Many people with whom I speak are under a false impression. They think that I want them to spend lots of money on their wardrobes. Nothing can be further from the truth! I am all about a budget, and being responsible with your finances. More years ago than I would like to admit, I heard a finance guru say “If you don’t manage your money, it will manage you.” Having had many beans and rice days, I appreciated how my money had been managing me and my emotions. It has taken a long time, but I am getting better at money management.
You Gotta Know Where It’s Goin’
Every finance and budgeting resource begins with the basic of tracking your expenses. I sat down last weekend and updated my wardrobe expense tracking to find that I still have some money left in my annual budget. Woo hoo! Now when you hear wardrobe expense tracking, please don’t be impressed. My wardrobe expense tracking system is a brown 6X9 envelope with “Wardrobe Expenses 2017” written on the top. My initials are on one side, and hubby’s are on the other. There are 2 paper clips inside one for my receipts, and one for his. (Yes, the paper clips are color coded. I’m like that.) On the outside I keep a running total on each side of the envelope. High tech? No. Functional? Very. When I started doing this, I was afraid to find out how much I was spending. I quickly learned I was dropping $10-$20 frequently, resulting in lots of spending and lots of waste. After a year or two, I found myself spending less often, and making better choices that were longer lasting, and yes, more expensive. A budget made shopping less stressful and I was loving my wardrobe more.
How Much Should You Spend?
Even if you don’t yet have a system, let’s think about a budget for next year! Most sources say you should be spending between 3%-10% of your household budget on clothing annually. The percentage you choose will vary depending on the number of people in your family, and your wardrobe requirements. Before you panic at those percentages, some historical perspective might be helpful. Americans spend less of their budget on clothing now than they have at any point in the past (excepting war rationing years). Clothing is cheaper than ever, but people make up for that by buying lots. The average woman has more clothes that she doesn’t wear than clothes she does. A woman’s wardrobe in the 1950’s could fit into one good sized suitcase, maybe excepting a heavy winter coat. Most of us today couldn’t imagine fitting our clothing into three suitcases! Working with a client, I find 5% a good place to start an experiment. For our family, I divided our 5% between the two of us, and that has worked for us so far. If you make all your purchases on the fantastic plastic, you should be able to access analytics from your card company at the end of the year that may help you get a handle on how much you spent.
Conscious Spending Methods
Knowing where your money goes is important, but knowing HOW it goes matters, too! Are you a piddly spender who makes lots of little purchases frequently? Or are you a big bash spender who shops once or twice a year and gets everything you need at once? The latter used to be more common, the former seems to be more the rule nowadays. Some surveys record that many Americans buy a new clothing item weekly. That’s 52 pieces a year! I know women who break down their annual budget quarterly, and buy for a season, and others who ration out their money monthly and save for larger purchases. Any and all of these can work. It depends on you and your habits. I find I am somewhere between the twice a year shopper, and the monthly purchaser. I plan to buy 5 new specialty items (non-basics) twice yearly, and replace basics as needed and found throughout the year. (PS: Replace means that the old piece the new one is replacing goes away. This should be self-evident, but I have worked in closets holding 10 pair of black pants, 8 of which never are worn.)
Do you have a clothing budget? How do you parcel out your spending? If you don’t, why don’t you? Please share in the comments below!
Many thanks to Katherine at #notlamb for the LinkUp!