Save Money On Clothes When Heading Back to Work
Friday, March 30th, 2012
One of the last things you probably concerned yourself with after baby’s birth was clothing. For the first year or so of my first daughter’s life I trotted around wearing yoga pants and shirts, most of which were stained or wrinkled. (Yes, I know. I was a slob and proud of it!) My running sneakers got used whether I was jogging three miles or heading to the grocery store, and I’m not sure I ever "did my hair" before leaving the house.
Things have since gotten better. I do own some "pretty" clothes, now that my kids are older. While I’m not a shopper, I go through phases where I feel like shopping; so I do a blitz trip to the store, grabbing up a few items I really like so I don’t have to go shopping again until the next fever strikes (which can be months).
On the work front, I returned to part-time working from home seven years ago, and have increased my time at work each year that the girls have gotten bigger. While I work from home and rarely see clients, there are days I have to meet with someone to discuss a project. I have a few work outfits I can wear when the need arises, but most of my work outfits got tossed over the years.
Many of my friends are returning to work now that their youngest kids are heading to kindergarten, and they have all mentioned the same thing: work clothes are expensive, and what they still have from pre-kids is out of date. And since I’ve dumped most of my pre-kids work outfits, when it comes time to really do up my wardrobe for work, it’s going to cost a nice chunk of change. I’ve been considering options for creating my new work wardrobe post-kids on a budget, and here’s what I have so far:
· Start early. When I know I’ll be working full-time again, I plan to start quite a few months in advance purchasing key pieces I can use when I return. Part of this will happen on the clearance racks; I’m addicted to Target’s clearance, because they offer both in and off season clothes at a fraction of the cost. The other day I picked up a summer dress for just $7. It can be worn for work by dressing it up with tights, or around town with the kids by pairing it with sandals. By starting early, you can pick up pieces you need at a lower cost because you aren’t rushed and you don’t "need it now." Look for standard pieces you’ll always wear – black skirt, black slacks, work shoes, and dresses that can go either classic for work or casual for around town.
· Swap your maternity clothes for business attire. Andrea Woroch, consumer and money-saving expert who has appeared on Good Morning America and NBC’s Today, says to consider swapping maternity clothes with someone who is expecting, particularly if your baby-making days have come to an end. The new mom-to-be may have some gently used pieces she no longer needs (at least for a while!), and you may have maternity clothes to clear out of your closet. Make a swap and you both save money.
· Shop consignment. When I first graduated from college, I was so broke I couldn’t afford anything more than oodles of noodles for dinner most nights of the week. I got my first teaching job, headed to a thrift store, and bought enough outfits to get me through the first few weeks – all for $25. I still shop consignment stores, and I find them a good place to pick up the basics. Woroch suggests selling your maternity attire for items you can wear to the office, and to, “ . . . stock up on business basics including blazers, slacks, and pencil skirts.” Check out this article from Woman’s Day for perusing consignment racks. (http://www.womansday.com/style-beauty/fashion-style/how-to-be-stylish-for-pennies-104716)
· Keep it simple. I find now I don’t need a ton of clothes, just several outfits that I can switch around. A black pair of slacks will go with many blouses, while a nice jacket or sweater can be dressed up for work or down for a trip to the kids’ school for field day. Buy a few in-season pieces mixed with some classics to get through the days. Before heading out, check in with retailmenot.com to find coupons for specific stores.
· If the shoe fits, buy it. I’m not a big shoe person, unlike my best friend who has about a zillion pairs. I tend to buy one or two pairs of shoes each season, meaning four total per year. (Of course, I buy more than that when it comes to running, but that’s another story!) Woroch recommends shopping for shoes online. “Avoid the department-store drama and shop online at e-retailers like Endless or Piperlime, who offer free shipping both ways.” Zappos is another popular choice, and I often check Amazon and eBay when purchasing shoes. Freeshipping.org lists sites that offer no delivery charges, which will save you a ton of money. Buy the basics that you would wear with most of your clothes in the beginning; then, if you are like my best friend and love a pretty pair of shoes, purchase a pair every so often to update your wardrobe.