How to Create and Maintain a Wardrobe Budget

money_savingImage via Flickr

While I’m fortunate to have a job that keeps a roof over my head and food on my table in a very expensive city, I don’t have an abundance of extra cash to spend on my wardrobe. It can be a bit of a tease that New York is such a fashion-conscious city, yet after most people have paid their rent there isn’t much left over to add unnecessary frills to their closet.

I’ve been living and, subsequently, getting dressed in New York for nearly 7 years with relative success. Here are a few of my tips for making the most of your budget without ending up in shoe debt!

Establish Your Budget

I manage my budget on a monthly basis using Mint. The amount that I can spend on my wardrobe changes by the month depending on how much I’ll make (some months I have freelance income and some I don’t) and what other things I know I’ll have to spend on. Generally, I spend no more than $250 per month on clothing, and it’s always the first thing that I scale back on during months that I have a lot of expenses. You’d be surprised at what you can get on a small budget if you are smart about how you spend it!

Don’t Pay Full-Price

This seems like an obvious one, but I can’t stress the importance of researched shopping enough. It might satisfy your shopping needs to just buy on the spot in a store, but I’ve found that there is almost always a way to get what you want for less. Before you buy, check sites like RetailMeNot for coupon codes, Google the style name to see if any other stores carry the same item for less, or wait it out until there is a coupon or a sale. For example, I love Piperlime, but I rarely buy anything there without using the 20% off coupons that they make available every few weeks! I also try to find discounts at stores where I have a gift card — if you can cover most of your purchase with a coupon and a gift card, your out-of-pocket expense is much less.

Set Up Sartorial Savings

Let’s face it: we’ve all lusted after that bag, or that skirt that will blow our monthly budget completely. If you are passionate about owning big-ticket wardrobe items, prove your devotion to yourself by creating a wardrobe savings account that you contribute to throughout the year. Friend cancelled on dinner tonight? Drop the $40 you would have spent into your savings account. I would actually suggest setting this up even if you don’t have something particular in mind right now — better to have the funds saved up if it’s an item that will sell out before you had the opportunity to save for it!

Plan Seasons Ahead

We’re headed into the spring and summer now, but I’m already thinking about things I’ll need to purchase for the fall. I find that especially in the fall, we tend to need more expensive items (i.e. jackets, boots), so it’s best to start thinking about these things as soon as possible and plan accordingly. Likewise, the spring and summer can be heavy on weddings for some people, so planning to pad your wardrobe budget for these items is smart.

Create Wardrobe Goals

Once in a while, go through your wardrobe and assess where it’s lacking. Think about what happened when you were getting dressed that morning: did you put away the first thing you reached for because you didn’t have the right shoes to go with the outfit? Maybe you’re bored with wearing the same outfit over and over. Whatever the case, set aside some time to take a real, objective look at what’s in your closet and play around with new combinations. Your goal should be a wardrobe that feels easy-to-use and versatile. Once you identify what would bridge the gaps in your wardrobe (i.e. some new t-shirts or a pair of neutral flats), make filling them a priority before you spend on yet another one-use top.

How do you plan your wardrobe budget?

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16 Comments

Filed under Fashion, Shopping

16 responses to “How to Create and Maintain a Wardrobe Budget

  1. These suggestions are great! As a recent college grad, my budget’s pretty tight, but I’ve been increasingly eyeing more expensive items. Setting a wardrobe budget is something that I’m definitely going to have to try, and as I already use Mint, it shouldn’t be too hard to set that up.

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  4. Great post. Congratulations on being featured in IFB’s Links a la Mode this week.

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  8. Lisa

    IFB’s Links A La Mode, Congrats!!! One more budgeting trick that you use that you didn’t mention – start a blog and feature some of those wish list items in your posts. Makes for easy gifting from your loved ones for special occasions #nudeflatswith bling#happybirthday

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  12. These are some really, really great tips. I love using mint.com, but now that I’ve moved to Australia, I can’t connect my aussie bank accounts, which seriously sucks. That thing really got me through some of the toughest financial months of my life! But I also really agree with your point on never paying full price. That was my actual motto for years while I was in university, and everyone would make fun of “Erica the cheapass” but when it came down to it, I thought they were ridiculous for spending $60 on a shirt when I could get a similar one (similar quality and everything) for $20-30, with a little googling and coupon codes. I mean, come on! You’re practically throwing your money away! Great post 🙂

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