Updated on 05.24.17

Here’s My Secret to Saving Money on Quality Clothes

While I was once willing to do just about anything to save money, I’ve learned that some savings strategies work better than others over time. For example, buying the “cheapest” small appliances usually means having to buy them again in a few short years. Ask me how many times I purchased a $17 coffeemaker from Walmart to figure that one out.

The same can be said for clothes. I don’t know how many cheap new outfits I bought from Kohl’s before I finally had enough. Even though I never spent very much at once, I got sick of buying shirts and pants that deteriorated or faded within months.

My Love Affair with Soma

These days, I typically pay a little more for items that have the potential to last longer. And when it comes to clothes, I usually shop for my favorite brands secondhandUsually.

But, when a friend introduced me to Soma Intimates (they also sell lounge wear and dresses) a few years ago, I instantly fell in love. The great news about Soma is that the clothing barely fades and always holds it shape. I have a bunch of Soma dresses that I wear all spring, summer, and fall – but you could never tell. They don’t wrinkle and they don’t look rundown when you wear them a lot. Many of their dresses have pockets and built-in bras as well, making them the most practical and comfortable pieces of clothing I own.

The bad news about Soma is the problem you find with most high-quality clothing: It’s expensive. One of their maxi dresses (my favorite) can cost $90 or more, and their knee-length dresses are usually at least $60. That’s a lot more than I want to pay for anything – let alone clothes. Yet, Soma clothes last so long, I don’t want to buy anything else.

Save Money on Your Favorite Clothing Brand with Poshmark

Fortunately, I ran into a new way to buy my favorite clothing brand at a discount – and from the comfort of my own home. After looking for Soma dresses on eBay one day, I ran into Poshmark.com.

Poshmark is a secondhand retail marketplace where people focus most of their efforts on high-end clothing brands. On any given day, people are buying and selling clothes and accessories from brands like Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and yes, Soma.

Since prices are set by sellers, there’s no rhyme or reason to how much you can save. Still, there are serious bargains to be had if you prefer to buy specific brands and know exactly what you want.

For example, I’ve scored several of those long Soma maxi-dresses, that are usually $90, for just $15 each plus shipping. I’ve also found and ordered some shorter Soma dresses and cardigans for $8 to $15.

Since my kids look good in almost anything and fit easily into their size, I’ve ordered numerous dresses, shirts, and pants for them at $5 to $10 apiece. This is a lot more than I would pay for their clothes at a garage sale, so I only order them dressy and “nicer” stuff – like the dresses we used in our recent family pictures. When it comes to play clothes, I’ll stick to the 50-cent and $1 pieces I pick up at secondhand stores or summer yard sales.

beach-pic

In one of our recent family photos, all three girls are in secondhand clothes from Poshmark.

Poshmark Isn’t Perfect

While Poshmark offers an exceptional opportunity to save money on clothing brands you love, there are some downsides. For starters, you do have to pay shipping on your purchases – and that shipping can add up fast. As of 2017, standard priority shipping on items up to 5 lbs. is $6.49. So if you buy a Soma dress for $20, the total price you’ll pay is $26.49.

You can save on shipping by buying multiple products from a single seller and “bundling” for a lower total shipping cost, but that doesn’t always make sense. If you’re buying stuff you don’t really want just to save on shipping, you’re not really saving money, right?

Another downside that comes with “poshing” is that you don’t have the opportunity to try things on. If you fork over $20 to $30 for a dress and it doesn’t fit, you won’t recoup your costs until you resell it.

Further, some of the sellers on Poshmark are completely unrealistic when it comes to pricing their used items; a small percentage of sellers try to charge way too much. Before you buy anything on Poshmark, make sure you know the retail value of the item first. The bottom line: Not everything you see on Poshmark is drastically discounted or even a good deal.

Five Tips to Make the Most of Poshmark

Even with those downsides in mind, it’s possible to save money on higher-quality clothing brands you love. Here are five tips that can help you get the most out of Poshmark:

#1: Only buy clothing brands you already know and love.

Since you don’t have the opportunity to try on clothing ahead of time, Poshmark.com is a terrible place to experiment with your wardrobe. If you buy clothing you’re not sure you’ll like, you could easily wind up overspending on clothing you won’t wear.

The best Poshmark strategy is one where you’re looking for a specific brand you’re already familiar with and loyal to. For me, that brand is Soma because their clothing always fits and I already know my size. For you, it could be anything – the perfect size and brand of shoes, or your favorite brand of swimsuit. Since my husband only fits into a few brands of jeans, I keep an eye out for those on the site, too.

#2: If something costs more than you want to pay, you can bid a lower price.

One Poshmark feature I love is their “bidding” feature. If you don’t like the asking price, you can bid anything you want instead. My bidding success rate is around 50%. Some sellers are quick to accept your offer, while others want their asking price no matter what.

And if you’re embarrassed to bid, don’t be. Shopping on Poshmark is a lot like anything else in life – you’ll never know if you can get a better deal unless you ask. And if your bid is rejected, you can always bid again.

#3: Don’t forget about shipping.

Since Poshmark purchases are made through individual sellers, shipping costs can be a bear. Paying for shipping doesn’t automatically make your purchase a bad deal, but you do have to keep that extra $6.49 per purchase in mind.

Before you bid on something or buy it at its current asking price, make sure to mentally account for shipping. If you were okay paying $20 for a dress but think $26.49 is too much, you should definitely put in a lower bid or pass.

Don't forget to add $6.49 to everything you buy...

Don’t forget to add $6.49 to everything you buy…

#4: Watch out for fakes.

Just like eBay or even consignment shops, Poshmark has its share of sellers who try to pass off fakes for the real thing. Fakes aren’t limited to clothing and shoes, either; you can find fake Gucci sunglasses just as easily as you can find counterfeit shirts and pants.

If you’re worried something is fake, you can message the seller directly and ask. And if they lie, you’re still covered.

A feature called Poshmark Protect ensures your funds aren’t released to a seller until your item shows up at your home in good condition. If your item never arrives or it’s not as described, you can reject it.

Here’s how Poshmark’s policy works according to their FAQ’s:

“When you make a purchase on Poshmark, we don’t release payment to the seller until you tell us you’ve received your order as described. You have 3 days after delivery to inform us if the item has been misrepresented by reporting the problem in the Poshmark app or website with supporting photos. If we verify your claim, we’ll send you a label to return the order to the seller and refund your payment. All returns must be shipped back within 5 days of approval to be eligible for a refund.”

#5: Only bundle clothing when it makes sense.

While you can save on shipping and occasionally score a discount by buying more than one item from a single seller, you should proceed with caution. Buying more stuff to save more money is rarely the best idea.

If your goal is saving money, you should strive to buy only what you need while paying as little as you can get away with. Bundling with Poshmark rarely works out in your favor; it helps sellers move more product, but it doesn’t really help you save.

Final Thoughts

If you’re tired of paying for clothing that falls apart, sticking to higher-quality brands can help. And the best way to avoid the quality markup, you’ll need to shop secondhand.

While I love consignment shops and adore garage sales, it’s really hit or miss when it comes to the type of clothing I prefer to wear. And that’s why I keep coming back to Poshmark again and again; if I’m flexible and patient, I can usually find exactly what I want for around ¼ the price. While I typically pay more through Poshmark than I would at a garage sale, I don’t have to drive around aimlessly or dig through piles of clothes, either.

If your goal is saving money and having a wardrobe that stands the test of time, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

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