Money & Style

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Cost Per Wear (CPW) and Why It Matters

Happy day to you, fabulous reader!

Alert: This post unleashes my financial responsibility geek.

(Which many find to be an oxymoron combined with style blogger!)

When I am getting to know a client, one of the questions I ask is about their clothing or wardrobe budget. I don’t ask this to be nosy, or to figure out how many more of my services they can afford, but to get an idea of where we can shop, or where I will recommend they shop. I say “You can tell me in percentages, or in dollar amounts.” I rarely get a straight answer about whether they have a budget. Often people will have a spending limit on certain items or for a particular event, but I can count the number of people I have met with actual wardrobe budgets on one hand. And I’m the thumb… I encourage my clients (AND everyone else!) to budget for their wardrobes, and track what they spend to see if they are staying within their budget. (If you want to know more about my embarrassingly low tech wardrobe budget tracking system you can read about it here. )

Being responsible with the gifts God has given our family is a very high priority for me. (Note: There is ALWAYS room for improvement!) So not only do I watch how much I spend, but even more importantly about how much use I am getting out of what I do spend on… Far more important than cost is Cost Per Wear.

Cost Per Wear

One of the simple concepts in budgeting for clothing is Cost Per Wear, or CPW. It’s pretty simple, really. Cost Per Wear is nothing more than the purchase price of your item (cost), divided by (per) the number of times you wear (wear) it. The CPW of an item decreases with each wearing. It will never get to $0.00, but the more times you wear it, the closer to zero it will approach.

How It Works

Imagine you have a jacket you bought for $20. You wore it a couple of times, but it turned out to have an itchy lining, and it hangs unloved in the back of your closet for the next three years. You could say you spent $20 on a jacket I’ve had for three years. That sounds good, right? But how long you own it doesn’t really matter. It’s how often you wear it that counts. You wore the $20 jacket twice. $20 (cost) / 2 (wears)= $10/Wear. Was that jacket worth $10 each time you wore it?

Minimizing CPW

So, how do you get the best bang for your wardrobe buck? Minimize the CPW of everything you buy. There are two basic approaches: (1) Buy less, and wear what you do buy more frequently. (2) Lower the price of the items you purchase by shopping wisely. Sounds simple, right? But beware of…

Budget Busters

Buying Cheap: This is the fast fashion quicksand. “Well it only cost…” Like the $20 jacket in the example above, it was only…. If you look only at the price tag (penny wise) you can end up paying $10 to wear a jacket (pound foolish). You’d have been better off spending five times as much on a jacket you love that is comfortable, and wear once a week for those same three years. $100 (cost) / 156 (wears) = $0.64. Sixty-four cents per wear is a huge improvement over the ten dollars!

Bride and Groom

Special Occasion Trap: What’s the highest CPW item that most women will ever buy? A wedding dress! You wear it only once. Even if you think you will pass it down for someone else, the chances are slim that you will do so. Now I am not suggesting you should buy a cheap wedding dress, but when it comes to special occasion wear, this may be a good place to economize. I see people splurge all the time on a dress for a someone else’s wedding, class reunion, or a gala event. Be honest with yourself. If it will be a one time wonder, consider renting. Yes, you can do that!

Disposable Shoes: People complain constantly about the cost of shoes. Buying cheap shoes can be even more expensive than any other cheap purchase. Buy quality leather shoes that fit well AND are comfortable! These can be repaired and polished. Polish them and take them to a cobbler to be reheeled and resoled. The cost (and environmental impact) of throwaway shoes is enormous! Not to mention the toll on your feet, legs, and spine. Podiatrists and chiropractors see the results of poor shoe choices daily!

So how about you? Do you have a wardrobe budget? Do you track your clothing expenses? How? An app or some other method? Let me know your thoughts (or anything you might want me to address) in the comments below… I love to hear from you!

Stylishly yours,

My gratitude to Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for generously hosting her weekend Link-Up!



    Thank you! I think finding the heros for my wardrobe will be fun. Last year I bought a black leather jacket and this year a brown leather coat and a faux fur mink in brown and black. My huaband also bought me a leather swing coat in a metallic beigish/gold. This is brave for me! My struggle is adding that third piece ie. a jacket, in our warmer times of the year. I live in Arizona and we are still having triple digit weather! Would you please give me a few suggestions for the heros to wear in our hot weather? I can only seem to think of wow! necklaces. I am slightly apple shaped because of the change so I don’t wear my shirts tucked nor do I wear belts.

    • Liz K

      Being selective about your heroes is important! They really have to be LOVE, LOVE, LOVE pieces! Otherwise they will decorate the inside of your closet… Third pieces are a struggle in warm climates. I have the same problem here in Georgia. Adding a scarf, or layering a light jacket or topper over a sleeveless piece can work for all but the hottest months of the year. You might find a kimono a lightweight third piece you could embrace. It would look great over a column of color to skim over your tummy.


    I have a wardrobe budget that I stick too well. I am accountable to the LORD how I spend what He supplies. My problem ,I’ve finally come to realize ,is that I buy too many basics. I do buy great accessories and this helps my outfits. I just don’t buy enough of the hero’s. My mom has been telling me that I need to spring for the special items for years! After doing a inventory of my closet, I have finally seen this is true. I must start adding the hero’s!

    • Liz K

      Congratulations on sticking with your budget! We’re all accountable for how we spend the gifts/talents we’ve been given. Finding that basics/heroes/accessories balance is very personality driven. Good luck finding heroes you love!

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