How an Instagram Hashtag Inspired Me to Change My Life — and Save $1,800

minimalist wardrobe
Freelance Writer Grace Schweizer gains extra time and money from her capsule wardrobe. Tampa, Florida, December 14, 2016 Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder

A couple of years ago, after falling down a rabbit hole of whited-out Instagram feeds hashtagged with trendy words like “minimalism” and “simplify,” I landed on one that caught my attention: #capsulewardrobe.

Scrolling through seemingly endless posts featuring curated, simplistic fashion, I immediately fell in love with the cool, effortless style. I opened my laptop and did a quick search on the concept; five minutes later, I was hooked.

I’ve always been interested in minimalistic living — but I’ve also always been interested in amassing clothes with no respect for my wallet. As a devout follower of the fashion bloggers on Instagram, I constantly shopped for new clothes, trying in vain to keep up with the ever-changing trends. It was exhausting.

I was tired of my life revolving around shopping and spending, and of worrying about what to wear each morning. I needed to give myself permission to let go of the endless cycle of buying, buying, buying and then feeling like I had nothing to wear.

And I needed to stop funneling upward of $100 each month into my bad shopping habits. I’ve always been good about shopping the sale racks, but it adds up.  

It was time to try living with a minimalist wardrobe, also known as a capsule wardrobe.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

minimalist wardrobe
Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of 30 to 50 pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories you commit to wearing for three months at a time in an effort to live minimally and cut your spending.

The rules are simple and can vary slightly from person to person, but the most important one is this: no new purchases.

Most people attempt one year, or four “capsules,” each of which lasts 90 days. This allows for those who don’t live in the crockpot that is Florida to change out their pieces seasonally.

Putting Together My Minimalist Wardrobe

After a quick glance through blog posts on curating the perfect capsule, I pulled every item of clothing out of my closet and tossed them all on my bed in a heap. Then, I sorted the heap into three piles: love, like, and (since I hadn’t done a good culling in a while) has-to-go.

The “love” pile became the basis of my first capsule. I folded the “like” pile into storage bins for use in another capsule later on (or as a safety net in case this whole operation failed — I have to dip my toe before I can cannonball into the water).

I ended up selling most of the “has-to-go” pile online, bringing in an extra $60 or so.

Turning back to the “love” pile, I started pulling together my 40-item capsule wardrobe. The first 20 pieces were easy: some basics, some office-appropriate staples and some pieces that I’ll probably die clutching (I’m looking at you, leather jacket).

From there, it got a little more difficult, but the fact that everything was still laid out on my bed (a KonMari technique to keep you from giving up too soon) made me forego sweet sleep and finish my new project that night.

The next morning, I woke up ready to test my capsule. I stood in front of my closet and was able to make a decision about what to wear within seconds. After slipping on my favorite jeans, a comfy pair of booties and a simple white sweater, I was ready to leave a full 20 minutes earlier than usual.

I used the extra time to pack a lunch, make a real breakfast and brew a pot of coffee — which meant I wasn’t spending money buying meals (another win).

Breaking My Shopping Habit

minimalist wardrobe
Grace wearing the leather jacket “that I’ll probably die clutching”. Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder

By day 10 of my challenge, I realized shopping wasn’t just a bad habit — it was a very expensive form of therapy. So, I quit cold turkey.

I unsubscribed from email promotions and deleted my online shopping accounts. No longer inundated with advertisements and flash sale prices (my greatest weakness) and unable to use the all-too-easy one-click ordering, I was forced to take a moment to really consider purchases — and then close the browser tab.

If I felt the need to shop, I would instead try out a new hairstyle or makeup trick, which helped me to feel pulled together and current without buying new clothes.

Within a couple weeks, I started to feel a change.

I no longer felt the need to placate my emotions with a trip to the mall every time I felt sad or happy or nervous or frustrated. For the first time in months, I felt content, and I seriously enjoyed my stress-free morning routine.

The one downside to this whole experiment? I was now painfully aware of exactly how much my bad habit had cost me.

My Budget Wasn’t as Tight as I Thought It Was

At the end of those 90 days, I was a different person — and my bank account was unrecognizable.

I went from spending an average of $150 on new clothes each month to spending $0. By the end of my first capsule, I was able to put away an additional $450; over the course of the year, I saved just under $1,800.

Before my capsule wardrobe challenge, I had been struggling for months to scrape together an emergency fund — I just didn’t think I had room in my budget.

This experiment showed me there’s always a little wiggle room, and I now have some money set aside just in case. Plus, I was able to start a vacation fund!

Your Turn: Have you tried living with a capsule wardrobe? Did it help you save money?

Grace Schweizer is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Florida, who is just trying to live her best life. Any money she can save along the way is icing on the proverbial cake.