How To Do A Wardrobe Check Before You Shop

inside a clothing store showing a rack of shirts with manequin in the background

When someone in the family needs new clothes, looking to see what money is in the clothing budget is not the first thing I do.  I can’t automatically assume I need to head to the shops right away.  There is an order to things, and that includes a quick wardrobe check of what that person already has.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not averse to clothes shopping, in fact, the more money I have surplus to spend on clothing and accessories the better.  BUT, I have a pet hate of buying clothes for kids who already have enough.

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My kids have learnt this process needs to be done, they don’t LOVE it, but I make them. It saves us money and time, and it saves me getting annoyed at them when we buy items they don’t need.  


A quick check only takes 30 minutes if you’ve done it before if not, an hour.

Have them gather all their clothing out of their drawers, closet, hangers etc.  You are going to sort them all, have some discussion and make decisions together. If they kick up because they don’t want to sort out their clothes with you, then they won’t get to shop until they do.  Simple.

  1. Get them to hold up each item and help them decide together if it’s too old, damaged, or too small.
  2. Don’t put things away yet, keep everything out, and easy to view until the end. Make a bag of items that you will give or throw away.
  3. Assess what is now in the clothing to be kept and what is going to be needed for this next season
  4. Make a list of things to buy; they can have a need list AND a wish list
  5. Discuss the clothing budget and what money they have spent so far this year and have remaining to spend
  6. Discuss where you will shop first.  Offer some ideas for places that might have sales on.
  7. You should have a general consensus and agreement between you on a shopping list, date and time and a confirmed $ amount.
  8. Put all the clothes back tidily into drawers and/or on hangers

Here are some practical suggestions on how to make it work for your household.


Once this wardrobe assessment process has been completed you can confidently head to the shops.  You both know what’s needed, and exactly what there is to spend.

Everybody has their eyes wide open looking for great clothing and bargains.

I want to add that they can’t really buy whatever they want without your consent.  It’s still your money they’re spending so you can always say no if something is terribly distasteful.

However, they should be able to choose items they like and want to wear, not what you want them to buy and wear.


  • Go with cash and a list
  • Don’t go hungry or tired.
  • Even if you are arguing, go anyway, they will love to shop with you and time together can help
  • Do exactly what you both planned and enjoy the process
  • Give lots of encouragement!
  • Make time to stop for a drink or something to eat and enjoy the time together.  Teenagers love treats!
  • Help them stay on track with gentle reminders of what they need and what they are spending


  • Insist that they try them on to make sure it fits (don’t let them bring home clothes that are too small or too big)
  • Let them choose items they like and want to wear, try not to criticise their choices
  • Don’t force them to spend their allowance on items you like and they don’t
  • You can always reject items that are terribly distasteful, after all, it’s still your money!
  • For now, your primary job is to transport and pay the bill, be ok with this 🙂
  • You are the guide! Show them how to find sales & bargains.
  • The ultimate goal is that they learn how to make good spending choices.


Please don’t give them $100 and expect them to know what to do with it.

Coach them on how to take note of what they spend & keep receipts.  It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as there are records of what they spend their money on. Write it in a diary, or in a note on your phones.

  • Start an excel or google.doc to keep a running record
  • Keep the receipts and write the child’s name on it
  • Take a photo and label it, put it in an ‘album’ on your phones

This way you will both always know and have written proof of where, when and what is being spent. It may seem like a bit of work, but you will be grateful you taught them to manage a little,  as they get older so they will handle more and more.  

You can add other allowances like school & sports expenses, haircuts, Christmas & birthday gifts etc as they become more responsible at managing their finances.