Right after I “saved” money on my summer vacation, I spent money on a wool sweater that I won’t be wearing til fall or winter. I can run through all the justifications…big sale, good brand, free shipping, merino wool, polka dots…but it really makes no sense. If it fits as well as it looks online, I’ll be happy. However, it did make me set a clothing budget budget. I’ve held off replacing many items over the past year and it’s been getting hard to find work-appropriate summer clothes. It’s also time that I replaced some worn-out shoes. For what it’s worth, I haven’t bought anything for myself since January 2012 and have gone up a size.*
Despite my desire to revamp my wardrobe, I did imposed some guidelines to keep my spending in check:
1) Keep A List: I assessed my clothing needs and decided to keep a list (with budget next to each item) in my wallet at all times.
2) Really Assess Your Closet: As I mentioned in #1, I actually looked inside my closet to see what I needed/wanted. After my first assessment, I came up with a fairly long list plus a target spending amount in each category. For example, I am willing to spend more on shoes than blouses. However, I quickly busted my budget on one pair of shoes! I re-examined my closet and realized that I didn’t need to buy everything on my list. I could boost my summer work/play wardrobe just by using what I got. 1) I have two summer-y items hanging in my closet for months because they need ironing; and 2) I should finally wear a summer dress that I bought last year!
2) Work/Play: In the past, I had a clear division between casual and work clothes, which definitely increased my spending. Since my workplace is fairly casual, I’m spending on clothes and shoes that are good for both work and play.
3) Frugal Substitutes: Rather than replacing every item that is now too small or past its prime, I’m trying to figure out if one item can do 2 jobs. Example: Three of my work skirts were no longer presentable — a dark denim skirt, black pencil skirt and gray A-line skirt. I replaced all items with a more basic straight gray/navy skirt. It’s very versatile and something I can wear to work or for a night out.
4) Remember that higher price doesn’t always equal higher quality! While I do think some designer brands look and feel better, it doesn’t always mean that their items will last longer. Pricing also reflects brand perception and higher store mark-ups. Plus, I’ve found that many items I have from Target and Old Navy have hold up for years when taken care of. Update: I do have to give kudos to my one pair of high-end designer shoes, a brand I never heard of but just looked up and realized that these cost on average $400-500. I got it for close to $100 and you can definitely find them on sale or online for the $200 range. Anyway, it’s an Italian brand, great-quality leather, comfortable, well-made and beautifully designed and has held up extremely well over 8+ years. My only concern is that this has become my go-to heels now that others have come and gone. I need to get a second pair just to give these a break and get another 8+ years out of them. Or try to find the same pair on Ebay.
5) Buy What You Love: I spent a day mulling over the purchase of those cute shoes. It went on sale so I took it as a sign to buy even though it was still above my original price point. I made adjustments to my budget by cutting out other wants. At the end of the day, if you don’t love it, it’s not a bargain. Tip: Some retailers offer price protection so if you’re not sure you got the best price, go to the www.priceprotectr.com and sign up for a notification if the price drops within 7 days on the item you just bought.
* It’s strange to be a bigger size on pants and skirts only, while still being smaller for blouses and tops.
How do you manage your clothing budget? Do you set a budget or just buy what you want/need?