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Try a Clothing Swap to Save Money

clothing swapI’m certainly not rushing through summer but I’ve already been seeing back-to-school sales in flyers and stores! It got me thinking about all the money spent on clothing, book bags, and other school-related items that are purchased brand new for the upcoming year. I wonder how much back-to-school shopping contributes to the total amount spent on a child over the course of 18 years?

Just recently, Yahoo! Finance shared 10 ways to simplify back-to-school shopping. In my opinion, the absolute best tip on there was hosting or attending a clothing swap. At a typical clothing swap, you bring all of your clothes, shoes, scarfs, etc that you never wear but are still in good condition. Others who attend do the same, you “shop” around, and then go home with a new set of clothes! There is an extra hassle with hosting since you are likely the one who has to take the leftover clothes no one wanted to be donated and clean up but you also have the advantage of going through the items first since you are the host. I don’t have school-aged kids yet but I can see kids’ clothing swaps to be a great benefit down the road!

I’m not ashamed to share that I’ve rarely bought anything at full price. I either wait for a sale, use a coupon, shop at a discount store like TJ Maxx or online at Thred Up or Twice. With clothing swaps, you are coming home with a FREE wardrobe! You could sell the clothes you don’t want at a garage sale but that takes a lot of organization and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sell your items for even half of what you paid for them. Swaps are also a great way to go green since you aren’t spending anything to cover shipping & packaging costs or goods to make a new product. Let’s also note that you won’t be tempted to buy something you don’t need if you are “just looking” at a store.

If you decide to check out or host a clothing swap, here are 5 tips to implement for a successful experience:

1. Find out who is attending

I attended a clothing swap once where all the women who attended were either well over 5’8″ or well under 5’5″ (my height). I brought my own items but came home with nothing but a scarf. I’ve had the best luck at clothing swaps where I know 2-3 women who are about my size attending. I’ve also had successful shopping trips when there are a lot of people attending and they are from a variety of backgrounds (working moms versus stay-at-home moms). More people means more options.

2. What are you looking for?

Like any free event, the good stuff gets taken first. If you don’t need new jeans, don’t start there. Go straight to the tops or shoes and take what you are really hoping to replace in your wardrobe. I don’t think clothing swaps are a popular event for men but there are plenty that include mens or children’s clothing. I’ve found a handful of high-end items of clothing and dress shoes for my husband that I would NEVER pay full price for.

3. Ask yourself:

Have you worn that item in the past few months (seasonal clothes are exceptions)? Do you love wearing it? If the answer is no, it’s likely time to part with it. I’m guilty of the 80/20 rule when it comes to what I wear; I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time. The rest of my clothes are occasional wears or haven’t been worn in forever. I had a lot of business casual clothes from when I worked as a clinical dietitian in a hospital. That was over two years ago and the jobs I’ve had since all allow casual wear. I don’t plan to work in a hospital setting again so when will I really need to tap into that section of my wardrobe again? I got rid of everything but maybe 1-2 dressier shirts and a pair of dress pants.

4. Wash everything before wearing

It’s usually a rule that all clothes brought to a swap must be recently washed but really, you know there are some people who dig through the back of their closet and don’t bother to wash everything. Bed bugs are annoying to deal with so save yourself the hassle and give the stuff you bring home a good wash before wearing.

5. Wear try-on clothes

I wear a tank top so it’s easy to throw a shirt on right away and see how it looks rather than have to leave the room to change in the bathroom. I also bring my own recyclable bag so I have a place to put the stuff I want to keep.

If the idea of a clothing swap seems intimidating, keep in mind all of your clothes don’t have to come from a clothing swap. Even if you buy a few new items you will still save money since you aren’t getting all of your clothes full price. You could even spend a little more on some high-quality clothes since you won’t have to buy as much after a clothing swap. Clothing swaps are a great way to save money while going green.

Have you attended or hosted a clothing swap before? Was your experience a good or bad one?



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. I’ve never attended a clothing swap but I have gone to a thrift store to buy clothes. It’s amazing how clothes are in great shape and how cheap they are. One time, I needed a new belt. I found one that seemed to be never used at the thrift store for $2. Even at Target they sell for $20.

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