How much money I spent on clothes in 2017.


[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.


16 thoughts on “How much money I spent on clothes in 2017.

  1. That’s pretty amazing that your work offers financial counseling. It’s so true that it’s not about how much you make but rather about how you manage assets. I like the baggu bag–I saw it while back at the baggu store in my city, and it’s so soft and friendly. That said, I like the APC half moon bag very much as well, even though I manage to scratch my hand when taking stuff out of it. If you’d consider selling directly, I’d love a chance to buy it from you (for more than the cost of a baggu!), although it seems like you have a consignment arrangement…

    Unfortunately I spend more on clothes and have less of a minimalist ethos than I’d like. I’d say the 1 in five figure for clothing/accessories duds is about right. And I find that things I spend a lot of money on, that I truly love and think about for a bit–Rag and Bone boots, bags, and denim that doesn’t get all lumpy on me–seldom fail. It’s usually the “oh, this is on super sale!” mentality that gets me into trouble. Typically if I didn’t already have it in mind, I really didn’t need it.


    1. If I do decide to sell it, I will keep you in mind for sure and we could do a direct transaction thru paypal if you’d like. But I need time to think about it. I’ve had the apc half moon bag for a few years, it’s in good condition, but there is some slight wear and the leather has softened. I don’t find myself carrying it around as much because of the very issue you bring up.. it only became an issue when I started carrying a bag around work because I’m walking around a lot now.


    2. Hi are you still interested in the APC bag? let me know by submitting a comment on my “about” page with your email address so I can send you pics of the bag and a paypal request if you choose to purchase. thanks.


  2. I’m assuming that’s 5% of your monthly takehome, post 401k, benefits and transit deductions, etc. I’m probably well within that though I didn’t track diligently.

    I am so curious as to what the financial coach will share with you – let us know if you can! I learned almost everything I know from personal finance blogs and some personal finance books. At this point I have no debt, I save 12% for retirement (should be more) and invest an extra $400/mo. I also have sub-accounts for savings for specific things (emergency account for me, vet account for the cats, account for apartment needs, vaca, hair appts, clothes, gifts). Those are all money spent — even if it’s money spent eventually – so I don’t really count them as savings. I would like to ramp up my investing or retirement savings but still haven’t figured out what to cut down on to do so despite having a budget that I track month to month. I’ll figure it out eventually.


    1. The 5% is post tax.. no guides talked about 401k and benefits… but that’s how i’m calculating it. I’ll keep you posted on the coach advice. Sounds like you have your stuff in order… i’m starting to get there but need to do better at saving. I’m so impressed by your vet account. I need one for my dog!


  3. I try to shop secondhand for designer clothes and shoes, but occasionally I will pay full MSRP for basics that I anticipate will (eventually) yield a good cost-per-wear. I lack the patience to search for smaller brands like Elizabeth Suzann on the secondhand market; I usually end up paying full price for those – but I never feel guilty about that, because I know ES pays their employees well and devote a lot of time and energy to sourcing ethically produced fabrics.

    Sadly, I’m closer to the 10% benchmark for spending on clothes and shoes… but I live in a LCOL city and no longer have a mortgage, so there’s more flexibility with my disposable income once fixed expenses, saving and investments come off the top. I don’t have children and don’t plan to; recently I’ve started to think about how the normal expense of childcare most people my age (40) have incurred will be offset later in life. With no kids, I’ll be wholly responsible for my end-of-life care, and will probably have to transition to assisted living or hire in-home assistance earlier than my peers who will have kids and grandkids to help with cooking/cleaning/etc. Yikes. For the past decade, I’ve excused my loose purse strings by thinking “I don’t have kids, I don’t have to save for braces or college…” but maybe that’s not a great attitude.


    1. I wouldn’t wait around for ES to be sold secondhand either… for things that special, you just pay full price. When all is said and done, you will probably still be financially better off than someone who has a bunch of kids. Nowadays, parents are supporting their kids well into their late 30s. And the next generation will probably go thru even more economic hardship than our generation. And end of life care is so astronomically high (obviously depending on your illness) that no amount of saving could prepare you… we will all be poor in the end… But I’m also biased from working with patients who are dying of horrific prolonged diseases and seeing how that plays out among families, even big families cannot afford the 200,000+/yr it takes to provide 24/7 care and they have to give up their life savings for spend down to qualify for medicaid which is the only way you will get all the care one needs to die with comfort.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Here is an interesting read:

    I don’t think you or anyone else needs to justify what is spent on clothing. We live varied lives. I’ve always worked in a more casual environment so my clothing transitions from work to weekend wear. If I was in a corporate environment I would expect to spend more because I wouldn’t be wearing a suit on Saturday afternoon! I think we need to focus less on the ‘numbers’ and more on the ‘need’(and being able to distinguish this from the ever so present ‘want’ that is prevalent today). It would be better for the environment if clothing cost more—a built in check system to get people to get off the more, and disposable way in which clothing is currently viewed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this year end spending inventory. I’m curious now, so I might need to do it as an exercise for myself. I hadn’t read the Money diaries before, but it’s such a fascinating glimpse into people’s lives that you don’t often get, that now I’m hooked! Thank you so much for sharing!


    1. Yes! I highly recommend you do an inventory. I was scared of what I would find out but now that it’s done, I feel like I can continue to make better decisions.


  6. I actually did a rundown recently of my clothing purchases for 2017. So far I’ve spend $1191 with an average cost of $36.09 per item, though there’s a chance I will buy a couple more items before the year is out. For me, it was more than I am used to spending, especially since a lot of it happened within the span of a couple months, but I’m happy with the place my wardrobe is at now.


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