Readers Lynn and Ruby asked:
Lynn: How much spending on clothes is appropriate? I think it certainly depends on one’s budget and income, but what about conscience? I spend somewhere between $150 and $200 a month, I feel guilty as my son and husband spend close to nothing on their clothes. My income is high, I can easily afford $150 a month, but I still feel that this is almost too much.
Ruby: I agree – I’d love to know your thoughts on an appropriate clothing budget as a percentage of your income, for example. If you make $25K, how much should you reserve for clothes/shoes/accessories? $50K? $100K? How should that change if you’re in a professional job and need to wear suits (as I am), or if you wear scrubs, etc. to work every day? I know I’m spending far too little on my wardrobe, but I have no idea how much I should be spending.
Whew. You folks sure do know how to ask questions that are incredibly tough to answer. Or, at least, answer definitively. Just as I don’t feel comfortable declaring how much clothing any one person should own, I don’t feel qualified to dictate how much any one person should spend on her wardrobe.
If you want the quick and dirty, most of the statistics I could dredge up recommend spending between 3% and 10% of your annual income on clothing. Naturally, that percentage should reflect your job and associated lifestyle, your family situation, your debt load, and your personal savings goals. If you’re working as a nurse and required to wear scrubs all day while paying down your school loans, it might be wise to err on the 3% side for the time being. If you’re working as an attorney and required to dress in suits for the office and for court, you’ll probably be on the higher side … though you may still have that debt load to contend with. And, regardless of vocation, always make sure you’re saving some moolah. ALWAYS.
If, like me, personal style is a passion and a hobby for you then you may want to adjust some of your other expenses to accommodate a larger clothing budget. So long as you’re aware of your total income and mindful that the money is finite, adjustments can be made. If you’d rather spend 15% on clothing, take that extra 5% from your eating out and miscellaneous entertainment budget. Or trim elsewhere and move some numbers around. You can have everything you want, you just can’t have it all at once. Remember to balance.
As for the spending-related guilt, well, that’s a whole other issue. Or cluster of issues, in some cases. If you love to shop yet feel remorse for your habits, you may be dealing with baggage from your childhood related to saving and spending, a judgmental peer group or partner, an ongoing need to buy new stuff as a way to soothe anxiety or depression, or any number of other factors. My advice? Force some introspection. Sit down for an hour with a journal or laptop and write about why you love shopping, how guilty you feel about your habits, and some possible causes. You may need to adjust your actions, have some tough conversations, or just change your thought patterns. Only you can make that call.
But I will say this: You are responsible for your own finances, and that’s fabulous and scary all at once. It means you can pick your own clothing-spending percentage, but it also means you must balance your own budget accordingly. It means you can buy really expensive, trendy, covetable stuff whenever you have the cash, but it also means that you must face the consequences if that cash was meant for car repairs. It means that you get to decide what you buy, when, and how much but it also means you must find a way to make peace with the social, environmental, and personal ramifications of your choices.
Image via weheartit.