A few years ago I decided to set a monthly clothing budget – in part to keep myself in check because I was running a business that centred around fashion but also to eliminate guilt when buying bigger ticket items. I am not usually one to blow my own trumpet but I will make an exception here – it works a treat. I have finished each financial year on track, allowed myself some treats along the way but also hunted down some great bargains because my budget dictates that I must shop smart. It has altered my mindset towards shopping almost entirely; I feel in control and I love it.
I will say this – due to the nature of my business (running this site and associated Instagram channels) I do receive gifts from brands here and there and I am so grateful for those BUT I also believe my wardrobe to be far bigger than is necessary for someone not working in this industry… or even for me to be honest.
With that in mind I set my budget at £100 per month and this includes just about everything from winter coats to workout gear with one exception – lingerie. The reason that is not included for me is purely because, with the arrival of two babies in two years, there have been A LOT of size fluctuations that required attention and I refused to nuke a whole month’s budget on maternity bras. Conversely I have not bought any new lingerie for over a year now.
If you have not set a budget already (what are you waiting for?) or have trouble sticking to it then I have noted my top tips below – I would so love to know if you try them out…
SET A BUDGET
This is the first, and possibly trickiest, one to tackle… research suggests 5% of your annual salary (after tax) would be appropriate but this is SO individual and, whilst I think this is a great jumping off point, I asked myself this – what do I feel comfortable spending on clothes? £100 per month felt right for me because it is integral to my business and also because it felt like a figure I could work with – it allows me the indulgence of a higher priced piece once in a while (this Sézane top wipes out April entirely) but it also affords me a reasonable selection of new bits in a month if I shop smart (four pieces from Mango at £25 for example).
WRITE IT DOWN
The budget only works if you keep track of it. Start a spreadsheet, jot it down in a notebook – whatever works for you but you MUST write it down. I keep an online version with a running tally – I simply list the date and the available budget (sometimes I am in credit and sometimes minus) and I amend it each week, editing the date and adding my weekly £25. I also keep a note of any purchases made, ready to deduct from the budget if I decide to keep. This keeps me in check and helps me decide if I really can afford to make the purchase. Right now I am swithering over a few things (ok, £300 of ‘things’) which could send me into budget oblivion… a three month shopping ban BUT that is the budget working her magic and really making me consider whether these pieces are worth it to me.
INVENTORY WHAT YOU HAVE
A relatively dull task but taking stock of what you already own really makes a big difference. This step allows you not only to assess which pieces you get best wear out of and which might need replacing due to size issues but it also brings to light exactly how many white lace blouses you might own (six…) – so the next time I feel drawn towards a white lace blouse I can remind myself that I do NOT need another. Whilst I never went as far as to inventory my entire wardrobe by writing it down, I did have the pleasure of a closet organisation session with Pam of Creating Calm Spaces who arranged all my pieces by colour and style so it is quite plain to see where I have perhaps overindulged (in fact, if you look closely, I think you can even see the white lace section in that photo). In a nutshell, this helps you to only buy what you need.
SELL, SELL, SELL
If you find yourself in the position of having too many of one thing then you should consider selling (or donating) what you no longer need or wear. I love ebay for this but have had success on Depop in the past and would certainly look to Vestiaire for designer pieces. You could then add your sales profits back into the budget – if, for example, I chose to sell all six white lace tops I could likely then reinvest the pennies in one really great, higher end version. However, whilst I do sell bits now and again I choose not to top up my clothing allowance purely because we are saving…
SHOP YOUR OWN WARDROBE
One of the downsides of fast fashion is its ability to kill our creativity. Often I fall in love with a look but, before I ‘add to basket’, I take a look at my own wardrobe and see what I can recreate from there. The obsession with newness is beginning to wane at last with a new emphasis on sustainability. Magazines, Instagram and Pinterest (use it like a search engine by typing ‘maxi dress outfit’ for example) are all great sources of inspiration but it is worth considering a browse of some popular brands as well – Sézane is a firm favourite of mine for new layering ideas. Turn a cardigan backwards, add a new belt on top of a jacket, pop a jumper over a summer dress – anything to give a much loved oldie a new lease of life. Might be worth checking out my new series of styling videos where I highlight five ways to wear one piece (I actually LOVE filming those videos because they force me to think outside the box too).
SHOP WITHIN YOUR MEANS
I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory but obviously refrain from trawling Net-A-Porter if your budget is £50. Instead scour ebay (and save your searches for alerts by clicking the heart next to the search box – I scored a £130 pair of jeans for £40 new with tags through one of those alerts), save things to your wishlist for higher end stores and wait for the sales, or browse The Outnet for designer bargains. For my £100 a month, my go to brands are H&M, Mango, Gap, Fitflop, Boden, Mint Velvet, Baukjen (use THANKFIFI15 for 15% off), Jigsaw, Sézane and The Outnet.
Ask yourself some questions before committing to the purchase… Does this work with at least three other pieces in my wardrobe? Do I need it? When will I wear it? Can I afford it? And if, for example, you know you need a new winter coat, consider saving budget for a couple of months prior. My guide to investment shopping is a relevant read too.
RENT OR BORROW FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS
Weddings are a killer. If you cannot shop your own wardrobe for the occasion then it is worth raiding a friend’s. Rental is big news right now with sites like Hurr and My Wardrobe HQ offering a really gorgeous selection of special pieces for hire for a few days (just enough to see you through one or two events without blowing the budget) whilst OnLoan offer a subscription based model with new pieces each month.
I would be embarrassed to admit just how long it has taken me to write this feature but, honestly, I wanted to make sure I got it right. When I ran a recent Instagram poll, I was quite alarmed to discover just how few of us have a budget for clothes – some of us frightened by our own spending and some of us feeling like we deserved nothing at all. So whether a budget serves to curtail out of control spending OR to allow a wee treat guilt free now and again, I think it is essential.
I would so love to know if you try it…
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