Updated on 03.27.12

Wear Old Clothing Around the House (89/365)

Trent Hamm

Right now, I’m wearing an old pair of jeans with a few small holes and a Chicago Cubs t-shirt that dates from 2002 or 2003 (the shirt references Kenny Lofton, who played with the team in that time frame). These are old, worn out, yet still very comfortable clothes and they’re perfect for wearing around the house.

I will wear these clothes around the house until they’re truly ready for the rag bag, at which point they’ll be used for rags (an old t-shirt makes a great rag for many household tasks).

I’m getting a ton of value from these articles of clothing, and all it takes is a little bit of organization.

Wear Old Clothing Around the House (89/365)

For the most part, I keep my clothes separated into three separate groups: “dress” clothes (ones I feel comfortable wearing at nice situations), “good” clothes (ordinary clothes that are newer and have experienced relatively little wear), and “house” clothes (the ones like I’m wearing today, which are well worn but still functional). Clothes move between the groupings over time, particularly when “good” clothes get downgraded to “house” clothes (occasionally, “dress” clothes will move down as well).

In general, I don’t get rid of clothes until they’re actually falling apart and unacceptable for “house” clothes. If they reach that point, they usually become rags and are used that way for many years.

I usually start my day by choosing clothes based entirely on what my plans for the day are. If I’m going to be at home all day, I’ll choose “house” clothes. If I’m going to be running a lot of normal errands, I’ll choose “good” clothes. If I’m going to be doing something special, I might choose “dress” clothes. If circumstances change during the day, I just change clothes.

For the most part, I don’t donate clothes. The biggest opportunity I can see for selling or donating clothes is when a person’s sizes change, and my clothes sizes haven’t changed dramatically in either direction in a long while.

It’s a simple system, probably not too terribly different than what you do. However, there’s savings inherent all throughout the system.

For starters, you’re getting every drop of value out of every item that you add to the system. If you wear an item of clothing until it’s truly ready for the rag bag, then you’ve extracted pretty much all the value you can from that item. Your cost per use of that item is likely going to be really, really low, and that means with each use of that item, you saved some money.

Another element is that you’re strongly rewarded for buying durable clothing, as discussed previously. If you buy an item of very durable clothing, insert it into your “good” or “dress” clothing rotation, and use it until it’s actually ready for the rag bag, you are going to get a lot of uses out of that item of clothing. Your cost per use is going to be miniscule. For example, this t-shirt I’m wearing was very well made and I’ve found myself wearing it monthy over the past ten years. If you assume I paid, say, $30 for it, it’s now down to a cost of $0.25 per use. The combination of a well-made clothing item with a system where I wear the item extensively results in an incredibly low cost to clothe myself.

Not only that, this system provides a steady supply of oil rags, window cleaners, grease applicators, and other useful household tools. The “rag bag,” consisting of very old clothing, is a perfect place to look if you’re about to paint or do something else really messy. In a pinch, I’ll even toss on an old piece of clothing from that rag bag to keep myself from getting too messy.

The key is extracting as much value from your clothes as you can. It’s your money invested in the clothing, after all. Why not get every cent you can out of it?

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. Evita says:

    Sigh…. Do people really need to be told all this ?

  2. kc says:

    Evita: Yes. People under the age of twelve.

  3. Jacq says:

    All the frugal people I know do this. They’re often kind of sloppy looking though.

    I donate my clothes on a regular basis – usually when I just don’t like them anymore. But I still spend less than $500/year on clothes. Meh, I can afford it.

  4. Amanda says:

    And we’re back to awful photos. Yay.

  5. Jackson says:

    Kenny Lofton was on the Cubs in 2003. Is that a hose coming out of the jeans in the pic?

  6. Jackson says:

    Anyone see this response when they post a comment? “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”

  7. Kate says:


  8. Kate says:


  9. Kate says:


  10. Kate says:

    why do I even try?

  11. Kate says:

    looking for another blog.

  12. Kristine says:

    Lots of negative comments here- I think this is a pretty good idea, as long as you don’t mind looking a little raggedy if you get a surprise visitor. For me though, I take quite a lot of pleasure in wearing nice clothes, and if I go all day in pajamas or gardening clothes it makes me feel like a slob.

  13. Kei says:

    Everyone seems upset here.
    On topic, home is supposed to be your place of comfort so of course you’d wear old, worn clothes there. Sloppy or not, it’s about relaxing and being comfortable. Save the other stuff for stepping outside your door if you’re okay with that.

  14. Kingston says:

    Well, don’t look for Get Rich Slowly. Something’s not right over there as of yesterday — all the usual commenters are absent, latest post is puffery for a pop-psych book, not even a whiff of J.D. Sigh.

  15. Connie says:

    Hi Trent,
    Thanks so much for your ideas. Yes some are newer to me than others but then again I am not the only person who reads your blogs :) and you are very likely benefiting many other people.
    I am writing to ask that you please consider the true meaning of introversion. I am a very strong introvert according to the Myers Briggs inventory which basically means that if I need alone time to recharge and that I am interested in the world of ideas. It doesn’t have anything to do with shyness or low self esteem and I think we do a disservice to young and older introverts when we don’t correct this misinformation. Thanks for considering this request.

  16. jim says:

    I am guessing the jeans are hung on the pole for a clothing steamer and that is what the hose is about.

  17. Evita says:

    #11 Kate, I think I’ll follow you.

  18. slccom says:

    To actually add something here, dressing like the rag man at home for many people pretty much precludes getting quality work done. There is a reason why casual Friday if going away at many businesses.

  19. Donald says:

    Wonderful post Trent. Up until now I’ve always worn brand new clothes around the house. I honestly never looked at it from your insightful new angle. Thanks buddy, you’ve saved me a ton! My round-the-house new clothing budget was getting absurd!

  20. Emma says:

    Donald, you are joking, aren’t you?

  21. Donald says:

    @ Emma
    To be honest, I don’t know anymore :-)
    But the coupons on Trent’s site are awesome. Trent, when did you decide you wanted to build a coupon site? Is building a coupon site like yours the key to getting out of debt and getting rich quick, like you did? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  22. Kate says:

    # 12 and 13–extensive moderation time is upsetting.

  23. Kate says:

    spending time composing a comment and then it doesn’t post is upsetting.

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