Ask Belle: Determining Clothing Budget
Aug 22, 2013
I’m wondering how you determine your budget for clothing, shoes, handbags, accessories and beauty products. Is each a percentage of your salary or do you simply spend whatever you feel like? I’m trying to get a handle on how much I should be willing to spend or not spend when it comes to these items. Thanks!
First off, I think that every woman should have a budget. You should have a firm grasp of what you can afford to spend on necessities (rent, food, etc.) and extras (clothing, vacations, etc.) so that you can pay down debt, save for the future and live with fewer financial worries. If you’re new to budgeting, this worksheet from The Washington Post can get you started, and articles from sites like Learnvest and WIFE can help motivate you.
As for how much to spend on clothing, most of the articles I found recommend a clothing budget of four-percent of your annual take home salary. But I’m willing to sacrifice in other areas (fewer meals out, fewer trips, public transportation) in order to add more money to my clothing budget. So I spend about seven percent of my salary on clothing.
How do I keep track of my clothes spending? I link my credit card to my Learnvest account, which allows me to separate out my expenses by type. The site keeps track of my spending by percentage and alerts me when I’m getting close to my limit. Having that reminder that it’s time to rein it in really helps. I also try to take one week off from buying anything but essentials each month. I find it helps me focus my spending.
Also, I don’t spend money evenly throughout the year. Most of my shopping is done in April/May and August/September when the new collections hit stores for the upcoming seasons. So I budget more of my money for those times and less for months like February when there’s not much reason to shop.
When I was younger, I definitely racked up debt buying clothes and shoes. Too much debt. When I finally got a handle on my finances, I realized that no piece of clothing was worth years of accruing interest. So I developed a rule of thumb: If I can’t pay off an item in full within 60 days of purchase, I don’t want it. I also try to save up in advance for big purchases like a new suit, a great bag or some fabulous shoes. Even if you can only save up half the purchase price, it makes paying it off that much easier.
A lot of my friends only carry cash when they shop. It helps keep them on budget, limits impulse buying and gives them a greater sense of control. And if they see something that they really love and want to pay off over time, they can always come back and get it later.
Lastly, if you’re trying to decide how much to spend on one type of item, that depends on your priorities. I am much more willing to spend on items I can wear for years like coats, shoes and bags than I am on seasonal, trendy pieces. And since I rely so heavily on dresses, I will spend more money on a dress than separates. Figure out what you really like to wear and what will be worn the most to determine where to focus your spending.
So do you set a clothing allowance for yourself? Any tips you’d like to share?