Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dissect Your Budget - Part 5 - Clothing

Tip #241 - Dissect Your Budget - Part 5 - Clothing. Like food, clothing is one of the ncecessities in life. But just like we can get by with hamburger meat versus filet mignon, non-brand clothing meets our needs as well as Ralph Lauren and Versace. At a most basic level, we need clothing to keep us covered to protect us from the sun in the summertime and to keep us warm in the wintertime. In addition, depending on the climate we live in, we need outerwear to further protect us from harsh cold. Once we have these basic clothing needs met, everything else is just fluff. Being in style and wearing clothing without rips and stains are nice, but at a very basic level, they are not necessary.

Having said all that, living in the United States, we do have a certain basic clothing expectation. And unless you are truly counting your pennies for your next meal, we have a general standard to uphold. But it is not necessary for one's clothing budget to be large. As an adult, our size generally will not vary much from year to year, and most of us should be able to get by with a basic wardrobe. Now that a new season is upon us, it is a good time to go through your clothing. Pull out clothes that haven't been worn in more than a year and donate them. Parse your wardrobe to a certain number of pants, shirts, dresses or skirts, undergarments, socks, shoes, nighttime wear, and outerwear. Make sure you have enough clothing to cover one to two weeks of basic outfits. In addition, you should have a couple of occasion outfits for religious services and special events. Depending on your needs, you may also have a few outfits for exercise, outdoor activities, or other specific regular activity.

Once you have thinned out your wardrobe, take inventory of what you have and what you are missing. Do this for each person in your family. Write down what articles of clothing you need to buy in the coming year to round out your wardrobe and break it up so monthly expenses on clothing are even. For example, you might need two pair of pants, three shirts, one dress, one pair of pajamas, one spring jacket, and a pair of work boots to complete your wardrobe. Estimate what that will cost and then divide it by 12 to make that your monthly clothing budget. It doesn't mean that if you see a great deal on shirts, that you should just buy one, but you should stick to your overall yearly budget and try to spread the costs throughout the year.

Speaking of costs, I mentioned above that it is not necessary to have designer brands to meet your clothing needs. If money is tight, you can find decent clothing in discount stores such as Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Ross, Kohl's, WalMart, KMart, and Target. End of season sales are a great time to buy needed articles of clothing. And in the US, end-of-season often comes smack in the middle of the season so that you can still get use of the item during the current year. If you don't have an aversion to pre-owned clothing, then thrift stores and consignment stores are fantastic places to get deep discounts on clothing. Used clothing is especially helpful for young children who outgrow clothes season to season. In spring and summer, there are consignment sales all over the country selling used kids' clothing for much less than new. You can even score designer clothes for a fraction of the original price at both thrift stores and consignment sales. Another method of getting low-cost clothing is to swap clothing with a good friend, a sister, or at an organized clothing swap.

The main point of your clothing budget, however, is to stick with only buying what you need. If you only need two shirts, then don't buy three no matter how good the deal is. And that pair of sandals that will make your freshly painted toes look so nice? Not necessary, unless you have it in the budget.

In Real Life (IRL) - I have written many times that I am not a shopper. And to a fault, I am not, at least when it comes to retail stores. My clothing can certainly use some updating. And ever since I have stopped working nearly three years ago, I have less of a need to go shopping for clothes. So buying too many clothes or more than is in my budget is generally not a problem for me. Although I have been guilty of buying 'just one more cute dress' for my youngest daughter because there are so many of them out there and at such good prices. And I realize that is where other people go over budget on themselves for clothing, as well.

Back when I was younger in the 1970's and '80's, there were not sales year-round like there is now. And there weren't as many discount stores around like WalMart, Ross, and Kohl's. We had Sears, Penneys, and KMart for a long time until Marshall's came to our city. That was it. Thrift stores were not regular stopping points on a shopping trip for most middle class people. Today it is much more acceptable and even expected to buy used. So in a way we are lucky because there are so many "cheap" clothing options today. But they come at cost, and that cost is overbuying. Cheap prices lead us to buying more than we need. And that is why we need to keep a good inventory of what items really are necessary in our clothing budget and sticking to it. Buying more than we need because it's a good deal or beacuse something is adorable is where we waste our money. Make up a clothing budget for the year and stick to it. And when you want to hand over the $20 bill for that unnecessary cute pair of sandals that is not in your budget, ask yourself if that twenty will be better in your retirement savings account or paying off some credit card debt rather than on your feet?

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