Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

When to spend: Quality versus cheap clothing

A key tenant of spending wisely is to know value. A $1 item that will last a month is less valuable than a $5 item that will last a year. Smart shoppers know that spending more and buying better quality is often a better deal than the cheapest item on the shelf.

But unless you’re very, very wealthy, you simply cannot afford to buy the absolute best of everything. Being frugal where you can and investing in things that will last you a long time and save you money, time, or your health in the long run is the wisest way to spend, but it can be hard to tell when you should invest and when you should cheap out.

Here’s my personal guide to wardrobe-related saving and spending, assembled after wasting a lot of money in the wrong places.

Save on Glasses

There are online glasses retailers where you can buy glasses for $10-$20. These are the same quality as brick and mortar optical stores’ wares but cost a tenth of the price. At this point, paying $100-$300 for prescription glasses or sunglasses is just nuts.

There is also no need to buy name brand glasses. No one will be able to read the tiny brand name or tell if your glasses cost $5 or $500.

Also, in recent years, the online try-on functions at these sites have become very advanced and there are tons of reviews of individual websites online that will help guide you to the cheapest, best specs.

Spend on work clothing

As someone who works in a professional office environment, I long ago learned to spend a little more per item in stores that sold higher quality items versus buying a large wardrobe of “throwaway” pieces that will only be able to be worn a few times before looking tattered.

Despite the single-digit price tag, stores like Forever21 and Zara are not your friends.

To keep costs down overall, I recommend a capsule-style wardrobe filled with better quality clothing that will look good, feel good and last, saving you money in the long run.

My best trick for high-quality on a small budget is to shop exclusively on sale and clearance during clear-out times for stores like black Friday and at the end of Summer. When shopping online, search for and stack coupons on top of sale events and watch for hidden shipping costs when calculating your total price.

Save on workout wear

Undershirts, layering shirts, workout clothing and other items that will get sweaty, nasty or not be seen can be bought more inexpensively because the aren’t going to last you as long. While office clothing might be able to be worn for years, workout clothing is often only good for a season. Consider cost per use in this matter and save your money.

Spend on footwear

Life is just too short to walk around with your feet hurting.

Shoes are pretty much the only category I’ll favor proven brands over generics. Some people have no problem wearing cheap shoes, but for mine I need arch support, padding, leather that will mold to my feet, get more comfortable with each wear and stand up to the elements. Too long did I limp around, blistered, in cheap, flimsy Payless flats as a young reporter only to have them fall apart every few months.

Now I buy quality shoes and only have a handful of pairs.

Partially as an experiment and partially because they were expensive, I wore one pair of brown Clarks boots 5-6 days a week for 8 months straight.

Not only did no one in my office notice that I only wore one pair of shoes, when I told them, they were impressed that they lasted that long.

The boots originally cost around $130 on the Clarks website, but the ones I bought were the previous season’s design (the current season’s design was the same shoe with a couple buckles.) To save money, I scoured Ebay for boots from previous years (I swear I don’t miss the buckles), and ended up getting a brand new pair for $70.

It was a lot to spend on one pair of shoes for me, but I’ve now had them for 2+ years, I still wear them several times a week and they look nearly new.

Quality shoes will last a long time. My cost-per-use for these boots is less than pennies per wear at this point. Invest in your feet.

For sneakers, I search Amazon for my preferred brand and size, and grab shoes in unpopular colors for a fraction of the price of the same shoes with different hues.

Save on costume jewelry and seasonal accessories

If you’re a jewelry minimalist and only wear a single necklace and/or earrings everyday, absolutely invest a little in good, long lasting metals and stones.

BUT, if you like to accessorize different outfits with colorful costume jewelry and scarves, absolutely don’t spend your whole paycheck on those items.

Baubles like these can so often be picked up at garage sales in nearly new condition or on highly discounted clearance as the seasons change at department and regular stores.

Statement jewelry goes in and out of fashion quickly and is more easily tired of than its simple, minimal counterpart.

It’s cost-per-wear will also be higher as that type of jewelry won’t be able to be worn with as much of your wardrobe.

Your Turn!

  • What do you spend more money on in your wardrobe and what do you save on?
  • What other subjects would you like us to do a “When to Spend” article on?

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4 Comments
  1. Thank you for your posts! I love them so much

  2. Amen Sarah as per the shoe comments! As a very outdoors-minded guy, I long ago saw the waste in buying cheap shoes and boots that tortured my feet and ultimately my wallet. Generally I stick with GI boots from Bates (the US made ones, not the cheap Chinese knock-offs)for working my land and SAS for going into town. I try to live by the old adage of Sir John Ruskin, to wit: “the bitterness of poor quality is long remembered after the sweetness of low price”.

  3. One angle not mentioned is thrift stores…quality galore, cheap, cheap, cheap and in my area, at least, the purchases support various charities.

  4. I recently started reading my books and magazines online through my library. I always felt guilty about buys books. I too have limited buying shoes and clothes and only purchase an item if I absolutely need it. I currently only have 3 pairs of shoes I wear, Clarks booties 1 yr old, mike air max 3yrs old, and crocs rain boots 1.5 yrs old. This all I need right now!

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