Friday, January 4, 2013

Budget Fashion, and a 2013 Challenge.

Let me ask you a question:

How much do you think you spend on clothing/accessories in a year?

Up until yesterday, I didn’t know.  I mean, back in the day when I was on the Dave Ramsey “Cash Budget” plan, I gave myself $40/month to spend on clothes, accessories, and assorted beautification supplies.  And I know I didn’t usually use all of it.  Cash remnants in that category would periodically get used for a mini “shopping spree”, or get shifted into other categories, like “going out” money.

I haven’t been on a cash budget in quite a while, so I pretty much lost track of how much I spent on things.  But with this being the Hubs & I’s first full year of marriage, we wanted to keep track of all our spending & make sure it matched up with our annual budget.  Our bank offers a free online budgeting program called Finance Works that allows us to easily categorize purchases made with our debit cards, checks, and credit cards that we link into the software for tracking purposes.

So…what was the grand total? 

A whopping $236 for our entire household.  $145 of that was purchases made by me, while the remainder was the Hubs.

That seems…low.  But it’s pretty accurate.  Granted—there were some clothing items gifted to me by my mom (the queen of garage sales) and a few gift cards used… but overall…yeahh…$145.  A total of eight shopping trips.

So, what can $145 have possibly gotten me?  Well, based on my recollections after reviewing the breakdown:

- 2 pairs jeans

- 4 blouses/dress shirts

- 1 necklace

- 1 pair khakis

- some “beachwear” bought pre-vaycay (1 pair capris, 1 pair shorts, and a sundress)

- 2 bras

- 1 t-shirt


That’s about $10/item.  I’m sorta proud of that.  I’m a hardcore bargain shopper.  I shop primarily discount stores (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc) or outlets.  In fact, of those 8 shopping trips, only two were at non-discount/outlet stores.  I also usually only shop when I have a coupon of some type to use.  It is literally almost PAINFUL for me to spend more than $20 on an item.

And: I’m a gal with limited closet space.  So about 75% of the time if I’m making a purchase, it’s to replace something that got worn out (like the 2 pairs of jeans).  Though I’m by no means immune to buying “wants” if it’s a good deal (the necklace was a souvenir from our beach vaycay, and the t-shirt was bought at Old Navy for a whopping $4).

I also tend to avoid “trendy” items that are likely to go out of fashion as quickly as they showed up, unless they’re really cheap.

So all this budget review got me thinking: What about 2013?  Can I be just as thrifty buying what would normally be “bigger ticket” items?  There are a few things that have been on my wish list for quite a while, but I just haven’t actively sought them out, or haven’t found exactly what I wanted.  I really enjoyed doing my $20 Christmas Tree project last month, so maybe it’s time for another challenge.


The 2013 Fashionista Challenge: Buy all the items on my wish list for under $150.

What does that list include?

1. Brown riding boots:  I have flat black boots, and dressy heel boots in black and brown…but no flat brown boots.  I’ve been wanting a pair for a while, but hadn’t found a style/color that I really loved yet in my price range.  Target Price: $35.


2. New White Button Down Shirt:  This is a replacement piece.  My favorite white button down is starting to get really thin and a bit dingy.  Target Price: $15


3. Colored or Plaid Peacoat:  I have a plain black peacoat, but I’d really like to have a “statement piece”, and I love all the gray plaids I’ve been seeing out & about.  I’ll probably be hitting up thrift stores & Ebay for this search.  Target Price: $20.


4. A New Purse:  My current purse was a Christmas gift from about 2 years ago, and it’s starting to get really worn in places.  Yes….you read that right, I have ONE purse.  I do have a small clutch for fancy-dress parties, but otherwise…ONE bag.  About 5 years ago, I decided the “one black, one brown to match everything” purse concept was outdated & inefficient.  So I started buying colored purses.  Will probably be looking for burgundy, blue, or purple (LOVE jewel tones).  Target Price: $20.


5.  A Bangle Watch:  My favorite watch broke early last year and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it.  I love this concept because it’s a fashion accessory, but still functional. Target Price: $10.


6. Another Button Down Shirt:  Because Pinterest & Polyvore are conspiring to convince me that I need button down shirts to wear with all the cardigans I already own.  Target Price: $10.

The closest reproduction I could do would be black boots, jeggings, fitted black button-down, long olive I have a scarf that would go with that? Hm...


7 & 8.  An Off-White Cardigan and Red Flats: Because with those pieces, I can finally recreate this Polyvore outfit that I love—minus the Coach bag. (And because my former beige cardigan fell apart back in 2011, and because I’ve been lusting after a pair of red shoes FO-EVAH.)  Target Price for Cardigan: $15; Target Price for Shoes: $25.


So, there it is.  My 2013 Fashion Challenge.  The gauntlet has been thrown.  In like, a purely metaphorical sense, seeing as how I don’t OWN a gauntlet.  But here…here’s a picture of a gauntlet, so just imagine that it’s been thrown on the ground.

As far as rules?  There are no rules, other than High Fashion, Low Dollar.  I’ll be shopping at traditional retail stores, discount stores, outlet malls, as well as using Craigslist, Ebay, and second-hand stores.  I’ll post a follow up entry later this year once all the purchases have been made to see how I did.

And now, YOU:  Yes, you.  I’ve got a challenge for you.  If you don’t already track your spending, I challenge you to do so in 2013.  OR:  Just do it for ONE MONTH, to start.  Just to get an idea of what your spending habits are.  So many people out there just spend & spend, and then don’t WANT to know.  Like there’s shame associated with knowing, but if you can just claim ignorance it doesn’t matter?  It’s YOUR money.  Either you control your money, or it controls YOU. 

Either use a budgeting program like Quicken or Finance Works if you have access to them, or just save up your receipts and enter them into a spreadsheet at the end of the month.  Categorize items using classifiers like “Dining”, “Groceries”, “Rent/Mortgage”, “Household Items/Repairs”, “Auto”, “Entertainment”, “Clothing”.  That way you can sort and track your expenditures by category.

And if you spent more than we did on clothes?  SOOO not a big deal.  We’re on the EXTREMELY low end of the spectrum….like, “college kid Ramen budget” end.  I did some research and most financial planners say that spending anything less than 5% of your take-home pay on clothing & accessories is reasonable and manageable.  And your clothing budget depends entirely on YOUR lifestyle.  If you have to dress professionally in suits & high-end fashion for your job, then your expenses are going to be higher than someone like me who can wear “business casual” & jeans to work every day.

Or:  Try your own $150 Challenge.  Pick out 8-10 items that you really want to purchase in 2013, set yourself some target prices, and get to shopping!!!  Let me know in the comments if you’re down for the challenge!!!


  1. Great article! I like the goals you are making yourself. It's a good challenge.. guess your steel toes don't count as "brown boots"?

    1. Hah--no, not quite! Though I really should figure out a way to try to make my green steel toe rubber boots fashion-forward. Those poor things never get used anymore. :)