Sunday, September 8, 2013

Building a Winter Wardrobe on the Cheap

With summer ending, it's time to start thinking about getting ready for winter. If you have growing children to clothe, have changed sizes, or have moved to a colder climate, you'll need to build a winter wardrobe to stay warm and healthy. Rather than rush out to the mall as soon as the winter clothes hit the rack and spend a paycheck or two, make a plan and shop around to build a winter wardrobe for less.

Evaluate your clothing. Will last year's coat work? Can you pass down clothing from older children to younger children? Make a list of everything you'll need before you go out shopping.

Generally, you'll need a warm coat, some thick shirts (sweaters or flannels), thick socks, warm boots or shoes, a scarf, a hat and at least one pair or gloves/mittens. If you live in frigid areas or spend lots of time exposed to the elements, you'll need extremely warm gloves and a pair of long-johns. Tights/leggings can make looser fitting pants or even skirts appropriate for winter wear.

I would invest the most in a good pair of winter boots. While you can layer clothes under a thinner coat, there's not much you can do about an inferior pair of boots. Get a good, warm pair, especially if you/your children spend much time outside in the winter. Frostbitten toes are not worth the savings on buying cheap boots. If you see a great pair of boots on clearance in late winter/early spring, stockpile them for the next winter. A couple of years ago, I found a $100 pair of boots for Trucker for $19.99 and he still wears them.

If you are buying a new coat, consider buying a coat with a removable lining. My dad has a coat that is a medium weight coat with a jacket that zips together for a warm winter coat for frigid days. On warmer winter days he can wear only the medium weight coat and he can wear the jacket alone in autumn and early spring. It helps a lot during these weird winters where the temperature can go from 10 to 60 within a week.

Layering helps a lot. Where I live there are some frigid days, but generally speaking it's cold but not unbearable. I wear a long sleeved t-shirt with a short sleeved shirt over it on most days. On really cold days I'll also wear a flannel over that. This keeps me from needing to buy an expensive heavy-duty winter coat that I'd really only need a few days a year, and I can wear the coat for more months of the year. When I lived up North and lived without a car (aka spent hours waiting in below-freezing temperatures for a bus), my winter coat wasn't the warmest, but it was slightly loose so on the worst days, I'd wear 3-4 flannel shirts under it, with a thin scarf wrapped around my neck under the coat and a thicker one over the coat. By layering your clothes, you can wear items for more months of the year, so you need fewer items.

Call the thrift stores in your area and ask them about sales. All of the thrift stores in my area have at least one day a month that everything is half off. Go early on those days and be prepared for crowds. Go straight to the winter clothes as they will be picked over quickly. Most thrift stores have a tag sale, e.g. everything with a red tag is 50% off. One thrift store in my area has a $.50 sale each Monday on a particular tag color. Sometimes smaller thrift stores will have bag sales, say everything you can fit in a paper grocery bag for $5. Go then and cram in everything you can. Start by cramming in a coat, then work your way to cheaper items (flannel shirts to thick socks). Roll items to fit the most in one bag.

Thrift stores usually have a respectable selection of winter items. In late fall there are lots of winter coats to chose from. You can also find various styles of winter hats and more scarves than you can believe, from the dollar store junk to name brand to crocheted by a cute old lady scarves. Look for leggings and thick socks too, just make sure you wash them well before wearing.

If you need business or business casual wear, check mid- to upper-level consignment shops for winter apparel appropriate for the office. Consignment shops are especially good sources of nice looking winter coats, especially if your local thrift shops only have ratty coats. If you like the shop (and their prices), but don't see a coat you like, leave your number and size with the owner and ask for a phone call if something comes in.

End of season yard sales are an option for buying winter clothes at a bargain, especially sweaters. People are desperate to sell items so they don't have to store them overwinter, but shoppers are not thinking about needing sweaters when the temperature is over 80. Look for coats, sweaters, hats, gloves and flannels. If you find a sweater in a color that you like, but hate the style/size, check it over to make sure it is not pilled or felted. You can unravel that sweater to make scarves, hats, mittens or even another sweater. Here's a great article on unraveling sweaters.

If you are crafty, look for wool yarn at thrift stores and yard sales. There's still plenty of time to make scarves for the whole family. You can also make hats, mittens, arm warmers, leg warmers, socks, etc. Generally, it costs about the same to make a scarf from thrift-store yarn as to buy a thrift-store scarf, but you get more control of the end product. However, if you would be crafting anyway, you may as well make something you can use and avoid needing to purchase an item.

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1 comment:

  1. We have a local "garage sale group" online and it has been a wonderful way to shop for things without spending gas money running all over the valley. Great summer clothes for less than $20 and all top brands. Beautiful winter boots for $8 that I will take up north this year for snow season. I hate garage sales, and the pushy people, but this allows me to look for things without people around.


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