobe back in college. She offers a few tips to help you get started, including the fact that your wardrobe, if truly “encapsulated,” should contain 25 to 50 pieces. This includes shoes and accessories.

The idea is you’ll build up (which ironically will require a lot of donating excess pieces) a capsule for each season.

I’ve started (attempting) to follow Schweizer’s capsule wardrobe tips. Even if I don’t adhere to strict capsule guidelines, I’m at least thinking about how much I can wear, and mix and match, a certain item before I buy it.

9. Trim Your Spending

Take my word for it: You do not want to get carried away buying too many clothes. It’s wasteful on many, many levels. Including financially.

Keep tabs on your spending through Trim. It’s an online personal assistant that’ll help you monitor on your transactions.

Once you connect your checking and credit card accounts, Trim breaks down your habits by calendar day as well as by retailer and category. So if things got a little out of hand at Target last weekend… Trim’s watching you.

I’ve found that Trim holds me accountable, and it puts my spending into a big-picture perspective I often can’t grasp when I’m knee-deep in cute tops.

If you want to read even more tips about saving money on clothes, read this article, which offers clever tricks to help you drive down your clothing costs even more.

*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She didn’t share her best strategy for saving money on clothes… It’s to keep her eyes glued to the ground as she power-walks through Target’s clothing section.