19 Wardrobe Hacks for the Forever Frugally Fashionable Part 4: Teens

Teens, by far, represent the toughest budget category for fashion yet. With teens earning their own money, National Consumer says teens spend more than $5500 annually. That’s north of a $100 a week, far more than I personally spend on clothing for sure.

Aside from being a formidable spending demographic, teens and their fashion wants can be problematic for frugal families so below are my 19 hacks for the forever frugally fashionable:

  1. Try to embrace your teen’s choice of style, especially if it means they can leverage thrift store chic. If you are lucky enough to have a teen who embraces retro 60s or 70s, hippie or Boho chic, take them thrifting before you hit ever hit the discount stores. Encourage your teen to not follow trends or be a salve to labels but to create their own style. dance-1566852_1920
  2. Encourage your teen to learn how to sew. I was always abysmally inept at sewing but my mother was an expert, she could even make her own patterns if she wanted to. Anything I could not find at the store, my mother could whip up with some fabric and a pattern in short order. While we are on the subject, remember that sewing is a budget saving skill for the frugally minded.
  3. Simple tee shirts and jeans are not a bad foundation so encourage that basic look for your teen to build on. From there, your teen can add cheap accessories and fun shoes. feet-349687_1920.jpg
  4. Speaking of shoes, this is the only area where I will encourage you not to spend a lot of your teen’s clothing budget. Teens grow and are hard on shoes. They get bored easily. Shoes likely won’t last more than a season so don’t spend a lot, just make sure they are sturdy and will make it through one school year, it’s the best you can hope for and no spending $300 on Jordan Nike designer label cool sport shoe anything.
  5. Teens who are into sports statistically speaking, do tend to stay away from drugs more than those who are not into sports (and in the case of girls, have lower teen pregnancy rates) so encourage sports and budget for this. In many cases, the school will simply ask for uniform and equipment money and you won’t get a chance to negotiate a better price — unless of course, you get yourself on the equipment committee to source better prices and deals — not a bad idea.
  6. Buy undergarments in bulk except for bras, your girl teen may grow out of what you buy within a year so only buy enough for a school year. Be sure and get her fitted by an expert which, in my opinion, do not exist at stores like Victoria’s Secret. Call ahead to major department stores and ask if they have a bra fitting expert then take your teen for the appointment and step aside. She doesn’t want your advice or input any way. As if.
  7. Teens do not need pricy nightwear. Tee shirts, shorts and pajama pants can all be had for very cheap from discount and big box stores.
  8. While it is a good idea to embrace your teen’s style choices, don’t let your teen entirely dictate what he or she will wear. Most are heavily influenced by music videos, celebrities and social media which means they are exposed daily to images of popular signers squatting down and spreading their thighs in daisy dukes while grabbing their overly enhanced breasts scantily covered in tiny crop tops while singing. They have to contend with the notion of one of the Kardashians posing nude with an oiled backside. I think we can all agree that while these images sell records and boost social media ratings, they are also not what you want your daughter to aspire to, right? Right? Skanky clothing sends the wrong message and your 13-year-old does not need to dress like a slutty hooker. I have a relative who has been obese and matronly her entire life and yet she gave birth to a daughter that would eventually grow up to have amazing body. Hands down, the girl could model for Victoria’s Secret but living vicariously through her daughter, my relative sadly encouraged her to rely on her body for self esteem and the result was she wore thigh high skirts, tiny revealing crop tops and sky high hooker heels to the point that my daughter finally asked her why she dressed like a prostitute. She was younger than my daughter and looked up to her. So shocked by my daughter’s question, my relative’s daughter actually showed up at the next family event in far more tasteful clothing. The moral of this story is to encourage your teen’s own style yes, but within the limits of taste and common sense. And while we are on the topic of mothers and daughters, don’t borrow your daughter’s clothes, my mother did this and it was not only embarrassing but highly inappropriate since she kept trying to wedge herself into my then short skirts and much smaller clothing which, even if it had been the right size, did nothing for her entirely different body type. What can I say, mom really had issues. Rule of thumb is that unless it is a basic white shirt or plain jacket, you don’t need to be borrowing anything from each other. The exception to this rule is if your daughter has a 60s or 70s retro dress up day at school and you happen to have something from that time period stored in your garage. This is fine because essentially your teen is borrowing a costume at this point while hopefully mocking how wide bell bottoms were and asking with wide-eyed wonder if grandpa really saw Jimi Hendrix play at Woodstock.
  9. If your teen decides to go through a goth, grunge, Japanese street or any other questionable fashion phase, try compromise instead of butting heads. Teens will wage war to express themselves so try a bit of clever compromise. Go back to the jeans and tee shirt foundation and allow one item of goth or grunge item per look. A jacket is probably the safest bet and make sure it is a thrift store find. Also, encourage your teen to check out fashion ideas from Instagram and bloggers. In this case, you can use social media as an ally to help guide your teen to interpret something like Japanese street wear in a more tasteful way. And keep telling yourself that that this is just another phase.
  10. Encourage artistic flair. With thrift store finds, allow your teen to patch, sew, dye and decorate their finds. Both art and fashion can be had for cheap and if they are artistic to begin with, a great way to express themselves. b-boying-413726_1920.jpg
  11. Recycle and sell your growing teen’s cast offs at your annual family garage sale; even better if the entire neighborhood hosts one annually. If they balk at the idea of selling old clothes, motivate them to participate in the family garage sale by allowing them to keep the proceeds from the sales of their old clothing to buy new. A great motivator.
  12. Don’t force too many hand me downs on younger teens. I had to wear my older sister’s clothing for years until I surpassed her in height and size thankfully. We had very diametrically opposed styles and approaches to fashion even as kids so allow your younger kids to repurpose and change up what they do inherit.
  13. Since buying off season is the frugal way to go for big ticket items, encourage your teen to participate in purchasing coats and big ticket clothing expenses. Discuss with them the budget up front and let me know if they are underbudget, they can use the rest of the money for something else. My daughter developed frankly amazing skills with money using this approach. To this day, she is a master at budgeting.
  14. Encourage parents and relatives to give your teens gift cards and money for clothing for birthdays and holidays. This can be the money they spend on clothing you would never personally spend money on. This is where, if they cannot live without a certain label or fashion item, they get the money to buy such things. Fashion, is fleeting and those $300 Jordan Nike cool sport shoe anything may lose their allure if they have to use their birthday money to buy them.
  15. Buy basic black backpacks for school that are sturdy and durable to last a few years and allow your teen to decorate them the way they want. Teach them to think of the basic black backpack as a blank canvass they can express themselves with.
  16. Events like prom and school dances can be incredibly expensive. Unless your teen loves to sew or will buy something from a thrift or consignment store, think outside the box and consider renting a dress instead of buying something that is not only expensive but won’t be worn more than once. This is why men rent tuxes. You can also try wedding dress stores for prom solutions; some of the maid of honor and bridesmaid dresses are actually decently priced and may be recycled into something else once prom or school dance has come and gone. black-dress-238065_1920
  17. The little black dress (LBD) strategy can also work for a teen. I bought a nice basic black dress for my teenage daughter and she wore it for a few years for everything from fancy dinners with her visiting grandparents to funerals to other formal events. That LBD was how she learned to accessorize once even asking to borrow my pearls and high heeled red shoes for an event she wanted to dress up her LBD for. No need to run out and spend money on a dress, we already had a blank canvas that was the perfect solution to nearly any dress up event.
  18. Similar strategy to the LBD, get your teenaged son a nice blazer. This means he has a jacket for church, family events and other situations where he needs to dress up beyond tee shirts and jeans. Buy this on sale at a big department store and if tailoring is included, make sure they tailor it for him; expose your son to the utter coolness of perfectly tailored clothing by reminding him even Johnny Dep wears seemingly careless and casual clothing that is actually perfectly tailored to his frame.
  19. A treasured family memento, piece of jewelry, grandpas cool retro watch, something that came from a relative, it is perfect signature look for the responsible teen. ring-3030338_1920.jpg



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