During the summer of 2005, I conducted a somewhat scientific shopping survey of the over 15,000 active members of The Budget Fashionista newsletter in a effort to find out what is “normal” in regards to shopping, budgets, and purchases. Close to 800 Fashionistas shared their insights on shopping, budgets, and general consumerism. The main conclusion from this somewhat scientific shopping survey: when it comes to budget shopping one size doesn’t fit all.
Q: How much do you spend on clothing per month?
A: On average, respondents spent $316.26 a month on personal clothing and accessories (range: from $25.00 to a whopping $4,000 per month). Compare this amount with what respondents thought was the ideal amount a woman should spend on clothing each month, $285.16, and it’s evident that many shoppers tend to exceed their monthly shopping budgets.
My two cents:
It’s easy to over spend when you’re caught up in the thrill of shopping. To avoid overspending, this is what I do: I put a set amount of money on a gift card to my favorite shopping malls, stores, or generic Visa gift cards from my bank. When the card balance reaches $0, then I know it’s time to stop shopping.
True Shopping Confessions: Real Shopping Budgets from Real Women
Cory, a 20-year-old college student from Long Island who attends school in Wisconsin, spends $1,000 (yep $1,000 bucks) per month on clothing.
Melanie, a 23-year-old administrative assistant who lives in New York City, spends $50 per month on clothing
Colette, a 29-year-old internet executive and married mother of one in Los Angeles, spends approximately $200 per month on clothing
Kate, a 39-year-old fashion editor in New York City, spends approximately $400 per month on clothing.
Karen, a 58-year-old widow in Minnesota, spends about $200-$300 per month on clothing.
Q: What do you spend the most on?
A: Accessories appear to be where many shoppers spend the most. Shoes and handbags were the top items that grabbed your shopping dollars and with jeans a distance third. Interestingly, bras and panties, two of the most important aspects of your wardrobe, were dead last, even below t-shirts. Hopefully, this will change with when we publish my upcoming bra guide. Proper underwear has a greater impact on the fit and the presentation of your clothing than any other item—period.
Q: What do you spend the least on?
A: The shopping survery found that T-shirts, jewelry and bras (I’m going to change your mind on this one) round out the top three things you spend the least amount of money on. There is absolutely no reason to pay more than $20 for a plain t-shirt. Old Navy Perfect Fit Tees (usually 2 for $15) are excellent shirts for any price and companies like Shop at American Apparel have stylish high quality t-shirts for well under $20. In fact, most high end t-shirt companies that charge $30+ for a plain t-shirt, purchase their tees wholesale from Shop at American Apparel. Skip the middle man, head directly to American Apparel and save some money.
Q: What’s the most you’re willing to pay for the following items?
Jewelry and other accessories
Q: What’s the most expensive thing in your closet?
A: Again there was a wide range of answers from a “$65.00 green silk dress from Banana Republic”; to a “$100 pea coat from JC Penney’s” to a “$15,000 mink coat”. In general, the most expensive item in respondent’s closets cost well below $500.
There are some items that you NEED TO SPEND MONEY ON, like a good pair of shoes, a good winter coat, a good handbag, etc. The most expensive item in my closet is a Burberry Trench Coat, purchased for $500 from the Burberry outlet store at Woodbury Commons, that I wear almost every day from September to November and March to May. To figure out whether or not to spend more money on an item, calculate the cost per wear.
Cost Per Wear = Amount paid for the item/estimated number of times you’ll wear the item
For example, I paid $500 for a Burberry Trench (on sale at the Burberry Outlet). I plan on wearing the coat at least 72 times per year (3x per week/6 months). If I keep the coat for 5 years, my cost per wear is $1.38. Compare this with $2.50 cost per wear for the orange silk turtleneck I bought from Filene’s Basement ($29.99, 2x per month/6 months/1 year), the coat was an excellent value.
True Shopping Confessions: What’s the most expensive thing in your closet?
Sometimes you just need to splurge. However, one person’s splurge could be another person’s budget. To find out more on this topic, I asked readers of my site to name the most expensive item in their closet:
“A $40 wool coat from the Army surplus store—I spruced it up myself and it is the WARMEST coat ever.”
“A $15,000 Mink Coat.”
“Green satin cocktail dress from the Banana Republic Outlet on clearance for $60.”
“The most expensive item in my closet is a cashmere wrap sweater by Christopher Fischer, which was originally $400, but I got it for $45.”
“My long, black, fully lined, wool winter coat. I paid $250 for it and that was from Burlington Coat Factory .”
“Red Leather Prada miniskirt, which cost 350 Euros. But I got it at the outlet in Florence, Italy, so I should still get the Budget Fashionista credit!!”
“Worthington Pea Coat from JC Penney, $100.00.”
Q: What is Your Personal Shopping Philosophy?
A: There were many excellent personal shopping philosophies. Overall, a majority of the philosophies focused on getting the best value for your dollars and spending less on trendy, of the moment pieces. My personal shopping philosophy is pretty simple: only buy what you love and always love what you buy. If you follow this rule, you’ll always have a closet full of love. Below are a just a few of my favorites philosophies.
True Shopping Confessions: Personal Shopping Philosophies
“There is no point in paying retail when there’s also T.J.Maxx.”
“Spend more on good designer shoes and handbags. You can wear/carry them more than once a week without getting funny looks! Spend more on basics like black pencil skirts and white shirts. Get only a few new “expensive” pieces each season and don’t load up on trendy things.”
“If you like it… buy it… otherwise you’ll be thinking about until you get it. Then when you go back to purchase the item it might no longer available…”
“Most items must be classic and long wearing with obvious attention to detail and the item must not SCREAM “look at me.” Only one in ten purchases should be “fad” items.”
“Try to spend the most on items, like handbags, that aren’t going to go out of style the next season… and tend to buy “trendy” stuff at lower priced stores, like “Forever 21.” I think as long as your accessories aren’t cheap or “cheap-looking,” you can get away with mixing in lower priced clothing. I also don’t wear the same designer from head to toe. (And I never wear tennis shoes unless I’m working out!)”
“I make a list of what a need and first try to get those items… i.e. 4 pairs of pants: 2 for work, trousers, light-weight, 1 pr. evening – embellished details, 1 pair casual – jeans or khaki and if I find the stuff on my list on sale and I still have $ in my budget, I’ll buy accessories or something. Otherwise, I bargain with myself to get the accessory and not something on my list.”
“Value + Quality = Purchase”
“Walker/Rocker”—If the item isn’t a “rocker” then just walk. (less buyers remorse)
What’s the Conclusion?
There are as diverse opinions as to what is considered budget and what should be the focus of your budget as there are shoes at Nordstrom. Overall, a majority of you tend spend money on accessories, rather than on clothing items like sweaters, suits and pants.
The key to being a Budget Fashionista is to remember that what and how you spend is a function of personal style, economic level, and location. You enter into dangerous territory when one or more of these three components are out of whack. There is absolutely no reason to spend $150 on a pair of jeans, especially if you have $0 in your savings account. Your monthly shopping budget should be figured out AFTER you’ve paid all your household bills and put a little into savings. Continuously edit your closet, even place it on a schedule like every time the Emmys or Oscars appear on TV , you know it’s time to assess your closet.