Feb 09 2009

How do you budget and shop for for clothing?


I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but definitely not back to my original shape. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to the way I was. I’m not counting on it.

Unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately?) none of my old jeans fit anymore. When it comes to clothes shopping, I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than trying to find a good pair of jeans. I usually have to try on a lot of pants before finding some that will work, let alone look good.

In the past, I’ve just bought clothes as needed, and tried to keep my spending to a minimum. I’d flock to clearance racks and try not to ever pay full price for an item.

I’m going to change my strategy a bit.

First, I’ll take a complete inventory of what I have. I’ll get rid of clothes that I haven’t worn in awhile, and have no likelihood of wearing again.

Next, I’ll identify the gaps in my wardrobe. I’m predicting that I’ll need clothes for day-to-day wear and some nicer things for church.

I’ll create a shopping list of concrete items that will serve a specific purpose. For example, blue jeans for daily wear, nicer jeans, tops that will work well while nursing, etc. This way, when I go shopping, I won’t just get a bunch of things that I like on the rack. I’ll only get it if it has a specific place in my closet (and life!).

Finally, I’m going to try to do something that I haven’t really done in the past: Ignore the price tags. At least, initially. I don’t want to buy a pair of pants simply because they’re really cheap. I want to buy them because they fit well, are well-made, and will get plenty of use. If that means I have to spend a bit more to get an item that fits the bill, then that’s what I’ll have to do. Which makes more sense: Paying $50 for something you’ll wear a few times per week, or $10 for something that you wear once and never again?

Of course, if I can get that $50 thing for 20 percent off, all the better.

It might be a good idea to set aside some money each month for clothing for my husband and me. We probably won’t go clothes shopping each month, but over time we’ll be able to accumulate a good amount of savings to update our clothes when we need to.

I’ve heard setting aside 5 percent of your income to cover clothing. I don’t know if we’ll do that amount. Perhaps I’ll do a bit more early on while I’m getting a few key pieces.

How do you shop for clothes? How do you budget for them?

For more on the topic, check out my principles for frugal clothes shopping. Also, see this guest post at Get Rich Slowly.

Posted under Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “How do you budget and shop for for clothing?”

  1. We don’t buy clothes too often, so rather than having a clothing budget, we have a “Miscellaneous” cash fund written into our budget every month. This can cover light bulbs, office supplies, clothing, shoes, tools- basically any infrequent purchase that doesn’t fall into another category. This way, we can replace clothing piece-by-piece as needed, and pick up good sales or thrift store finds as we see them. We haven’t needed to do a big clothes-shopping trip in a while.

  2. I usually shop for each season and get a few seasonal pieces and update my basics if I need to. A couple years ago I bought some jeans that are Seven For All Mankind. They’re on the pricey side but I’ve never had jeans fit me so well. I have acquired about 5 pairs of them now and my job allows me to wear jeans so I literally have worn them everyday for the past 2 years (minus a couple months last year when I was pregnant.. i jimmied them up for the 1st half of the pregnancy though!). I will probably have them for years to come since they don’t wear out easily. Definitely an investment piece for me. Now when I go shopping I just focus on tops, shoes and skirts or dresses. I rarely wear skirts and dresses so shopping for tops is fairly inexpensive each season! I also like Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx for deals. Sometimes I’ll shop the Old Navy website because everything always (always!) goes on sale after a while so you can get pretty good deals there too.

  3. I wholeheartedly support you ignoring price tags at the beginning. I purchase Eddie Bauer jeans and they are a little more expensive than those I have bought at Old Navy or Kohl’s. However, I wear each pair several times a week. I still have the first pair that I bought three years ago and they show very little wear. I also have the same philosophy about shoes. I don’t buy crazy expensive dress shoes (since I don’t wear them daily), but I do spend a good amount of money on the shoes that I wear every day (ie, sneakers or boots).

    I also have a miscellaneous amount of money in my budget each month and use that for clothing. We also rely on Christmas and birthday gifts for clothes money. I tend to buy several of something that fits well and creates wardrobe flexibility. For example, I recently found some t-shirts that fit very well, are flattering and were rather inexpensive. I bought five of them (all in different colors). My husband thought I was crazy, but I wear one of them nearly every day of the week. They were absolutely worth the $75 that they cost.

    Mrs. H-B’s last blog post..Snow Day Napping

  4. I have learned that ignoring the price tag is the way to go when it comes to articles of clothing that I have a hard time finding to fit well (like jeans). There’s a saying in Spanish, “Lo barato sale caro”, which means that what’s cheap ends up being expensive. Meaning, you’ll buy the more expensive/better quality item after the you are dissatisfied with the “cheaper” item (or it breaks, etc.) So, in the end, you would have saved money if you’d gone with the better item in the first place. This is my strategy now- going with quality- and choosing items that I really love, and suit me well in my life.

    Sarah F.’s last blog post..It’s February already: A lazy January recap

  5. I agree with your shopping strategy, but you would be surprised at how long after a pregnancy that your body will continue to change. This fall, about 4 months after I gave birth to #2, I decided that it wasn’t likely that my body was going to get any smaller (same as you, I’d lost the weight, but my hips were way wider). So, I invested in some new skirts and pants. Two months later without increasing the amount of exercise I was doing or changing my eating habits, I’m about two sizes smaller than those clothes that I bought… I’m not sure what the best solution is as it’s always nice to have something to wear that fits… I’m thinking that as long as I’m still in the “having kids” phase of my life, it’s probably good to have some good go-to items in a range of sizes.

    laura b’s last blog post..A Little Knitting and Some Cheesemaking

  6. I have had luck shopping at thrift stores and yard sales. Also, I lost 20-30 pounds after my last pregnancy and (wisely) stashed the pants that fit me during the in-between period. Right now, I am 15 weeks pregnant and wearing those pants that are a size or two larger than my usual. Because I held onto them, I haven’t really had to spend any money on early maternity clothes (plus I have a nice stash of maternity clothes ready to go once I need them).

    When I realize I look frumpy because of my wardrobe, that’s when I go to Old Navy or New York & Co with $40 or so and buy a pair of decent pants–because, like you said, it’s the jeans/pants that give me trouble. Shirts are easy to come by at yard sales but I can’t just wear any pants! Sometimes it’s necessary.

    My most costly, but totally worth it, wardrobe item is my Bravado Essential Nursing Tank. They cost me around $35 each with my work discount and I’ve bought four. But I love them and wear them every day of my life.

  7. 3 words: Belly Bella Band.

    I bought one to keep my jeans going (I am not pregnant, but I have a belly that won’t fit in any jeans that fit anywhere else like in the butt).

    $32 CAD (OUCH!) but better than paying for another pair of jeans in my opinion because I am not willing to pay $100 for something that isn’t as comfy as my old pair of jeans :)

    They basically hold your jeans up and cover your belt/unzipped section so it doesn’t look ghetto

    Fabulously Broke’s last blog post..Parents & Finances – what have you received?

  8. I had such a hard time paying $60 for a pair of jeans last summer, but they’ve lasted well, fit great, and can even be worn to work! (moderately relaxed dress code) I try not to look at the price until I’m ready to buy, but I’ve still put some things back because they’re just too much. Even if they last, I’m worried about my clumsyness, spills, etc.

    I’ve occasionally done the whole inventory thing. Other times, I go out shopping because the lack of some useful item, e.g. brown dress slacks, keeps bothering me. Then I figure out what we can afford and try to acquire it, possibly with another piece or two that’ll go with it and at least one other item in my wardrobe. I try not to have items that only go with one outfit.

    Mrs. Micah’s last blog post..Day 9) Reviewing You Need a Budget

  9. I completely agree with Laura above – hold on to your prepregnancy clothing for a little while longer. It took me about a year for my hips to narrow back again to an 8 with my first. My second is 5 months old and so far, my size 10 pants still fit (however, I think my hips are narrowing and my fat is growing…!) But I’ve kept my size 8 pants, just in case! :)

    Candice’s last blog post..Wee Essentials

  10. I would go for quality over quantity. And I’ve had great success checking the sales racks at Banana Republic. They have really good sales and I’ve gotten some nice items there. They’re really good quality and last a long time. I also have a friend who swears by her designer jeans and they do look awfully nice on her!! I’m thinking when I get down to my goal size I’m going to treat myself to a pair.
    Oh and who knows, you might still fit your old stuff after all. My SIL got even smaller BFing than before she was pregnant, and she was tiny already!

    Stacy’s last blog post..Happy Baby!!

  11. Hi Kacie,

    Congratulations on reaching your prepregnancy weight so soon!

    I’m with you on the jeans — it takes me forever to find a pair that fits right; and then wouldn’t you know… they stop making them! Grrrr.

    My husband and I try to buy mostly high quality clothing and footwear because it is very well made and lasts for much longer. Yes, it costs quite a bit more, but we make a list of the things we need and pick the items up on sale and sometimes at thrift stores. (I just love finding a like new quality item at a thrift store!!!)

    Here’s something I wrote recently about buying good quality items — they really do last us longer and cost less in the long run.


    Take Care,


  12. I never thought to go shopping without looking at the price tags. Might have to try that, especially with items I get a lot of wear out of such as jeans or boots or shoes for work. It doesn’t make sense to save a buck to just turn around and have to buy it over and over again.

    I have also thought of taken a clothing inventory but haven’t gotten very far. There are a few things I keep in my head that I know I need and sort of mentally check them off as I go but I should probably do a formal inventory as I feel like I am wearing the same things over and over at the office.

    Dani’s last blog post..Laying Down the Law

  13. Reading this post reminds me a lot of myself. Before pregnancy and having kids, I was the bargain shopper too. I’m still a bargain shopper, but after having each of my kids, I was more interested in finding clothes that fit me, looked nice on me, and made me feel good about myself.

    One suggestion – I cleared my closets out and got rid of old clothes I figured I’d never fit into again. I regret it. I managed to lose a ton of weight after having my second child. Granted, everything isn’t where it use to be, but I wonder how much money I could’ve saved if I could’ve dug out my old jeans or dress pants from 4-5 years ago.

    My advice – pack them away for later, if you have space, that is. You never know.

    Jennifer @ Money Saver 101’s last blog post..5 Ideas for a Budget Friendly, Romantic Valentine’s Day

  14. I am also a frugal shopper, but my MIL talked me into a more expensive ($80) pair of jeans about a year ago.

    I wore them (the JOPS I mentioned in my post) more than any other $20 jean I’ve owned before. I can’t WAIT to get back into em.

    I definitely agree to set some money aside for good jeans…they are SO worth it.

    Amand – VintageDutchGirl’s last blog post..Wallyworld Picks Episode 3…

  15. Congrats on your pre-pregnancy weight! I gained 50 pounds while pregnant with my son, so it took me months to lose it all. I wasn’t even in my “fat jeans” until he was 4 months old. I started wearing a lot of skirts because they adjusted to weight loss easily. I could buy them when they were snug around my natural waist (belly button height), and wear them until they hung on my hips. The best part was I didn’t have to worry about the fit in my thighs or rear, so I could just grab them off the rack if a fussy baby wouldn’t let me try them on in the store.
    You shouldn’t count on your current body shape being your permanent shape just yet. If you keep BFing, you could still be in for some major changes. After 15 months of BFing I’m back to my high school graduation weight and wearing jeans 2 sizes smaller than pre-pregnancy!

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

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