How to Reduce Discretionary Spending and Have Fun Doing It

How to Reduce Discretionary Spending and Have Fun Doing It

You might be surprised to know that over the last seven years I’ve drastically reduced the amount of shopping that I’ve done on clothing, however, I manage to always have a new wardrobe. How does this happen? Well, twice a year for the last seven years I’ve been hosting a clothes swap for my friends. This has become a fun way to get together, reduce the amount of stuff I have and get some new items–new to me, anyway!

I’ve read the Marie Condo method of simplifying and organizing, keeping only the items that spark joy. That’s great, but there were always some items like a dress I bought for New Year’s Eve where I paid a lot of money, wore only once and am unlikely to wear again. It’s not sparking joy, but I can’t quite part with it. There was always something that stopped me from throwing it in with the donations, yet I wouldn’t think twice about just giving it to a friend if they wanted to wear it. Hence, the clothes swap!

Here are my best tips to have a successful clothes swap:

  • Invite your friends.

Don’t be concerned if everyone wears different sizes. The most important point is to hang out with people you enjoy being around. Over time you can bring other people into the group. It’s like having a new closet to choose from!

  • Give everyone a set of clothespins with their name on it.

This avoids the structure I’ve seen other swaps use where they throw clothes in a pile, and there’s a free-for-all to grab whatever you can. With the clothespins, it’s much more relaxed and civilized.

  • Ask the attendees to bring a beverage, and you as the host provide something to eat.

We usually have bubbles and I like to make a quiche or tea sandwiches. However, bagels and cream cheese are easy in a pinch!

  • Don’t just stick to clothing.

Swap accessories including jewelry, purses and scarves. The best thing we ever did was swap products as well. The lipstick that’s not quite your color, the ‘free with purchase’ samples or other products you bought and only used a few times. We’re saving things from going to landfill!

  • Set an end time where you collect everything that has a clothespin on it and divide it up.

If you have the only clothespin on it, it’s yours! If there’s more than one pin—that’s where it gets good. Be creative! In the early years, we thought about doing a walk-off, putting it to vote or using some other method for deciding on who wins the item. We wound up playing what we call ‘cat straws’ which is simply drawing straws, hoping to get the one with a cat sticker on it. You would never imagine drawing straws could be so hilarious!

  • Lastly, have your attendees help pack up the clothes and accessories to get whatever is left over ready for donation.

I usually ask people to bring grocery or shopping bags for this purpose, too.

The first few years we did the swap, I barely bought any new clothes. This was great for my budget. Now I buy a few items, but only the things that I like. Sure, I spend a little money on food and other supplies for hosting the swap, but I find so much value in a fun afternoon with friends. Feel free to use any of my tips for hosting your own clothes swap!



Cynthia Flannigan
Cynthia Flannigan

Cynthia made the shift to financial planning to guide clients through making good financial decisions through both grim and exciting changes in life. More than anything, she thrives on helping people. She obtained her CFP designation in 2008 and completed a masters in financial planning and taxation at Golden Gate University.

Get Started with Cynthia

Stay updated on future articles, shows, and podcasts