8 Ways to Shop for Clothing On An Extremely Limited Budget

How I shop for clothing for myself and my kids on a very tight budget and make it work!

I try not to pay full price. I can’t say never, but I really spend a lot of time looking for the best possible deals.

How to Shop for Clothing With an Extremely Limited Budget

I have an extremely limited budget to buy the things I need. I set aside 10% of my monthly paycheck for clothing, shoes, toys, household items, etc, and that amount is all I can spend. You may be thinking that I have quite a large budget, but then again, you have no clue how small my paycheck is:) With two kids who constantly need new things and stuff that keeps breaking (why?!?), it’s a constant challenge to get the things we need with the money we have.

Take shoes. I always heard and read about mothers complaining about “keeping kids in shoes,” but I had NO IDEA how many shoes my kids would ACTUALLY go through! Shoes get ruined, and kids outgrow them faster than you can blink. And that’s not including any boots or slippers or dress shoes!

Get Hand-me-Downs

I also don’t have any friends or relatives with kids who are a year older than mine, so hand-me-downs are few and far between! I do try to pass on the items I have to others. Even if I am not so lucky, that doesn’t mean others can’t be!

Sometimes, I feel like all I do is shop. But I don’t actually spend any money- I just keep looking for things I need at a price point I can afford.

“Stocking-up” on Clothes and Shoes

Since I do have an “envelope” for these items, I always have “some” money to spend on sales and stocking up. For example, I was recently at Target, and they had boy’s sneakers for ridiculously cheap. Since I already had the cash set aside, I was able to buy each kid a pair in the next size up. This saves me money and the stress of not being able to find anything affordable when they will need new shoes.

But I don’t just stock up or buy things for the next season- I have a system that I follow.

Eight Ways to Shop for Clothing on a Dime

Set a Budget

I decide how much I am willing to spend on an item. Then I decide how much I am willing to spend on an item RIGHT NOW. So, for example, I may spend $10 on a shirt for the summer. But since it’s the dead of winter- I don’t need summer clothes. I would buy something to keep for the summer to save some money in the future, but RIGHT NOW, I am only willing to spend $5 on a shirt for the summer. (These numbers fluctuate based on the item and your budget.)

Buy Clearance

I check clearance. On my phone, I have a bunch of bookmarked stores. When I have a chance- is check their clearance section. If there is something that is in my RIGHT NOW price range, I buy it.

Buy What I Need

I don’t buy just because it’s cheap- if it may not fit, if I don’t love the color, etc. I don’t buy it even if it’s super cheap. I don’t want to waste even on a shirt that I will never wear.

Get Free Shipping

I try not to pay for shipping. Shipping fees are stupid. So many stores offer free shipping- I won’t shop at those that do. So, I either shop at stores that have free shipping, check promo codes for free shipping (type the store name + free shipping into Google for promo codes), or use Shoprunner. I was given Shoprunner for free from my Free Amex card- so I don’t pay for that subscription either.

Smart Store Credit Card Use

I don’t like to get store credit cards because I try to restrict my credit card use. Also, many store credit cards just don’t give the same points or cash back value as a regular credit card.

The only exception would be if it is a store I honestly shop at a lot, and it gives me value all the time. (Not 10% after I rack up hundreds of points on full-priced items type of value). Target has a debit and credit card option, so I have their card. They offer 5% off EVERY purchase and free shipping all the time.

Loyalty Cards

I sign up for store loyalty cards. Basically, why not? If it’s free- I sign up. If I remember to scan it and log in, great! I occasionally get reward points and coupons. If it’s free, then why not? I also did this when I was pregnant- I signed up for ALL the programs. That’s how you prepare for a baby on a budget!

Shop Online Smartly

I only physically walk into stores that I can probably afford to shop at, but online? There is no harm in looking. I go to clearance and sort from low-high. Once I get to my price point, I stop looking, so there is no temptation. This means I shop at some pretty pricey stores as well as some cheap ones.

Even high-end department stores can have some cheap clearance items. Currently, my quick shopping “looks” are at the following stores: Target, Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, and Children’s Place (for my kids, obviously). Why these stores? Free shipping! Either from the store or through Shoprunner. This way, I can snag something for $3 when it goes on sale. Just did that at Lord and Taylor!

Use Ebates/Rakuten

Ebates/Rakuten– I always shop through Ebates when shopping online. YOU WILL NOT GET RICH FROM CASHBACK! If you are getting a large Ebates check then you are shopping too much. I try not to factor in cashback in when I am evaluating prices for any clothes that I am buying. Read a full Rakuten Review here. 


What system do you have in place for shopping? Do you buy things in advance?

Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.

4 thoughts on “8 Ways to Shop for Clothing On An Extremely Limited Budget”

  1. I completely relate!! I always feel like i’m shopping for my kids. What I try to do is take a little money out of each paycheck and put it aside for the extra’s that we need. I am really bad at buying things in advance but now I realize with two toddlers, (who need A LOT) that I need to start planning ahead. It makes sense to give yourself a “right now,’ budget and stick to it.

    • Yes! It feels like a full-time job some times! I put away money each month to buy clothes but it’s still not enough to just be able to buy whatever I want, when I want so I have to use all the tips at my disposal to make it work!

  2. I hate shopping if I actually need something, so my system is just to avoid it as much as possible. (Although I do like window shopping when I don’t need anything.

    Regarding the hand-me-downs though, maybe see if there’s a Buy Nothing group in your area (typically on Facebook.) The one in our area is always offering up clothes.


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