A Guide To Spending Less On Work Clothes

a guide to spending less on work clothes



Depending on where you’re employed purchasing work clothes can be costly especially if you must wear casual or business attire. I’m sure those of you who work from home and are reading this in your Pajamas can verify that work clothes are over-rated and a huge expense for anyone’s budget.

There’s no need to splash a tonne of money to look presentable for work.

The key to shopping for work clothes is to feel comfortable for your environment and abide by dress code rules. The worst thing employees can do is spend money to look good for the employer or other employees rather than focus on their role. It’s not a fashion show (unless of course you are a model but that’s probably the only industry where clothing matters but they likely don’t have to buy it.)


Success doesn’t come from what you wear


An excellent employee will always excel no matter if they are wearing Gucci or Giant Tiger work clothes. It’s more about motivation, dedication and drive to be successful. Your clothes can still be trendy and sexy even if you find ways to update your work clothes with costly price tags.

There was a time when employees couldn’t stand wearing a uniform to work because it didn’t allow the employee to express their style code. When you are at work you are there to do a job and although you may want to look top-notch everywhere you go there are times you need to slow-down and look at the return on investment.

Credit card expenses for both men and women can sky-rocket if you’re not careful when shopping for work clothes. There are 8 components to spending money on work clothes that I like to think we should all answer especially when budget expenses are too high. If you are looking for a budget category to slice and dice the clothing section is a good starting place.

  • Does your employer have a dress code?
  • Will you wear your work clothes outside of work?
  • Do you buy items that are regular price or trendy?
  • Do you enjoy dressing up for work?
  • Where do you purchase your work clothes?
  • How often do you replenish your work clothes?
  • Do you try to buy work clothes that you can mix and match?
  • How much do you really care about your work clothes?


Growing up in a uniform world


Mrs. CBB worked in an environment where the entire organization wore uniforms and the employee paid for the work clothes. When she went to high school wearing a uniform was part of the Catholic system and although it was costly up front the long-term expenses were minimal. Joining a team that wore a uniform was no big deal to her in fact she preferred it because there was no effort required.

“It was easier to focus on the job and not what everyone was wearing”- Mr.CBB

Work clothes can become a money show for employees who believe the only way to the top is to sell their “look” rather than their ideas. You can’t cheat the system for too long before it spits you out because you’re just not that invested in the company.

If you like the way you look that much then baby you should go and love yourself – Justin Bieber

Maybe he is on to something here because too often people get lost in what they look like because they need to fit a role. Today, many companies require employees to wear work clothes which the company sells to customers ex: clothing store) or they have a uniform dress code.


Professional attire for women and men


One of our readers emailed to ask how important it was to spend money on work clothes? I wasn’t sure of where she was leading with this but she later explained that a woman at work told her that she should “shape up her work clothes” if she ever wanted to get anywhere in the company. Now each time she goes to work she feels uncomfortable like she doesn’t fit in even though she is typically confident.

What would you rather wear for work clothes?

  1. A uniform
  2. No uniform

We don’t always have these options however you do have the choice to pass on an employment offer if it doesn’t meet your needs. Most often money is the need but for some it’s simply getting out of the house and into the community rather than being cooped up at home.


Uniform employees are looked down on


It is not just minimum wage jobs in fast-food joints that require employees to wear a uniform. Doctors, Dentists, Police officers, Medical staff including nurses, personal support workers, wait staff and so on wear work clothes provided by the employer for a small cost or purchased on their own.

I wear a uniform to work for both my jobs and honestly it doesn’t bother me one bit. I go to work, I do my job and I come home. I’m not there for a fashion show nor do I care if someone else thinks I should be. In a way it’s a blessing and one less thing to worry about on the job.

Working at the mall in her teenage years Mrs. CBB worked at a jean shop that gave employees a 50% discount on their clothing line. While on shift they were to wear work clothes to represent the company, hence the large discount. She was also able to pass along a 30% discount to family and friends if they purchased clothes with her present. This was great for her siblings who often purchased work clothes for a fraction of the cost new.


The dress code


Not every employer has a dress code but for those that require you to shop for professional work attire it can get pricey. You can slay that cost though. After working in an industry where both Mrs. CBB and I purchased work clothes from the employer it was an eye-opener once she secured employment in an office environment.

Working in a multi-million dollar office based company this meant that her work clothes shifted to casual office wear. Before she started her new job we had to make a mad rush to fill up her wardrobe with work clothes. This was tough to do for someone who lived to work and hardly worried about “dressing up” to make money.

You gain a certain mentality about work clothes when you wear a uniform to work.

This was Mrs. CBB’s routine for many years.

  • Roll out of bed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush teeth
  • Shower
  • Roll into work clothes (uniform)
  • Grab lunch and coffee
  • Out the door

No effort required apart from getting out of bed. She could be up and ready for work with-in 45 minutes comfortably as she didn’t wear make-up nor did she do anything fancy with her hair but put it up.

When she started in the office environment and had to wear work clothes that she picked out getting ready took much longer in the mornings. Getting ready for work took at least 2 hours which included doing her hair and make-up.

  • Spend time finding work clothes before bed time
  • Roll out of bed
  • Eat breakfast (if time permitted)
  • Brush Teeth
  • Shower
  • Try on work clothes she picked out.
  • Pull her hair out because she didn’t like the way it looked, rips, missing buttons, stain, broken zipper etc.
  • Back in the closet to look for something else (more time wasted)
  • Get lunch and coffee
  • Out the door

Getting ready for work went from simple to wanting to pull her hair out at times. There might have been a certain piece of clothing that she needed to finish an outfit but it wasn’t washed or a button popped off. It was endless and even though she always looked good the stress was overwhelming. I’m sure many employees get this feeling especially when they’ve worn a uniform to school or work most or all of their lives.

What a wish-wash of a morning it was every day.


Work clothes budget


Back then we didn’t have a clothing budget but I can assure you that we needed one. The costs to outfit someone from head to toe is not always cheap. Her first wardrobe came from Giant Tiger where the savings are at but even then we went into the hundreds of dollars to get her out the door looking professional.  She didn’t have to wear a suit every day but the need for dress pants, skirts, blouses, sweaters, shoes and other accessories would add up.

We weren’t huge second-hand shoppers back then for clothing because we just didn’t need to be. Hanging on to clothing for years was our motto since we were saving for a down-payment to buy a house. Our focus was not on clothing and the trendy fashion sense but we dressed according to the works dress code.


Work attire attitude


Now that Mrs. CBB is a stay at home mom she’s able to look back at her office days and think about how she could have lowered her work clothes expenses further. Some of you might never dream of shopping at Giant Tiger for work clothes and others would drink vampire blood before stepping into a mall or second-hand shops.

You’re either a frugal shop warrior and know how look good for less or you’re all about the label. Maybe you’re both and can successfully stay with-in budget. Some of you may invest in pricey pieces of work clothes and pair them with inexpensive tops and accessories. This is still a valuable way to lower the costs on work clothes especially on quality pieces you want to hang on to.

If you’re someone whose weight fluctuates spending big money on work clothes isn’t so appealing either. How many times did you spend money on clothing only to wear it a couple of times before selling or donating it?

I turned this email over to Mrs. CBB and asked her what questions she would like to ask our reader who feels that she doesn’t dress fashionable enough for her employer.

  1. Does your employer have a dress code?
  2. Has your employer told you otherwise?
  3. Are your work clothes affecting your job?
  4. Are you comfortable with your clothing style?
  5. Do you have a work clothes budget?
  6. Where do you buy your work clothes?
  7. Do you feel bullied, pressured or left out at work because of what you wear?

No one has ever told her that she should dress up more for the job. Perhaps the employee was only trying to help her with coordinating pieces or wants to genuinely help her. The issue is that it doesn’t become a problem to the person who wears the work clothes it’s the other way around.

Then again maybe the employee should ask the other whether she was going to take her on a shopping spree and pay for it too? In other words, mind your own business.

Look good for you and no one else.


Ways to Save Money On Work Clothes


In light of this Mrs. CBB wanted to come up with a few ways that she could have saved money while building her work wardrobe during the office years. We’ve learned so much about minimalism and living a frugal life over the past 10 years that we feel comfortable sharing our money-saving tips.

  • Create a work clothes budget.
  • Learn to sew even for minor rips, hems or to attach buttons.
  • Don’t wait until the last-minute to shop for work clothes.
  • Shop second-hand including garage sales, consignment shops, online-auctions, online buy and sell groups and forums.
  • Shop the deals, reduced racks and score some great deals online shopping.
  • Collect points and participate in rewards programs
  • Swap clothes with a friend
  • Accessorize inexpensive work clothes with second-hand costume jewellery (it’s FAR cheaper and there’s never a shortage and second-hand stores.)
  • Have a couple of good pairs of shoes because your feet are important.
  • If you must buy heels in every colour or dress shoes shop discount stores or second-hand. No one cares if your heels or dress shoes cost $5000.
  • Just be you.

If anyone ever tells you that you don’t dress well enough smile and walk away with your head held high. Confidence is far greater than any type of corner you will want to hide in or feel pressured into. Confidence doesn’t mean being with the “in-crowd” or spending money to get ahead with your career.

Do your job and do it well, smile and you’ll make it where you want to go and for the right reasons. What you wear to work won’t make you rich, but your mind will.  Express yourself!

Discussion Questions: What are some ways that you can still buy work clothes without spending a fortune? Has anyone ever commented on what you wear to work? What other advice would you pass along to this reader?

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Image courtesy of toonsteb at FreeDigitalPhotos.net




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  1. I always buy my clothes ahead of time and at discounts of at least 40% off. I usually buy whatever that I think is comfortable and looks appealing to me. It’s quite difficult to be in style or out of style when you are just buying black dress pants and solid colour dress shirts. My wardrobe consist of different shades of black, white and blue. Very flamboyant and interesting selections. ?

  2. Thanks for this post! So many great suggestions. I completely agree, it is more about the way you wear your clothes with confidence, than the actual brand/designer name of the clothing. I am fairly fortunate that at my office we can dress casually, so I actually wear the same clothes to work that I would wear outside the office. Which is nice that I don’t have to shop specifically for a work wardrobe. I have been shopping thrift stores for kids stuff for a while now, but never really searched for myself much. And there are so many great treasures in that department too! I recently scored a pair of J.Crew patent pumps which retail for nearly $200 for $2.50! They honestly look like they have been worn once. Can’t wait for my next trip to the thrift store now! Thanks again for all the great suggestions here!

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