How to Set a Clothing Budget

Zara pants; Forever 21 blouse and necklace; Payless heels

A sure way to scare off any fashionista is using the words 'clothing budget' in a sentence. Most people equate having a budget with confined creativity, poor quality clothing, or having to re-wear old, dreaded pieces. But today I am here to tell you that having a clothing budget can actually make you a better dresser, helping you make wiser choices, while also saving you money and giving you piece of mind.

Why Have a Clothing Budget?

1. It helps reduce overspending.
We've all spent more money on clothing than we originally planned at least once in our lives. Having a budget is an easy way to avoid these situations, and helps save more money for travel, studying, decorating, or other significant purchases, such as a car or a home.

2. It makes you a more conscious shopper.
The first thing I noticed when I started keeping a monthly budget was that I started to feel more satisfied with my wardrobe, and getting dressed in the morning was no longer a hassle. Setting limits forced me to think more before each purchase, and it enabled me to make the best use of my money. Whether I'm looking for trendy, statement pieces, or I need basics, I always make sure to rank my wish list, so the first pieces I buy are always the ones that bring the most positive change to my wardrobe. Sometimes I crave trendy details to shake things up a bit, sometimes I need neutrals that allow me to wear and combine what I currently own, but either way, my shopping is based on conscious decisions.

3. It helps relieve guilt.
Setting a budget can be a great medicine for buyer's guilt. If it's in the budget, it's fair game, right? Before introducing a budget, my guilt used to eat me alive, so purchasing expensive, good quality pieces was not an option for me. While I knew that quality saves money, I couldn't get myself to spend more on individual items, so I was filling my closet with cheap clothing and poor quality accessories that never really satisfied my needs or cravings. Ironically, I was spending just as much money as I would have on fewer, but better garments. Setting a budget helped me solve this conundrum, and allowed me to slowly acquire some of the investment pieces that are at the base of my current wardrobe. This doesn't mean that I completely eliminated cheap hauls from my life, but now I am doing them purposefully.

4. It reduces family conflicts.
If you are sharing your finances with someone, you might want to consider introducing a clothing budget. If the limits are mutually agreed upon, fighting over purchases or hiding shopping bags become unnecessary. 

Things to Consider when Setting a Budget

1. Income
According to most financial planners, 2-8% of your take home income should be set aside for clothing. This should include alterations and shipping costs, so always keep these in mind when shopping.

While some jobs offer uniforms, or allow for casual outfits, others  require good quality clothing, as emanating power, confidence and professionalism is just as closely related to appearance as it is to other aspects of nonverbal communication. So whether you are a jeans and t-shirt wearing web designer, or work at a fashion magazine, remember that first impressions matter, and don't forget to take your job into account when setting your clothing budget.

3. Shopping habits
Do you shop often, or do you tend to go on large hauls a couple times a year?  For those of you who shop often, I recommend keeping a monthly budget. It allows you to plan ahead and keep track of your spending. If you tend to shop in fewer chunks, such as spring and fall haul, or changing your wardrobe for a new job, I recommend setting a budget just for the shopping trip.

4. Financial goals
Are you saving for a car? A home? A trip? Are you paying off credit card debt? Student loans? Do you have medical bills to pay? Are you planning on having a baby? Don't forget that even fashionistas have other things going on in their lives besides dressing well. If you have significant financial goals, reduce your clothing budget to make room for these other categories. I personally cannot imagine my life without traveling, so sacrificing my travel budget for clothes is not an option.

How to Manage a Clothing Budget?

1. Plan ahead. Write a wishlist.
Before making any purchase, create a wish list with the most important pieces you need and want to get each month. List all the basics that would allow you to more efficiently combine the pieces you already own, and all the colors, patterns, or trends you fell in love with.

2. Prioritize.
If you are anything like me, your budget will not allow you to get everything on your wish list. So instead of purchasing the first things you thought of, and stopping when you run out of money, why not get the pieces you need or want the most? Create a hierarchy based on which pieces would bring the most positive change to your wardrobe, and start with buying what is really important. If your are bored with the contents of your closet, you probably need more colorful, patterned, trendy pieces. But if you are unable to wear a few of your favorites with what you own, you probably need to invest in basics.

3. Give yourself some wiggle room.
Just because you made some plans before hitting the stores, it doesn't mean you can't buy that long sleeve dress, military jacket, or studded handbag you always wanted and were unable to find, or that you can't fall in love with something that's not on your list. Allow yourself to re-think your budget if you run across one time deals or items you know are difficult to find.

4. Carry over. 
You don't have to spend your whole budget that same month if you don't find pieces you truly love. Let it carry over.  This way you can save up for something big, or have more to work with those times of the year when most stores offer sales and deals.

I hope I convinced you that instead of limiting your creativity, your clothing budget can help you make more conscious shopping choices, and it can result in a more thought out, complete, and fashionable wardrobe. It also allows you to save money for other aspects of your life, and it gives you piece of mind.

What is your shopping strategy? Do you like the structure provided by a budget, or do you give yourself more freedom?
Have a wonderful Thursday evening!


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