I feel pressure to find a new outfit for every special occasion. Maybe I’m a sucker for social media ads, or perhaps I love clothes and will use any excuse to buy them. Either way, my budget can’t handle all the clothing I wish it could.
That fact inspired me to search for budget-friendly ways to afford the clothes I want. In my research, I found three fashion startups that use innovative strategies to help consumers develop wise shopping habits. Check out the companies below to get serious about sticking to a clothing budget.
I stumbled across Reel in an Instagram ad and was so intrigued that I had to sign up. The premise of Reel is that you don’t have to feel bad about buying things you want if you wait until you can afford them.
It works like this: When you sign up, you link your bank account. Then, you log in to your Reel account and search for items you want to buy. It offers selections from all the major retailers and even has categories such as perfume, accessories, and furniture.
If you find an item you want, you can choose how much to save for it on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Reel automatically will put money from your bank account toward that item, per your parameters. When you save enough for the item, Reel will place the order for you.
“As humans, we’re highly aspirational,” said Reel CEO Daniela Corrente. “We’re constantly struggling between the love of buying things and the guilt of going into debt. I was looking for saving platforms and realized everything that’s out there is saving for retirement or a rainy day but not for tangible things — for the pair of shoes or the bag or things that you want in the short term.”
Corrente most recently used the platform to save for perfume. “If I put $1.00 in a day, in three months when my perfume runs out, I can buy a new perfume,” she explained.
There is one con: The money you put in a savings account with Reel could do more for you if you invested it or left it in a high-interest savings account. If you put your money in an account where it could earn more interest, you’d still save it and potentially be able to make your purchases faster.
2. Trend Pay
Trend Pay has reasonably priced, fashionable clothes you can pay for upfront or in monthly installments.
If you choose monthly installments, you’re technically going into debt since you’ll owe the company money. However, it’s more affordable than credit card debt, and there’s a clear end date for when you’ll fully repay what you owe.
There are no extra fees or interest charges when you divide the price of your item. But if you miss a scheduled payment, Trend Pay automatically will charge your debit or credit card. You also might incur late or failed payment fees in these instances.
If you need a pricier outfit for a wedding, a graduation, or another special occasion, using Trend Pay could be a good way to balance the cost with your other monthly bills instead of taking a large chunk out of your budget at once.
I’ve used Trend Pay, and in my experience, it had excellent customer service. The dress I ordered was snagged when it arrived, and because Trend Pay had no others left in my size, it issued me a full refund and let me keep the dress.
Cladwell takes a different approach to dressing in style — helping you spend less by maximizing what you already own.
Through the app, you select clothing items that are similar to what’s in your closet. Then, you add factors you’re planning for, including trips, daily routines, or even the weather. The app then will give you daily outfit ideas based on your needs. Rainy day? It’ll show you combinations in your closet for that. Beach vacation? You’re covered.
“On average, our customers are spending $600 a year on clothes that they would never wear,” said Cladwell founder Blake Smith. “Cladwell enables you to buy fewer, but better, items.”
When you go shopping, you can run your purchases through the app to see how many combinations you can make with the new item and your existing clothes. This process could keep you from spending money on clothes you’ll wear only once. The app also tracks items in your closet that you rarely wear, making it simpler to clean out your closet and sell old clothes.
“There’s a lie in the fashion industry that being fashionable means buying a lot of clothes,” said Smith. “That’s a lie in the same way that being an artist means buying a lot of art. Truly being fashionable is working within the constraints of what you have and creating things that people haven’t thought of.”
Cladwell’s hope is that helping people get savvier about their outfit options will save them from spending too much on clothes, but the app comes at a cost. You can try it free for three days before the price jumps to $7.99 per month.
You don’t need to feel guilty about shopping
Shopping can make you feel guilty if you buy things you can’t afford or get stuck in a retail therapy cycle. Instead, buy clothes within your budget and use a combination of saving, selling, and smart consumer habits to take the guilt out of your purchases.
“The feeling when you buy that pair of shoes and you don’t have to worry about that credit card bill coming in the mail — that’s exciting,” said Corrente. “That’s empowering,”
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