Fashion is a part of our lives, each and every day. We see it on people we pass on the way to work, we see it on television and we see it through the constant bombardment of ads and sales. Reining in the desire to ring up every cute little outfit we see immediately is nearly impossible.
But at some point, you have to restrain yourself and draw a line. So how do you know where to draw that line and when to cross it for something you simply can’t live without?
First and foremost, it helps to understand your finances. Learn how to create a clothing budget that works for you. Doing so can turn you into a smart, savvy shopper:
Follow the Five Percent Rule
According to Pete Dunn, only five percent of your after-tax, take-home budget should be spent on clothes. Of course, there are a few exceptions. For instance, you might have to spend more if you have an entire family to dress or if you have a career that requires keeping up with the latest fashion trends. But, ultimately, this baseline rule allows you to budget your monthly income. How you spend this five percent is entirely up to you, but a good rule of thumb is to invest in quality over quantity so that you get the most out of your budget.
On the other hand, if you’re in the midst of paying off college tuition or debt, you may want to scale back that budget even more. And these tips are sure to help create a practical clothing budget. After you’ve squirreled away some savings and wiped out any debt, then you can spend more money on clothing.
Take Inventory of Your Existing Wardrobe
Without realizing it, some of us overindulge and shop until there’s eventually no more room in the closet. Chances are, there’s probably a garment or two buried on the rack that’s even been forgotten. So one of the best ways to be a savvy shopper is to take inventory of your existing wardrobe and remind yourself of what you own.
Start by pulling everything out and filtering through all your pieces. You can even try the KonMari method to ask yourself if an item “sparks joy” or should be bid farewell. This little ritual will not only substantially trim down your closet and make it breathable, but allow you to rediscover items long lost or forgotten. You might find items you didn’t know you had.
And by taking inventory of your closet, you can reassess what items you can coordinate into a full ensemble or what you truly need. This way, when you do spend your five percent clothing budget, you spend it on necessary items.
Fund Your Clothing Budget
As you sort through the clothes and accessories of your entire wardrobe in a Marie Kondo ritual, you’ll have to decide what stays and what goes. And you might as well take advantage of all your efforts. Another way to be a savvy shopper is to redistribute more funds to your clothing budget by reselling gently used clothes.
If your wardrobe is full of items you no longer want, consider selling them through sites such as eBay or thredUP to increase your current clothing budget. Not only are you padding your wallet, but you’re also offering it to someone else who would genuinely enjoy it. And face it, you didn’t know half that stuff was in your closet, anyway.
Invest in Quality Over Quantity
As a whole, the fashion industry has created a nasty problem for the environment. So while it’s tempting to make your budget go as far as possible by shopping at fast fashion brands, it’s doing more harm than good. Also remember to reach for more socially and environmentally conscious brands, too.
Aside from the social and environmental impact, other stores and online shops also offer lower quality garments. Instead of spending $100 at a cheap fast-fashion store, where you’ll likely throw out the piece by next season, spend that money on a more timeless, high-quality piece that you’ll cherish.
Purchase clothing made to last and that also stands the test of time. Classic and timeless pieces that never go out of style are going to appear chicer for much longer. Think classic black blazers or white blouses for office attire. And invest in affordable yet quality shapewear and footwear that you’ll be able to wear a year or more from now.
Challenge Yourself to a Shopping Ban
Last but not least, give yourself a real challenge with a shopping ban. There’s nothing more eye-opening than to see how many times you must resist the urge to shop. Not only will this make you fully aware of your past spending habits, but it will also save you money in the long run.
Challenge yourself with a monthly, quarterly, or even yearly goal to avoid the purchase of a single piece of clothing. By setting this goal, you can allow your clothing fund to inflate, even rewarding yourself when you reach the finish line. Dangle a carrot, so to speak, and go out and purchase something you’ve had your eye on for quite some time.
Of course, this shopping ban only applies to you. Should you need to purchase gifts for others, like to celebrate a friend’s birthday, that’s the only exception to the rule. But make it a hard and fast rule. While there’s no shame in leisure shopping with friends occasionally, always remind yourself to purchase out of necessity, not desire. The point of this shopping ban exercise is to learn more about your impulsive spending habits and to avoid overpaying for “retail therapy” sessions.
It takes hard work and commitment to stay within a budget. If you’re one who swings by a clothing store on a weekly basis for no reason whatsoever, it’ll be a challenge for sure. But with these tips, you’ll soon recognize the value of a garment and become a savvy shopper.