[picture of NYC marathon runners near my apartment]
2017 is nearing the finish line. How much did you spend on clothes this year? How much should one spend on clothes, anyway?
The answer is very personal and different for everyone of course. I hesitated to write about this, but it’s something on all our minds, isn’t it? Unless you’re loaded, we can’t look at clothes without considering how much it will cost us. It’s probably something we are not supposed to talk about in real life, so I’m glad this blog isn’t ‘real life’. I appreciate it when other blogs write not only about the clothes they’re wearing but the cost as well.
I’ve been reading Invincible Summer (highly recommend), a personal finance/style blog written by a lawyer in NYC, and what she referred me to over at Refinery 29, Money Diaries, a series of posts that take you through how a real woman spent her money each day over the course of a week. It’s interesting to see how other women with similar salaries spend their money in your city, but it’s also fun to read about how really wealthy women spend their money. It’s easy to get all judge-y about what you read there, so you gotta keep your negativity in check.
It might sound crazy, but I just signed up for a personal finance coach. I probably wouldn’t get one on my own, but my employer offers free financial counseling for all its employees. It’s free, so why not? Plus, when it comes to finances, I am clueless. I spent my entire life as a student, studying stuff that isn’t useful in the real world. So my financial literacy is really poor. Financial coaching starts off with a 30 minute prescreen interview, followed by a one hour initial assessment over the phone, then homework assignments and follow up sessions. I’m only in the early stage, but hope to come out a little wiser about money issues.
So how much should one spend on clothes? I googled this question, and read a general rule of no more than 5% of your monthly income. Most women spend about 3-10% of their income on clothes. I was actually relieved to hear this, because I fell within the “normal” range, and I was under the impression that I spent way too much on clothes. Mainly because I compare myself to the BF, who rarely buys clothes; maybe about once or twice per year. His wardrobe is limited to t-shirts and khakis. He basically shops only to replace clothes that are stained or ripped.
Like a good student, I did my math homework, and added up how much I spent on clothes in 2017. This was easy because I only ever shop online. I bought one thing this entire year at a brick and mortar store (when I needed last minute shoes for a special event). My spending habits were interesting to dissect. This year I shopped probably more than any previous year but I think I shopped smarter. I expected my clothing budget to be high because this year I made a concerted effort to build a long lasting functional wardrobe.
In 2017, I bought a total of 69 clothing items, 16 of those items were brand new, 53 were pre-owned, and 12 items cost $0 because I used credits I earned from selling my own clothes. About 1 in 5 items I purchased were bad decisions, that I either re-sold or donated if pre-owned, or returned if bought new. All in all, I spent $2824 in 2017 on clothes. November just started, so that makes my monthly average about $260. The average cost of each item was $50. But if you remove the outliers, (ahem $400 Kamm pants), the average cost of each item is probably closer to $30. That’s pretty good considering all the clothes I bought were from ‘ethical’ brands and made of 100% natural fibers.
The # of holes in my wardrobe keep getting smaller. I have a solid foundation to work off of now. At the beginning of this year, I barely had any clothes that I could wear regularly. For example in January, I only had about 3 pants that I could wear to work. Now I have 6, meaning I don’t have to repeat my outfits during the work week. So next year I expect to purchase clothes at a slower rate and might end up spending a lot less, or spend about the same amount but on a fewer number of higher quality / more expensive clothes.
I want to add a few things from Elizabeth Suzann’s updated signature collection, but I don’t have a pressing need for them at the moment, and may wait until the spring/summer to buy them. In the month of November and December I plan on freezing my spending to make room for the holidays, maybe with the exception of that Baggu crossbody I’ve been stalking. But that might cost me $0 too… Am I crazy for seriously considering selling my APC half moon bag for the Baggu (I’ve been debating this in my head for weeks!).
My spending on clothes might be higher than what most women will spend, but I can justify that to myself because 1. I don’t have children, 2. I am passionate about clothes and willing to spend more on quality 3. I don’t have a gym membership, 4. I don’t travel much at all, 5. I take public transportation, and 6. I almost never go out for fancy dinners or drinks. If you’re reading this and feeling negative in some way, just remember we are all like trees, infinitely different, perfect, and not worth comparing with one another. Do what makes sense for your life, obviously.
I’m hoping the 5-10% range is only what you’ll need to build a foundational wardrobe from almost nothing. Going forward I think it’ll be reasonable to spend closer to 2-3% on clothes to replace worn out things or the buy a few amazing upgrades every once in a while.
What about you? Would love to hear about how much you spend on clothes or your thoughts on how much I spent on clothes.