Clothing Budget: How Much Should You Spend on Clothes?

Setting a clothing budget is a topic that I’ve shied away from writing about because I don’t really have a set budget. However, a few readers have gotten in touch to ask me about how much to budget each year and what’s worth investing in, so I’m going to give it a chai living 

How Much Should You Spend on Clothes
My number one tip in this area is; don’t spend more than you can afford! There is no worse feeling than spending way too much money on a piece of clothing and feeling guilty every time you see it hanging in your closet. What I do is keep a running list of things that I would like to add to my wardrobe, and each month when I create my family budget, I look at the list and figure out what is affordable that month. The list is also a great way to avoid impulse buys.

As for an exact dollar figure it’s pretty hard to say because I’m self-employed with a fluctuating income. However, in the interest of keeping things real I will say that my lowest clothing budget this year has been $40 in June, and my highest was last month at $275. I tend to save up some money for bigger shopping trips in September and April/May to freshen up my wardrobe for the new season.

Invest in a Good Foundation
When you are building a wardrobe that works together and carries over from season to season, you need to start with a good foundation. There are some key pieces that you need in your closet and I would suggest buying the best you can afford.

  • Perfect pair of jeans
  • Well fitted bra
  • Tee shirt
  • Fitted jacket
  • Figure flattering pants
  • Wrap dress
  • Cardigan
  • Button down shirt
  • Pencil skirt
  • Statement coat (or appropriate outerwear for your climate)
Before you run out and start shopping, let’s talk about what I mean by the best you can afford. This doesn’t have to be luxury or high-end pieces, but they do need to fit perfectly (even if you have to pay for alterations), and make you feel like a million bucks. For example, my perfect jeans are from Old Navy and cost $19 on sale, but the cardigan I want is Cashmere and retails for about $229 at The Bay. 
You don’t have to buy all these pieces at once. Do your research, look around, try things on, and then make a list and a budget. I’m still holding out for my cashmere cardigan and J Crew pencil skirt because they just weren’t in the budget this year, and that’s okay, because I want what’s best for me and I’m willing to wait for it. 


Beware of the Trends
This is a tough one because everyone likes to be trendy, but that’s pretty hard to do on a limited budget. If you try to get on board with every trend you’ll end up with a drained bank account and a lot of useless clothes in your closet. So what’s a girl to do? Simple; be selective in the trends you choose to participate in and don’t spend too much on those pieces.

Still not convinced? Think about women like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, and even Kate Middleton, all well known for their fashion sense; not for being trendy. Classic simple styles trump flashy trends every time. Take the money you were going to spend on 4 trend pieces and splurge on a fitted jacket or a DVF wrap dress, you’ll be happier in the end. 

Get Intentional About Your Purchases
This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you about managing your clothing budget; get intentional about your purchases. I live in a pretty small space with my husband and two kids and we run a business from home, there is no room or time for bad purchases. Everything that I bring into my closet has to work with the other pieces I have and be worth the space it takes up.

Next time you are about to make a purchase stop and think about it twice, if you are anything like me, you just might change your mind. 




  1. October 11, 2012 / 9:56 am

    Fantastic tips Raj! I am a big believer in classic pieces. Its amazing how many compliments I will get on items I purchased over 4 years ago.
    One additional tip would be to sign up at the websites for your favourite retailers. They will email you coupons and advise of sales. I always check these and have my coupons on hand before I hit the mall or online shopping!

    • October 11, 2012 / 1:09 pm

      Yes, good tip Shweta! I love the stores that will just scan the coupon from your phone – no need to print anything!

  2. October 11, 2012 / 11:36 am

    Great and very useful tips!! I also like to pick up pieces at the end of the season, when they are on sale!

  3. October 11, 2012 / 12:49 pm

    The tips are great and you are right every one should set their own fashion budget based on their lifestyle. I almost need to start a shopping journal, kinda like what dieters do because I lose track of what I have been buying!

    • October 11, 2012 / 1:07 pm

      I love the idea of a shopping journal Jane! It would also be a great place to make wish lists, and save inspiration images….I just might join you in keeping one of those!

  4. October 11, 2012 / 1:58 pm

    Great tips. Loved your “Beware of Trends Tip” the most. I think this is where we waste most of our money!

  5. October 11, 2012 / 2:54 pm

    Great post! I definitely apply these tips to my work wardrobe!

  6. October 11, 2012 / 6:02 pm

    I very much agree with everything you stated in this post! I think setting a budget is very wise for those of us who cannot just buy everything we think is cute (as much as I would enjoy that!). The foundation wardrobe is key to making new things work in your wardrobe. If you can’t pair new pieces with your foundation wardrobe for several outfits, I usually don’t like buying them because I may get less wear from them before I’m bored of the items. =)

  7. October 11, 2012 / 6:03 pm

    Great post! I believe in “beware of trends” as well! Mostly because I like a classic style…stores like H&M are great to pick up some of those must have trendy pieces of accessories

  8. October 12, 2012 / 5:21 pm

    The getting intentional about purchases is so important! (and a good foundations of basics too). Great post.

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