What’s YOUR Annual Clothes Budget?

How much do you spend on clothes — and how do you keep track? Reader T has a great idea for a topic thread:

Kat, there have been some interesting discussions lately about spending limits and annual clothing expenditures. How about doing an open thread on how much people spent in 2012 on clothing and accessories? You could ask people to list total amount, best/worst purchases of the year, industry, level of experience (ie: 5th year associate in big law), and perhaps salary or how much they spent as a percentage of total salary. I think this would be a really fascinating discussion!

This should be a fun one. We’ve kind of talked about this before, discussing how much you expect to pay for general items of clothing, as well as how to set a budget, but we’ve never really talked about a clothes budget.  (I have asked the question in surveys to readers — in our last survey, taken in August 2011, 40.2% of readers responded that they had spent “$500-$1000” on clothes for the first half of 2011, with 27.8% saying “less than $500” and 22.7% saying “$1001-$2500.”)

So, readers, how much do you spend on clothes?  Do you set an “annual budget” for yourself?  How do you enforce it?   

For my $.02:  I have never had a clothes budget, to be honest — even when I was in my poor days right after college I still made room in my monthly budget for clothing splurges.  In those days it looked like this:  “Pants on sale at Banana Republic for $6.99?  How can I resist? I’ll just eat a $1 street pretzel for lunch instead of Real Food.”  (I’m not kidding on the price.  Yes, they were fuchsia, but I actually got a lot of great outfits out of them.)  These days, I have a monthly “budget” set in Mint for clothes, but I use it more as a guideline (does someone need a hug instead of a million new sweaters?) than a strict “budget.”  It’s even hard for me to tell how much I spend on clothes since I return so much of what I buy.  (For example: I am, at the moment, surrounded by like 10 shoe boxes, pretty much all of which are headed back to Zappos and 6pm.  I also have an Excel spreadsheet called “The Great Boot Hunt of 2012.”  Yes, I am insane.)  But that’s just my $.02 — how about you, ladies?  How do you budget for clothes?

(Pictured: Hey, it’s a shopping bag, originally uploaded to Flickr by 4nitsirk.)



  1. Eek. I just started tagging my purchases on Amex in September, but it looks like from then until the end of the year, my husband and I spent about $2,000. That seems like a lot! I think I’m going to start tagging us separately so I can figure out exactly how much I spend.

    • Oh, by the way, I’m a low-level associate in big law in Houston.

    • Okay, I just took another look, and I spent $1200 versus my husband’s $800. That was in four months. Still a lot but better than $2000!

  2. Hmm I’ve never budgeted for my clothes, just buy when I need something, it’s on sale, or just because. So I probably spend more than I think! My budget is very general – it shows all my fixed expenses and an estimate for gas and groceries and a few other things, and together with looking at the balance of my checking account just have a general sense of where things stand. Not the greatest method but works well enough for me so far. Anything more detailed is more trouble than it’s worth for me right now. For reference I am an in-house attorney, my husband is a CPA. We are not rich but comfortable.

  3. I don’t really have a budget. I am 27 and my husband and I have a combined income of $136,000 in the NYC area (not in law BTW). I try to be careful with my purchases and right now am trying to only buy things that fill in “holes” in my wardrobe. I do tend to have budgets for individual items. For example, my mental limit for a coat is $200. A $100 top is a mega splurge for me; a $50 top is doable. At the same time, I don’t buy clothes that I know will look horrible after a couple of washes or wears. My low ‘mental’ budget plus my desire to buy quality items restricts my purchases quite a bit – but I think that’s a good thing. (Now, the husband is another matter. He doesn’t understand why anyone would pay more than $20 for a pair of jeans.)

    • To add, husband and I do have a weekly budget for general purchases. Clothes come out of that, so that automatically keeps us in check.

      • DH and I tried the weekly budget early on in the marriage, and it didn’t really work for us. A quarterly budget works best for us, but similar principle — once the amounts we have to saved have been saved/invested, and money is set aside for the projected unavoidable expenses for that quarter, the rest, we can pretty much do with as we please.

        I’m older (30s), and have already amassed quite a large collection of work & play clothes, plus bags, shoes, and accessories, so I probably spend approximately 1% of our household income every year on clothes/shoes/accessories, etc. That % was much higher when I was younger, primarily because I needed to build up a good collection of clothes. Also, bigger denominator now with the two of us vs. singleton me back then.

    • What do you guys do for a living? That is great income! I am looking to choose a career and whatever it is that I choose I will really apply myself and really dedicate myself to the work. I am looking into the healthcare field but I am open to the endless possibilities. I was a married stay at home mom of 3 and hubby left me for another woman. I need to select a good paying job to support myself and my 3 children. I don’t want to depend on any child support. If anyone else can give suggestions that would be great. Sorry I know this is about annual clothing budgets. Well I spend about 300 per child annually on clothing not including shoes which I will add gets expensive because they are all under the age of 5 so they quickly outgrow their shoes. I usually need to buy new ones almost every 3-6 months. They need shoes for play, dress shoes, summer shoes, sandals etc. And also pj’s and socks and undies gloves.

  4. I wrote about my clothing expenditures in an earlier thread, so I will repost that here.

    About me: 4th year associate in Big Law, married, 180K salary, no loans. Spent $3400 in 2012 on jewelry, clothes, shoes, acccessories, and skincare and makeup (although I wasn’t as good about tracking the latter two). I used the same template as Jean from Extra Petite – I basically went through each month and logged in everything that I kept and I returned. Here is her spreadsheet:



    – Spent $3400 total. About 1/3 of that was maternity clothes (mostly higher end boutiques, which I found to be worth it because they were really cute and the clothes have really lasted). In 2011, I spent about $2400, so I chalk up the increase to my maternity spending.

    – Most useful/favorite purchases:

    1) My first “grown up” purses, one Coach and one Kate Spade. I love them and I take care of them because they were expensive for me ($130 and $220, respectively)

    2) Tumi wallet set, which keeps my bag much more organized

    3) $40 Tahari sheath dress purchased on super sale at Nordstrom. Always get a ton of compliments when I wear it

    4) Leopard print Ivanka shoes

    5) Maternity shift dresses from Seraphine (super flattering, comfortable, very work appropriate)

    – Stupidest/most useless purchases

    1) Went crazy at the outlets this past June and spent almost $800 in one month. Bought a lot of mediocre tops and dresses from BR outlet, Ann Taylor outlet. Not the best quality and I was too lazy to drive back to return anything. I won’t make that mistake again and am really annoyed with myself that I did that.

    • I like Extra Petite’s basic spreadsheet and plan to start doing something like that to keep myself accountable. Too often, I spend my monthly budget on clothing and personal care items and yet by the end of the month, I can’t remember what I’ve spent it on. That bothers me, like maybe I’m not making the wisest purchasing decisions if I can’t remember what I bought.

      I also tend to have ‘mental limits’ for certain items, in addition to a monthly budget, which is small by Corporette standards but on the large-ish side for my social group. However, I’m one of the few who absolutely has to buy professional clothing, which eats up most of my budget and doesn’t leave much for fun weekend stuff.

    • What were your favorite maternity purchases? I’m in the in-between stage and working with dresses I have / cheap stuff from Target, but I think I’m going to want a handful of nicer dresses and maybe a workhorse pair of skinny jeans.

      • Congrats Nancy! I live in tops from Isabella Oliver and dresses from Seraphine. I also like the perfect boot pants from the Gap, and the Olian tops at Nordstrom. I bought one pair of Gap maternity jeans from consignment and they fit fine, but are nothing special. If you’re looking for cute skinny jeans, check out IO, Seraphine, or Paige Denim.

  5. Anon for this! :

    Mid level associate in Big Law, combined income with DH $400 K. Spent $4000 on clothes, DH probably spent about $2500. Happy with most of my purchases, particularly the dresses and purses.

    Goals for 2013: stop buying fast fashion that doesn’t last and looks cheap, and try to avoid paying for shipping (Nordstrom and Zappos only, or else look for a coupon code!)

  6. I have a monthly “allowance” of $250 for discretionary purchases which, more often than not, means clothes/shoes/accessories. However, like Kat, I return a lot of what I buy, so it’s hard to say how much I actually spend on those things. I am a second year associate in a small commercial litigation firm.

    My best purchase for 2012 is probably the pair of Paige peg straight jeans I found at Nordstrom Rack–they are easily my new favorite jeans. Runner up is a pair of BCBG black suede heels that look great with said jeans (and many other things) and don’t ravage my feet.

  7. Eww, that was unpleaseant to calculate. Mine was very high (approx 15% of my very small entry-level salary in a health-related field), but: a) I moved across the country to a very different and colder climate, so I had thrown out a lot of old stuff and had to buy climate appropriate stuff, b) I had put off replacing expensive things like bras and underwear and boots until they physically fell apart (see above about the “entry-level”) and c) I didn’t have a huge variety of clothes appropriate for new job, again I was waiting to get a job and settle in so that anything new would actually fit the office dress code. Next year, things will be very different since I can finally settle into a “replacing worn out things/ filling small holes” pattern, instead of starting almost from scratch, so the number will probably be less than $600, and a much smaller percentage of my salary.

  8. kerrycontrary :

    My disposable income depends on the time of the year (3 weddings last summer=no shopping for me), same goes for the holidays. I work for a corporation but not a lawyer, so not making a lot. I would say that I spend $50/month on clothing on average, but I mostly try to fill in holes in my wardrobe so I can spend more on an item that I wear ALL the time (basics like black work pants, designer jeans, pencil skirts, etc…). I only go shopping when I need to buy something so I hardly ever just buy things on a whim. I’ve also stopped buying things full price unless I need it last minute.

    Best purchase of the year: New Paige jeans. I needed them desperately and I used holiday money to buy them. Runner up, new Clarks ballet flat. Also needed them desperately.

    Worst purchase: Anne Taylor pants that were too big because I bought them when I had gained holiday weight last year. I took the tags off and I didn’t have the receipt and they are huge. I could have them taken in but I don’t like them that much anyways…

  9. TO Lawyer :

    I have an “allowance” every month for clothes/shoes/accessories, which is $400/month. I unfortunately tend to exceed that, or at least did in 2012. I’m not sure if it’s a problem I should fix or if I should just increase my allowance because all my bills are being paid, credit card paid in full every month and i’m still saving a decent amount.

    $400 seems like a lot of money but somehow, when I track all my purchases, doesn’t seem to be enough.

    • What is your salary?

    • I hear ya on the $400/month. I usually don’t spend anywhere near that, but only because my closets are packed and I have kept about 10years worth of clothing that’s still in rotation.

      I’m always spotting things that are either wonderful, or just whimsical and fun that I’d like to buy, which I don’t ultimately buy. Like this Lulu Guinness “Lips” Clutch, which just cracks me up every time I see it:


      But, I am content to see it on the website, and I’ve saved the jpg on my computer. I don’t need to pay 295 GBP just to smile.

    • if you go over your allowance constantly, I’d increase it. Sounds like your ducks are otherwise in a row and you enjoy it.

      • TO Lawyer :

        thank you for enabling internet stranger :) I do enjoy shopping. I feel slightly guilty seeing the total at the end of the month/year but I really don’t have that many other indulgences

        • my pleasure! If you like it you like it and that’s your thing. No reason to feel guilty. And if you end up with stuff you don’t need and can’t return you can donate it to a charity for low income women who need professional clothes.

  10. I spent around $2700 for clothes/shoes/makeup last year, just checked my mint pie chart for 2012.
    I am single, make around 200K and work in business casual finance work place, so don’t need suits and formal wear daily. I keep a rolling mint budget of about 250$ per month for clothes/shoes, if I don’t buy anything in a month the amount rolls overs. It is a pleasant surprise to see the accumulated amount when I am looking to buy a splurge item.
    Best purchase of 2012 was an Ann Klein woolen/cashmere long coat (below the knees) from Macys on their thx giving sale. Best fitting winter coat I ever bought.

    • anonypotamus :

      Can I ask a question about Mint? Especially about the Mint budget you have for clothes? How does that work? I have heard others use Mint, but am wondering if it is a helpful tool. Right now we track expenses in an excel sheet manually (which forces us to sit down and review our expenses together). We are pretty good about sticking with our approximate budget each month for various things (groceries, dining out, etc) but I still feel like a better budget system would allow us to save more.

      • Diana Barry :

        Meh – it is okay. It mischaracterizes some stuff – like “sephora” it puts in “clothes” and I have to go back and change it. And my running shoes it characterizes as “gas” for some reason. So if you are on top of it, it works. I use it as a rough guide.

        • I stopped using Mint because the updating didn’t work very well, but FYI you can change how it categorizes a specific store. I don’t remember how but it wasn’t difficult.

      • I love mint, I am never the meticulous person to track expenses on an excel spreadsheet. I would never find my receipts or even remember the money spent on booz on Friday happy hours, hence mint is essential for me.
        You sign up, and then enter all your bank accounts and credit card, 401K etc. Mint then pulls in account data from the banks (read only, no modifications). Then you setup budget for monthly expense amount (e.g rent, grocery, coffee, eating out, clothes), and mint tries to match your budget items against amount spent from various credit cards. For example, say my coffee budge is 30$ a month, every time I spent 2$ at starbucks is deducted from the $30 coffee budget. So you can glance anytime where you are over/under and what expenses are not categorized. For me, anything that involves manual data entry is simply not going to work, so mint suits my needs. But if you are concerned about privacy or handing over your bank account information to an external website, then keeping a private excel type is probably better peace of mind. I like mint because it really shows where most of the money goes, I could never keep track of it otherwise.

        • Learnvest is a good one too! www.learnvest.com
          Works a lot like Mint; better, because they offer classes.

      • I use Mint and once or twice a week log on and update transactions with notes. So, all clothing and shopping transactions get a note detailing the item purchased “camel pencil skirt” or “long sleeve black BR top” (I don’t bother adding notes for simple things like the grocery store or a student loan payment – it’s obvious from the transaction name or category where that money is going).

        I like the high level summary of finances that Mint provides. A quick look at the pie chart shows me if some portion of my budget is larger than normal and I can then click through to the transactions to investigate further.

      • I don’t use Mint but (assuming I understand it correctly), I use the “My Portfolio” through Bank of America to do basically the same thing. And it has similar hiccups to what Diana Barry described – for example, spending at certain gas stations gets categorized as “entertainment.” But you can correct these errors easily.

        Do other banks have similar features? I would assume so…

        • anonypotamus :

          Oh interesting – I didn’t know BoA had such a feature – I will investigate! I feel like this system works fairly well for us currently as long as we stay on top of it (and sticking with mostly debit/credit cards helps keep a fairly accurate trail of spending without having to save receipts), but I stil feel like stuff is falling through the cracks and we are really trying to simplify/live more frugally. We have a lot of expenses in the upcoming year (see wedding post from earlier thread) and want to make sure our spending matches up to our priorities. Thanks everyone!

          • Yeah, BOA does have a Mint-like feature, but compared to Mint, the BOA feature feels like it must have a MySpace page and still use CompuServe to check its e-mail.

          • Charlotte Peloux :

            +1 MySpace & CompuServe analogy

      • Anastasia :

        I tried Mint a few years ago, but eventually deleted the account. I buy almost everything with a credit card; my bank categorizes credit card purchases just like Mint does, and it is very easy to export the statements into a .csv file and copy and paste that into Excel so I can manipulate all the data myself . A couple more logins, and I have updated balances for all my savings and investment accounts, too. I love playing with Excel, so there was no value added to have Mint do graphs and charts for me. If you don’t think spreadsheets are fun, though, Mint is a great tool.

      • Midwest Transplant :

        I’m a big fan of mint. I use the budget feature more as an FYI, than a hard and fast requirement, because my expenditures vary significantly. The roll over is very helpful for this. I think it does a reasonably good job on classifying my credit card transactions, but I review once a month and update as needed. Then I can reclass returns as income into a particular category.

        I’m don’t keep a strict budget, but like to see if I am spending more in a category than I would have expected.

      • Anonymous :

        I really like Mint in combination with an app I have for my phone called Balance Forecasting. Mint is great for getting an overall picture of your financial situation, but it’s just a snapshot so it doesn’t help you estimate how much you’ll have in X account on Y date. I agree that the caregorizations on Mint are kind of fiddly sometimes so it’s easier if you stay on top of it rather than trying to go back and make adjustments weeks later, and there are some other little things that bug me. But overall, it’s a great resource for people like me who have accounts spread amongst multiple financial institutions and want to see it all in one place. I really like to be able to look ahead too, though, so a forecasting program is essential for me. I usually use Mint to help me log my transactions into Forecasting (I should enter them right away but I never do). Then I can look ahead to see what my savings will look like in 4 months, or whether I will need to transfer money to cover an upcoming transaction or whatever. It sometimes feels like a lot of work and I wish I had one program that could do everything, but it nevertheless works well for me.

        Oh, and to the question of budget — I end up playing with my monthly clothing “budget” a lot because I tend to go a few months without buying anything and then go on a spree. Last year, I spent just over $2200, which kind of shocked me. I’d have guessed it was about $500 less than that until I added it all up. And I STILL feel like I have nothing to wear. I’m in serious need of a functional wardrobe update and it kills me that I spent so much last year without a good result. Ugh.

        • Turtle Wexler :

          Darn it, phone strikes again. For some reason it never remembers my handle and I usually forget to double-check it. That was me, above.

  11. Midlevel East Coast Biglaw, DINK of about $400K. I spent less than normal this year ($2500 rather than $3000-4000 in previous working years) because I’ve (1) successfully purchased mostly classic, quality items in prior years, meaning I have very few wardrobe holes to justifiably fill, and (2) I’ve gained 15 lbs since law school that I would like to lose before buying any more clothes.

    Both fortunately and unfortunately for me, I’m better at earning money than I am at working out… so, looks like it’ll be another good year for savings!

    On the budget note, I find I actually do better without one — with the budget, it feels like money that’s mine to spend, but without one, I go by gut feeling of whether I’ve been running “spendy” lately, and I usually err on the side of conservative.

    • oil in houston :

      funny, I’m exactly like you! gained weight, and not having a budget means I feel guilty when I spend! (even though if definitely have the cash to spend)

    • BigLaw Refugee :

      Spend the clothing budget on a personal trainer who comes to your home in the morning. That was the only way I could get myself to work out while in BigLaw, and even if you don’t lose weight (I didn’t because it was yoga, not cardio), the benefits for your mental and physical health will be tremendous. You have a stressful, time-consuming job, and taking care of yourself is a good use of all that $ you’re earning, IMO.

  12. No Problem :

    I started tracking my expenditures in June of last year and totaled about $2,000 by the end of the year. I would estimate that my total for last year was between $2,500 and $3,000 since I know I purchased fewer and less expensive items in the beginning of the year.

    To be honest, this is a lot of money for me. I was surprised how much I spent. On the other hand, I’ve been changing sizes (not in a good way), and finally bit the bullet on buying some new suits and blouses to go with them.

    I have never had a clothes budget before, but I am now instituting a $200/month budget. Anything I don’t spend rolls over to the next month. I know this doesn’t put my yearly budget much lower than what I spent last year, but hopefully having an actual budget in mind will help me be less frivolous with just buying all the clothes. Any money leftover at the end of the year (or maybe I’ll do it on a quarterly or 6 month basis, haven’t decided) will go to charity.

    Like Joy, I have mental limits for how much I will spend on something. $100 for pants is acceptable if they are wool and lined, $75 if not. Suit jackets should be under $150. Blouses and sweaters should be under $60. Basic shirts should be under $30, ideally under $20. Dresses should be under $100, and at that price, I had better love it. Ideally they will be under $75. I hate paying full price for anything (the above numbers are what I will pay, not necessarily the full price).

    This year I am also going to focus more on filling holes in my wardrobe rather than just expanding it. I have enough clothes. My real problem is when Mom comes to town and we go shopping. I spend so much money on those trips.

    I am a late 20s consultant. Salary is $60,000.

  13. My husband and I make $400k combined. He spends $1500 a year and I spend $3k a year in clothes. Trial attorney in South United States. I buy an $800 to $1000 suit winter and summer.

  14. Diana Barry :

    Mint says that I spent over $5K in 2012 on clothes, but (a) it characterizes things wrong and (b) a lot of that includes the kids’ clothes. So I have no idea. :-0 I did spend a bunch on maternity clothes in the first half of the year and got a new bag in February.

  15. I am going anon for this. My mint.com history got wiped back in September (for some reason, my citibank online accounts got messed up and I had to delete/add them), but since then – I’ve spent $6724 on clothing & shoes (though about $1500 of that was returned). I’d estimate maybe $15-20K last year? Yikes! Biggest purchases were probably a $1200 cocktail dress and a $1000 pair of Kirkwood shoes. For the record, though, I lost 15 lbs last year and needed to replace a lot of my wardrobe as a result. I’m in biglaw, about $225K base and $60K bonus last year.

    • Wow, 20K!! Out of curiosity, do you have law school debt?

    • I spent about $10k last year–finally accepted my larger body and bought a wardrobe that actually fits (honestly, I hadn’t spent more than $500 on clothes in the previous two years because I thought I’d just lose the weight) including undergarments, pajamas, jackets, everything. I also had to replace all of my shoes due to a medical issue and had to buy high quality shoes instead of cheapies.

      Replacing a professional wardrobe is expensive!

    • AnonRegular :

      Well, spending $20K if you make $225K isn’t bad. I spent about 2% of my salary on clothing and accessories for myself and my hubby last year. And he is unemployed. While the actual dollar figure isn’t much, I still feel guilty about it, since I now don’t fit into most of the stuff I purchased because of not yet losing my baby weight!

      • Spending 20K when you make 225K is 9% of your total salary, not 2%.

        • Wow indeed :

          she was commenting on OP’s 20k, then describing her own expenditure as 2% of salary. reading comprehension, anyone? don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

  16. I don’t budget, because a lot of it depends on circumstances. For most of my (professional, working) twenties, I didn’t have to do a whole lot of shopping for professional clothes because I’d established my business casual work wardrobe when I was twenty-five. I’d get a few things a year – a pair of pants here, a pair of trousers her – and my addiction to tweed knows no bounds, so if one of the stores that worked for me had tweed, I was probably buying it.

    As a pear-ish size 12, though, there were a limited amount of stores that worked for me.

    Right now, though, I’m dealing with the aftermath of a couple of life-changing events: major weight loss and major job loss. Beyond that, I was living in NY on a librarian’s salary which is kind of a laughable concept. I basically bought enough clothes to make it five days a week and was saving up to expand my wardrobe when I lost my job. Since I spent the summer and fall in the unemployment wardrobe of sundresses and jeans, there was no need to buy anything.

    So I’ve spent a lot this winter. Pencil skirts, sweaters (so many more sweaters than I actually need), pants. All the tights in the world, buttonfront shirts. Some things I haven’t needed but were just Too Good A Deal – I’m looking at you, J.Cr*w felted mini – but mostly stuff I do need so that I’m not wearing the same outfit twice a week. I do try to wait for sales, though: right now I’m wearing the No. 2 pencil skirt in orange corkscrew tweed (what did I say about me and tweed?), which I got for $40 during on of the 30% off sale price promos.

    • “A pair of pants here, a pair of trousers there”

      …I’m pretty sure that was supposed to be “a sweater there” before my brain synapses went offline.

  17. I don’t set a yearly budget but I don’t normally spend more than 100 dollars at a time. I like to go recreationally shopping so I’ll go out when I have an extra 40-60 dollars on a goodwill hunt or to Gabriel Brothers or do a Land’s End sale or go to the Talbot’s outlet. So I probably spend about 600 a year on myself.

    I work in data analysis and my office is business casual. Hardly ever see clients and am usually more dressy than most (others here wear jeans and t shirts and sneakers and I am usually a step or two up above that.)

  18. Research, Not Law :

    We have a pre-tax income of ~$65k for a family of four. I don’t budget for clothes, but I spend about $500 a year on myself.

  19. No clue and I don’t think I can parse it together but definitely too much on my grad student stipend. My expenses are really low and I bring in a relatively high amount of money in comparison but I do not need more clothes. On a clothes-buying freeze for the year so hopefully it will just be necessities this year.

  20. Senior Attorney :

    I’m a gigantic budgeter/tracker so I have all this information at my fingertips, though unfortunately at home, where I am not right now. But I can say that my personal clothing budget is $300 per month and I blew through that last year and managed to more than double that amount by spending almost every penny of my “personal general discretionary” budget on clothes, accessories, and shoes. Ouch.

    Best purchase: Black/white/brown colorblock handbag from the Rack. Not all that expensive but it’s been a real wardrobe workhorse

    Runner-up: GAP “sexy boyfriend” jeans

    Worst purchases: All that stuff from the consignment store that was almost-but-not-quite-right and seduced me because it was so cheap.

    I have been in pretty much full-on shopping binge mode for lo, these past couple of years since a major weight loss required me to replace my whole wardrobe down to the shoes. For this year I am determined to not only stick to my $300/month budget, but also to limit my purchases to no more than one per month. (However both unused money and unmade purchases roll over, so that if, for example, I don’t buy anything in January through August, I may spend up to $2,700 and buy up to nine items in September.)

    • Senior Attorney :

      Oh, household income is just over $300,000. What with me working for the government and all…

  21. Oh man. A lot. I’m not sure how much, but I keep getting promoted to a higher level of Nordstrom card, which is probably a bad sign.

  22. Do any of you have gigantic wishlists?

    I keep an ultimate wishlist, and I find that the act of writing out what it is I want, what I think I’ll use it for (if ever), is like an exorcism.

    So, my 2012 Ultimate Wishlist (includes all clothes and accessories) totaled almost $15,000 in “items wished for.” Which is almost 10x what I actually spent during the year. My 2011 Ultimate Wishlist was bigger- about $22,000, and about 20x what I actually spent.

    • BigLaw Refugee :

      I think that’s a great idea! Periodically you can look over the list and if something still calls to you strongly, make a plan to save up for it.

    • I absolutely do this, especially when my spending gets bad. I tend to keep 2: one is for needs that I am on the hunt for until I find something perfect and discounted and the other is to track all those loves, which slows down the impulse shopping. The result is a gaggle of abandoned shopping carts languishing across the web. At least they are not all on my credit card.

    • Yes, I have one! I have a rule with myself that if I find something I want, I put it on the list for a week/couple of weeks/month…if it is still calling my name after that time period, I’ll buy. Also, when I add something to the list, I ask myself, “do I already own items that will work with this?”, “will I wear that now, or will it sit in my closet until the spring?”, etc.

  23. I’ve had some big purchases in the last year gearing up for my wedding (even without the dress counting, there’s still shoes and undergarments) and other formal events involving purchasing a gown. I budget myself $200 per month for clothing/gifts/beauty (makeup and shampoo and the like) which sometimes I go over but I guess I’d say I spend about $3000 on clothes and beauty.

    Related but threadjack question — I found out yesterday I’m going to the Inaugural Ball. Yes THE Ball (with Obama) which is now 6 days away. I bought the aforementioned ballgown for a different formal event in September where I was photographed. Is it faux pas for me to wear the same dress? 6 days doesn’t give me time to get alterations done on anything new and at 5’1″ you know any floor length frock will need to be altered. So thoughts?

    • I see they wanted salary, too… my salary is higher this year but last year all told I made about 77K pretax.

    • SoCalAtty :

      A good tailor can have the alterations back to you in 24 hours, and some dress shops have tailors in-house. I’m only 5′ so I feel your pain on the dress shopping! I would try to find something new asap to give the tailor as much time as possible.

      Sue Wong has some great stuff out right now…

    • Anonymous :

      Honestly? The pictures will be for you. I would use the same dress. I attended one of the official balls last time and it’s a giant room and you’re mostly standing around looking for the bar.

    • Wear the same dress. Fun!!

    • oil in houston :

      same dress but with different accessories?

  24. According to Mint, we spent $5500 on clothes last year. DINK of about $300k. I did start at a new firm so I have spent more this year than I normally do, and that includes Sephora and makeup supplies.

    That’s more than I intended to spend, but 2013 is the “year of the budget” for us! This was a timely post, that’s for sure.

    • As far as favorite purchases? A new work bag from Fossil and a Tahari black suit that is good for appellate court and interviews. It is black but has an embossed vertical stripe that is very subtle but makes it different than just plain black fabric. I found it on a clearance at the outlet, and had an extra 10% off coupon on top of that. I had it altered to fit perfectly and I love it!

  25. Midwest Transplant :

    This past year I spent between $2.5 – 3k on clothing, including shoes and jewelry. I work as a consultant, so my work attire can be business formal or business casual based on the client. I’m in my late 20s and make about $100k.

    Honestly, I probably spend too much on random pieces of clothing that might be a “good deal”, but don’t look great on me. As an extreme pear shape I have a hard time finding flattering bottoms, but next year I’m going to be willing to spend extra money on something that fits well. (Everything ends up at the tailor anyway).

    Best purchase this year was a black blazer that isn’t part of a suit. Worst purchase was a white blouse that is practically see through, so I never wear it.

    • I find myself trying to fight the “but it’s a good deal!” bug. It’s hard because my husband has started doing it too :-P It’s getting easier for me to say “if I’m not going to wear it, it’s not a good deal at all.”

  26. not good at all. :

    Scariest post ever. Apparently I spent about 16k on clothes, accessories, etc. Junior partner in midlaw in the south, last year’s income was $255k, single, own my house. In my defense, I lost over 50 pounds and had to replace everything, from bras to spanx to real clothing. Usually, I try to cap monthly “fun” spending to 1k, but that includes gifts (excluding christmas).

  27. Kat, you are a lady after my own heart. I am surrounded in my office by things I need to return various places and also can’t keep track of how much I spend on clothes because I return so many things. My husband used to tease me for returning so much stuff but I do a lot of online shopping and I have no shame – if I don’t like it, I send it back.

    I did attempt to calculate how much I had spent on clothes recently, though I don’t think it’s fair to do that now since everything is on sale. I think I binged recently so I’m slowing down now and trying to be more deliberate about what I buy. And I also bought several things recently that need to be tailored so I’m trying not to buy more stuff until I take things to the tailor and iron the things I have.

  28. NewEngland :

    DINK of $200-250k, I think DH and I together spent about $2500-3000 on clothing/accessories. DH is dangerous because he holds onto and wears things FOREVER but has expensive taste. I probably spend $100-150/month, if shoes and makeup count.

    I have worked in a business casual office for several years which has allowed me to build up my work wardrobe..plus I often work from home which drastically reduces the amount of outfits I need…

  29. Midwest Transplant :

    This past year I spent between $2.5 – 3k on clothing, including shoes and jewelry. I work as a consultant, so my work attire can be business formal or business casual based on the client. I’m in my late 20s and make about $100k.

    Honestly, I probably spend too much on random pieces of clothing that might be a “good deal”, but don’t look great on me. As an extreme pear shape I have a hard time finding flattering bottoms, but next year I’m going to be willing to spend more money on something that fits well. (Everything ends up at the tailor anyway). Expecting next year’s number to be higher.

    Best purchase this year was a black blazer that isn’t part of a suit. Worst purchase was a white blouse that is practically see through, so I never wear it.

  30. Diana Barry :

    This makes me think it would be a good idea to have a poll – that way we could anonymize ourselves. :) Questions could include

    – your gross income
    – your gross HHI (if different, eg with spouse)
    – how much spent on clothes/accessories
    – ditto makeup
    – ditto housing/whatever else you wanted
    – region where you live

    • Gross income – ~ $125K
      Gross HHI – same
      Clothing/accessory spend – ~ $2K
      Makeup – ~ $10 (i only wear undereye concealer and chapstick)
      Housing – $1200/month

    • income 60K
      hhi about 85
      clothing < 1000 I think
      makeup $120 since i subscribe to birchbox
      housing: mortgage 823/month for an 850 sq ft 2 BR/1Ba

    • My Gross Income: $86k
      Gross HHI: $300k
      Clothing/Accessory Spend: $5500 with makeup (for 2012)
      Housing: $3200 / month (mortgage)
      Region: West Coast
      Student Loan Payments: $2k / month (which is what is killing me)

    • anon of course :

      My income: $68K
      HHI: $135K
      Clothing: Estimated $1200, averaging $100/month for clothes? Rough guess.
      Makeup: Well I definitely made the Sephora VIB club this year which is $350+ in purchases….so yeah. I would say between $350 and $500.
      Housing: $2400/mo for a 1 br apartment
      Region: NYC
      Student loan payment: None for me. Husband has a payment of about $150/mo for a loan amount of about $18,000.
      No other debt.

    • My income: $130k
      Gross HHI: $230k
      Clothing/accessories: budget of $300 per month, so $3,600 in 2012. But this is me only – spouse takes care of his own needs and rarely buys anything at all.
      Makeup: about $400
      Housing: mortgage of $940 per week
      Region: PNW
      No student loans or other significant debt; spouse has mortgages on investment properties but they pay for themselves.

      • You are smart. Our HHIs are similar but I am very jealous of your mortgage.

        • Oh wait, now I see that’s per week. Okay. I’m sure you’re still smart.

          • Yes, we pay weekly because over time that cuts our interest costs significantly.

    • My gross income: $180K, will go up to $200K in February 2013
      Gross income: $410K
      Clothing/accessories for 2012: $3400
      Housing: $4500 a month (it makes me sick writing that down – this city is too expensive!!)
      Region: Northeast
      Student loans: $0 and no other debt aside from monthly credit card bill

    • My income: $140k
      Gross HHI: ~$260k
      Clothing/accessories: About $1000-1200 for me, probably $1500 for my husband
      Makeup/skin care: $30 (hardly wear any)
      Housing: $2400 (mortgage)
      Region: Western city
      Student loan payments: $800 total for me and hubs

    • My income: 120
      HHI: 258
      Clothing: $2000 for me, $500 for Husband; $300 for kids (total guessing here)
      Makeup: $100
      Housing: $2800 mortgage
      Region: Midwest
      Student Loans: None

    • – your gross income: $74,000
      – your gross HHI (if different, eg with spouse): $175,000
      – how much spent on clothes/accessories: me only: $150/month or $1800/year
      – ditto makeup: less than $100/year
      – ditto housing/whatever else you wanted: rent is $1950/month
      – region where you live: DC

    • anon again :

      income: $77K
      gross HHI: same (I live alone)
      clothing/accessories: 2K annually
      makeup/skincare products: not sure — maybe 200 annually?
      housing: $1200 rent

      • We could be twins.

        income: $70k
        HHI: Same
        clothing/accessories: $1,100 (most of which was spent upgrading my work wardrobe)
        makeup: $150 (~$100 was gifted)
        rent: $1250
        region: NE
        student loans: $14k

    • anonshopaholic :

      Income: $65k
      HHI: $120k
      clothing/accessories: $4000
      makeup/skincare: $500
      housing: PITI is $1300/mo
      region: upper midwest

    • – your gross income- $50k per yr
      – your gross HHI (w/spouse)- $220k per yr
      – how much spent on clothes/accessories- $3k (I usually buy in large chuncks 3-4x a yr & maybe an extra 1k for SO)
      – ditto makeup- $200 pr yr
      – housing- Apt $2100 pr mo
      – 2 Cars- $600 per mo (we easily spend an additional $400 per mo on gas & parking, maybe even more)
      – region where you live- CA

      adding some categories:
      – law school loans- $3k mo (for both of us)
      – beauty procedures (hair cuts, straightening, facials & eyebrow waxes)- $2k per yr

      Also, my Achilles heel is that I spend a ridiculous amount on eating out and buying nice groceries. Trying to curb it a bit.

      We also save about $3000 each month in a separate account. I’m actually kind of proud of that.

      • Also should have put this in the original post but we are DINKS in our late 20s.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      Man, HHI just makes me think of the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index…antitrust nerd for the win?

      Gross Income: 160k yr + bonus, although going down soon b/c of clerkship
      Gross HHI: 200k yr
      Clothing spending: No idea for SO, $3.2k for me (incl. clothes, accessories, make-up, jewelry, etc.) I actually don’t cut my hair, and get my eyebrows done for $15/month.
      Apt rent: 2000k/month for 1 bedroom apt
      Law school loans: 2200k/month (he has no debt)

      We live in NYC and I have saved $3500/month since I started working in biglaw.

    • Anon Here :

      Gross income: $135K
      Gross HHI: $180K
      Clothing/accessories: Approx. $1500
      Makeup: I wear minimal makeup so less than $100. Haircuts/colorings run me about $1000 a year
      Housing: $3100/month (includes mortgage, taxes, insurance, HOA)
      Student loans: DH has none, I have $1200 a month but often kick closer to 2K per month towards them
      Region: CA

    • Income: 65k
      HHI: same (married with kids)
      Clothes/accessories for me: 500
      Make-up: 50
      Clothes/accessories for kids/husband: 1200?
      Mortgage: 1900
      Region: PNW

    • My income: $74k
      HHI: $185k
      Clothing/accessory expenses: $2250 last year (mostly clothes, I don’t know how to accessorize myself)
      Makeup: $175 last year (includes hair products, which make up the bulk of that amount)
      Housing: $2250/month for mortgage/taxes/insurance, though we usually put a couple hundred extra toward principal
      Student loan: recently paid one off so down to $115/month now
      Region: PNW

    • DINKs, here!
      My income–67k
      Clothing–maybe 2000? I just lost about 30 lbs and had to get some new stuff (but I was able to reclaim a ton of stuff-yay!)
      Makeup/skincare– $10? Maybe? But to be fair…
      *Hair–$500 (addicted to the brazillian blowout 2x a year)
      Housing–mortgage of $1250/mo
      New England

      • AnonLawyer :

        Lord have mercy, these salaries! Wow.

        My income: 46k (love the government…sigh)
        HHI: 115k
        Clothing: 800 (included my $150 wedding dress)
        Makeup: 300
        Housing: $1,525 a month mortgage
        Region: Midwest
        Just paid off all our student loans.

        • Anon in Midwest :

          Congrats on paying off your student loans! It’s quite an achievement, especially considering you’re a government employee. [No condescention meant, as I am a government employee with over $100k in student loans].

        • AnonLawyer – I was thinking the same about the salaries lol!! I work for the gov too…sigh. Glad I’m going back to college!!!

    • Anonymous :

      Gross income: 120K
      Gross HHI (if different, eg with spouse): same
      How much spent on clothes/accessories: ~3K
      Makeup: including perfume (a major hobby) and regular cosmetics: $1800 (I feel like a complete outlier here…)
      Housing/whatever else you wanted: $1300/ month (thank you, rent-stabilization!)
      Grad school loans: $500/ month
      Region where you live: Northeast

    • Also Anon :

      Income: $105k (sinlge,no kids)
      Clothes, accessories: ~$1500/yr
      Makeup: n/a
      Housing: $2000/mo (mortgage plus hoa fees)
      Region: mid-Atlantic

      Mortgage is my only debt.

    • – gross income: $45K
      – gross HHI: $77K
      – how much spent on clothes/accessories: ballpark – $1.5K
      – ditto makeup: almost no makeup, but maybe $300 on hair products, perfume, skin care products
      – ditto housing, etc: $800/mo rent, $200/mo student loans
      – region: Midwest

    • Not going to bother going anonymous…
      Gross Income: $90K
      Gross HHI: $90K (single, no kids)
      clothing/accessories: $250 per month ($3000/year – just started budgeting in September)
      makeup/skincare: $100
      hair appointments: $800 per year
      books: $100 per month
      rent: $1,700 per month
      region: New England
      No student loans

    • Anonforthis :

      Late 20s
      Gross Income: $95K
      Gross HHI: ~$210K -DH is self employed so his income varies a bit… no kids
      clothing/accessories: $200 per month between DH and myself
      makeup/skincare: $20/month
      hair appointments: $65 per appt, maybe 5x/year
      books: $10 per month (but I read a ton- go library + kindle app!)
      mortgage: $2,400 per month (includes taxes)
      loans: about 60k between myself and DH (mostly his), which we have elected to pay down a clip of about $2000/month–by choice.
      retirement: goal is $35k/year ($2,500/mo) between myself and DH. Gotta pack it in before the babies come!
      region: Boston suburb

      Clearly, all my fun clothing $$ is going into loans & retirement!!

    • CanadiAnon :

      Early 30’s, 2 kids
      I’m an Engineer, in Machinery/Manufacturing but in a Sales-ish role (which is a weird niche, style-wise)
      Gross income: $70k base, plus paid OT
      Gross HHI: $200k
      Clothing, shoes, hair, etc.: I have $100/month for discretionary spending, which includes all clothes, hairdresser appointments, books, games, etc., and I also get to spend up to 1/2 of my OT pay (the other half goes to savings)
      Bonus clothing: gifts (my grandmother gives me a shopping trip for Xmas every year, which usually means 1-2 new suits or sets of separates – JNY or similar range)
      Makeup/skincare/etc.: I’m pretty no-frills (moisturizer, sunscreen, and contact solution), so this goes under the grocery budget of $120/week
      Shared entertainment (Comics): $200/month
      Mortgage: $2400/month
      No other major debts (cars are paid off, no student loans – hurray for Canadian tuition rates and a paid co-op program)
      Retirement savings: $650/month
      RESP (education fund) for the kids: $5000/year total (sometimes partially subsidized by family)
      Daycare: $480/week
      We also have high transportation costs because we both commute.
      Before my raise this year we were comfortable, but definitely tight on spending (and dreaded the idea of unexpected expenses like spouse’s car dying ahead of schedule). Now we’re breathing a little easier and are building up the “rainy day” fund a little more and looking at some bigger luxuries (like taking the kids to Disney next xmas) rather than bumping up monthly spending.
      Region: GTA (Canada)

    • My income: $47,000
      HHI: $50,000 [Yes, my husband doesn’t make much at all!]
      Clothing: $700 for me, $200 for Husband, $300 for child including cloth diapers
      Makeup/skincare: $200
      Housing: $850 2br/1ba duplex apt
      Region: Midwest
      Student Loans: $400/month on Income Based Repayment for self + husband

      I think I might be the “poorest” person on this site! But I only work 40 hours a week, and love my job so I am happy about that!

    • Gross income: $140K
      Gross HHI: same (single, no kids)
      How much spent on clothes/accessories: $5000-6000
      Makeup: ~ $300
      Housing: no mortgage
      Student Loans: none
      Region: West coast, big city

    • locomotive :

      – 120K (base 80, bonus 40)
      – clothes and shoes: $4K
      – makeup: $150
      – housing: $22K (I’ve halved it for this coming year!)
      – DC

  31. I am starting to feel a bit bad about my clothing spending seeing this… I was at ~$8.3k in clothes spending in 2012. Almost a quarter of that was a dream bag purchase that was the most expensive clothing related item I’ve ever bought. I made $275k last year and HHI was over $600k (incl. my fiance), no kids. Though it is definitely a lot, I am able to meet my savings goals (save roughly 1/3 of gross income not including employer 401(k) match, down payment saved, paid for wedding w/ cash, etc.). We try to keep fixed costs very manageable, so if our financial situation changed we could cut back drastically on variable costs (including clothes).

    • lucy stone :

      I make substantially less than you and spent not much less – don’t feel bad! You’re living within your means.

    • Hey, with HHI of over $600k I don’t think you need to worry. If my HHI was that much, I’d be spending $8k on clothes too.

  32. I’m a little jealous of some of these salaries! Ha. Well, I knew what I was getting into when I went into the media industry.

    I actually don’t have a clothing budget. I only use credit cards — rarely debit, cash, or check. I do pay it off in full every month, don’t worry! But I know when I am nearing/reach a certain amount of spending that I need to slow it down/cut it off, and that includes ANY discretionary spending, which includes groceries, restaurants, and yes, clothing. I even consider not driving much to help reduce my gasoline bill. I try to keep my discretionary spending per month to about $750. Some months I am under, some I am over (occasionally by $500). I just know that by limiting myself to $750, I have a cushion if I do go over, but in general, that’s my budget.

  33. Am I the only one who does not keep a budget at all? I’m single, no kids and no debt, though I do live in an expensive neighborhood in a high cost-of-living city. I make a little less than $300k per year and don’t track my spending at all. Is it a big mistake not to be watching this? I naturally am not very spendy so have been saving 25% to 50% of my after-tax income without any budget.

    And to answer the clothing question, I probably spent $2,000 to $2,500 last year on clothes. I had one shopping trip where I spent $800 (a couple of new suits & some other items for work), a 2 or 3 trips where I spent $250 and then the rest would have been $50-$100 purchases here and there, usually (a) in advance of an event or (b) to replace something that had worn out.

    • We don’t budget formally and I think we do fine. Last year we saved just over 30% of income and I am happy with that. So long as the bills get paid and savings goals are met, the budget should be a tool not an end in itself IMO.

    • This is what I do too. I immediately take out what I want to save from my paycheck and then spend the paycheck however i feel best that month. Sometimes it could be a couple fancy dinners, the next month it could be a new dress. Budgeting per line item just stresses me out unnecessarily.

    • Single, no kids, making $300k, hitting savings and retirement account targets, very reasonable clothing spending habits. I think this is the definition of when you don’t need a budget.

    • Also Anon :

      I budget the old fashioned way by paying myself first (savings and Roth IRA). I live off 65% of my take home pay. Also single, no kids. My mortgage is my only debt.

    • “Is it a big mistake not to be watching my spending ?”

      I was on similar/ slight higher fixed compensation as you for most of my 30s and didn’t need a budget for expenditures which were much less material than income. With the benefit of hindsight though, I should have been a bit more pro-active about managing my savings. I had a lot of compliance-related restrictions on my personal investments and my default setting was pretty much to let everything pile up in a low-interest savings account.

      • @ ss – what would you recommend? I’m not Anon above, but I’m in about the same situation. About 1/2 of my savings are in stocks (including an index fund), and the rest is languishing away in a low-interest savings acount. I don’t know where to start.

  34. Anastasia :

    Not sure about the whole year, but I compiled 6 month spending recently, and DH and I combined spent around $3k on clothes and shoes. That was shockingly high to me! $225k combined salary before taxes, both non-law, no student loans.

    Mitigating factors: DH had just started a new job with a more formal dress code than his previous one, so a good portion of that was investing in an all new wardrobe and won’t be repeated. Also I started buying maternity clothes at the end of the year, so that probably accounted for a few hundred….

    I don’t really have a clothing budget, or any budget, unless I’m considering a major purchase. Bills and savings happen automatically, and I am a pretty frugal person, so I self-limit well within the leftovers and update my spreadsheet every few months to double-check that we’re still on track. I have been making an effort to buy fewer, more versatile, higher-quality pieces, but I have a mental block about spending more than about $100-150 on anything but a dress or suit unless I really love it and I think cost-per-wear will be low. My house also doesn’t have much closet space, so that’s been helpful when I try to decide whether I REALLY need to keep something. (I habitually buy and return. Much love to Nordstrom and Zappos!)

    • Business, Not Law :

      We are very much alike in terms of HHI and mindset about frugality and purchasing. A quick tally on my spreadsheet says that for ME: spending on clothes/shoes/jewelry was ~$1600 out of pocket but would not include anything I might have purchased with a gift card. That also does not include workout attire/running shoes which would push that right to $2000 or so (I run A LOT and wear $$ shoes, so that’s that). Also does not include makeup or beauty treatments which I put in totally separate category.

  35. Jesus, I am clearly underemployed.

  36. I’m too embarrassed to tell the internet but this post has prompted me to institute a clothing/shoes budget for 2013!

  37. All very interesting! Given the Corporette selections lately from Saks, Barneys, and the like, I could easily see someone spending: $500 coat (on sale!) $550 Akris Punto dress (marked down from $1700!), $200 cashmere wrap (on sale!), $300 Stuart Weitzman shoes/boots (on sale!), $450 jacket (on sale!), $400 bag (on sale), DvF blouse $250 (on sale!)… all this merch could set you back a country mile!

  38. Alanna of Trebond :

    Mint says I spent $3200 last year on clothes. 1st year associate…so that was all getting ready for work?

    I think that includes all accessories and jewelry and so forth.

  39. anon for this :

    Ok- I spend way too much on clothes, and let’s face it shoes. This has been a good wake up call for me to STOP. I have definitely been trying to buy “better” and only fill holes – but it needs to stop and I need to save more. This has been a very good wake up call ladies.

  40. annual…clothes…budget…?

    I’m not sure I understand the question.

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