Clothing Budget Q&A

I sifted through the Style Help Survey responses and am excited to talk about them!  Thanks so much for your questions, and if you still want to contribute some, please do.  
Some of them will be answered with their own posts while others will be a string of Q&A, like today’s post.
Today I grouped the questions about budgeting and spending.  I suppose these aren’t really style questions, but eh, we’ll get to those soon enough.  ðŸ™‚  Let’s get to it, shall we?

What’s your annual fashion/clothes etc budget? I know you probably spend more as a blogger/receive freebies, but you can probably adjust/imagine if you weren’t 🙂 You’re one of the only bloggers who consistently spends in my price range/you seem to recycle pieces a lot which is realistic/what real people do. Other bloggers spend 50$ on skirts at LOFT frequently, and that’s not me 🙂

I haven’t talked much about my clothing budget here, mostly because it’s not cut and dry, but I’ll explain why that is.  The short answer is that Benson and I each have $75/mo or $900/yr allotted for “shopping.”  That could mean clothes, books, music, and other recreational items.  He mostly buys books, music, and technology, and I mostly buy clothes.  ðŸ˜›
But the longer answer, which is why it’s not totally cut and dry, is because besides sometimes getting free clothes from companies, I sometimes receive gift money from my family for birthdays and holidays, and I sell clothes and put the money back into my “shopping” budget.  So, more than $75/mo is factored into the gross total for what I spend on clothes.  The other tricky part is that if you just look at what I spent on “shopping” it could include clothes for myself, a book I bought, or even a present I bought for Benson.  It’s not all just clothing for me.
Overall, while I could figure out how much I actually spend on clothes, I don’t pay attention to that number.  When I look at our budget I just glance at the “Audrey’s Shopping” category, which is a net total of everything, and make sure I’m not in the red.  If I were to guess…maybe $1500/yr on clothes, not including items I get for free?

Do you have any tips for budgeting when you shop? For example, how much to spend each month, how much to spend on different pieces, like bottoms, tops, dresses, etc.

My biggest tip for budgeting when you shop is to have a budget.  Haha.  And keep track of what you’ve spent.  Benson and I have a spreadsheet where we input our receipts every so often (every week if you’re him, every month if you’re me–oops!)  Once you determine your budget, how you choose to use it depends on what would serve you best.

Regarding how I spend that money, for me, that depends on a few things.  In the past I used to be very concerned about the actual price of an item, but these days I’m more concerned about how much value the item will deliver.  And “value” for me is not just about how many times I think I’ll wear it, though Stacy and Clinton’s talk of “cost per wear” can be helpful.  Value comes in a few different forms for me:

Value includes things like time, emotional energy, and mental space saved if I just bought a slightly more expensive thing that I really like rather than continuing to search for another perfect but cheaper version.  For example, I’d been looking for a replacement white skirt for 6-8 months.  I’m typically comfortable with up to $35 for skirts, but $20-$25 if they’re jersey skirts, depending on thickness.  The one above was $36 (HERE) and a jersey skirt, $10-$15 above my average comfort level.

However, this one fit me perfectly and could end my months of ordering skirts, trying them on, sending them back–ugh.  Because it was on the higher end of my comfort zone, I hemmed and hawed for a bit.  I finally asked myself, “Is saving the extra $10-$16 worth another few months of my time and energy trying on more pieces that may or may not fit as well as this one right in front of me?”  Now that I have a kid?  NO.  Absolutely not.  Especially because even though it’s $10-$15 higher than my average for jersey skirts, the $36 total is not far from my comfort level for skirts in general.

Value could also include purchasing a cheap thrill simply because it’s fun, the same way I would splurge one day on a bowl of ice cream.  Most people consider a $50+ or $100+ item a “splurge,” but I actually consider the $12 striped Old Navy swing dress a splurge.  That’s because no matter how you twist it, I don’t need it in my closet.  It doesn’t fill any hole, and I don’t have a lot of confidence it’ll be “in” next season.  But, I got it because it was fun, I enjoyed it, and there was room in my budget for it!  So, I paid $12 to have fun, and it was a conscious decision I was okay with because fun is valuable to me.

Value is also determined by use.  The floral top above was $39 (found HERE).  That’s a lot more than I usually pay for tops.  But, it was a replacement for a top I LOVED and wore often, so I knew I’d wear this one a lot.  And, it’s so pretty, it can be worn casually or for work or dressed up.  And overall I just love it, so I let myself spend a little more for it.

Your values might be entirely different than mine.  You might have disposable time, love the thrill of the hunt for a cheap price, or love having a rotating closet of inexpensive pieces you wear just a few times but didn’t spend much on.  The point is for your spending to be guided by your values, and be an intentional, conscious choice–not just you throwing money away without it adding any sort of value to your life.  

How much do you spend on different pieces?
I don’t have hard and fast rules for this.  As a ballpark, my ceilings for comfortable prices are $30 for tops, $35 for skirts since I feel like good ones are hard to find, $25 for dresses, $15 for shorts since I wear them much less, and a variety for pants depending on if they’re dress pants, jeans, or what.  I typically am comfortable with a little higher for pants though, like $60.

What’s your limit for spending on a single piece?
I tend to squirm when anything nears $100.  That doesn’t mean I won’t pay that much for things like riding boots or designer jeans, but I will think about it for a LONG time.  I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $200 for piece of clothing.

I’m a Target, TJ Maxx, Old Navy type of shopper when it comes to budget. What are some other stores that you think offer quality products at this budget level?

I think places like Target, Old Navy, and H&M can sometimes offer quality products.  Even Forever 21!  You just never know.  Some of my oldest and most worn pieces are from all of those stores, like my cognac moto jacket, or some of my cardigans, and have lasted me years.  
I’ve found that J.Crew Factory and LOFT are in a similar budget level when they have sales.  In fact, LOFT is running an extra 50% off sale items right now HERE, or see some great closet basics on sale below.

Links to Shop:
one  |  two  |  three  |  four  |  five

I love Nordstrom Rack for nice coats. I’ve also found pieces at Nordstrom that are in a similar price range, like this lace tank on sale for $28.80!

How do you know when to save and when to splurge? I splurge on shoes most of the time because I’m on my feet a lot, but what about other pieces? Sometimes the saying “you get what you pay for” is true, and sometimes it isn’t! Do you have a rule of thumb to follow for deciding how much you spend on an item?

I agree that you don’t always “get what you pay for.”  I usually anchor my price range according to the comfort limits I talked about earlier.  From there, like I said earlier, if I decide to spend above that, I’ll think a lot more about overall value.  Time is more precious than money to me at this point in my life, so I’ve been willing to pay a little more to save time and energy.  However, the opposite might be true for someone else, which is why I think it goes back to your values.

Pieces I’m starting to spend a little more on are below.  They tend to be hard for me to find at cheaper prices, or ones that are better for my body, like shoes.

  • Designer jeans.  As mentioned in a past shopping review HERE.  Those Paige denim skinnies I tried fit like a glove.  (See more Paige denim HERE.)  
  • Maternity skinny jeans (whenever I need that again).  I had one hell of a time trying to find maternity skinny jeans when I was pregnant and never did.  I felt very unlike myself during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters without skinny jeans, but I made the best of it.  I told Benson, “Whenever I’m pregnant again, I’m going to splurge on designer maternity denim!” like the pair below HERE or one of these pairs.
  • Riding boots.  The search never ends!  (find pair below HERE)
  • Better quality shoes.  Like I said earlier, I was looking into Sam Edelman HERE or Dolce Vita HERE.

How often do you have buyer’s remorse? Fear of this seems to paralyze me when I’m out shopping.

Less than I did before, but still more often than I want to. I wrote a post about that HERE. I also use the post on shopping for remixable pieces to help guide me to better decisions. Lastly, I try stuff on at home for a long time and make sure I’m able to return them, whether by getting free shipping to my house and have a nearby store that I can return them to or by shopping at stores with free returns. (Nordstrom, ASOS, now Old Navy yayyyyy, Zappos, Amazon w/ Prime, etc.)

Knowing I can return for free and with ease by mail with free returns, removes the fear that I might be making a mistake. I can have it in my house, try it on, and try it with other clothes. If I don’t like it, I just print the return label, package it back in the bag/box it came in, and put it on my doorstep for the mailman.

What’s YOUR average comfortable ceiling for different pieces? Do you have a limit for how much you’d ever spend on a single piece?

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