Thursday, May 19, 2011

Clothing Budget Anyone

If the clothes in my closet laying on my bed waiting to be put away are any indication, I'm a little bit of a clothes horse. I'm not the worst out there, but my closet isn't minimalist by any means. I dive into a glossy fashion magazine with the same fervour as a hungry person digs into a hot meal. Taking in every last page of it. Imagine my delight when Canadian Business magazine put a special report in their May 9th issue called "You, Only Better" that included a section on style. Sweet! Clothing advice for the corporate world!

I knew it was trouble one page in when the bubble beside the style heading said "How to look richer than you are".


It's about keeping up with the Jones. Dressing for the position you want, and dressing richer, are two distinctly different things.

Granted, there was some good standard advice in there for men and women, like: "Not too big, not too small and not too trendy. Invest in a neutral colour purse, with subtle to no branding." That's decent advice, it's just too bad that it was in approximately a size 6 font, and in size 20 font was "Style beyond your tax bracket" suggesting that placing a $400 cricket bat in your office "will make you look both mysterious and sophisticated".

I'd be laughing, except I know that out there is someone looking to make an impression who is taking this advice seriously. The advice that is being laughed at, a 43 page employee style guide issued by UBS bank in Switzerland (which gets a small nod in the article), is one that people should actually be taking seriously!

The part that really got me though, was their suggested spending:

"ALWAYS think about clothing as an investment. Your wardrobe should be 5%-10% of your annual salary - or, if you're dressing for the job you want, the same percentage of your desired one"

Imagine trying to fit that into a 50-30-20 budget. Lets say you make $60,000 a year and you're trying to get promoted into a job where you'll make $70,000 a year. For math's sake we'll say your income tax is 40% right across the board, so you take home $36,000 a year. Your annual "wants" category would be $10,800. According to their recommended clothing budget, you would be spending $3,500 to $7,000 a year on clothing. If you spent the full 10% you would be left with $3800, or $316.67 a month, for vacations, gifts, entertainment, eating out, TV, internet, and all the other little wants that crop up.

In theory its doable. I just have a hard time foreseeing someone who pays almost $600 a month (every month) on clothing turning down coffee or lunches out with their colleagues for the sake of their finances.

What do you guys think? How much do you spend a year on clothing? How much do you think is a reasonable amount?


Obsessive Compulsive Daniela said...

I love clothes too. As you know, I spent a crapload on clothes just a few short years ago! Now I'm trying to save for stuff before I buy it. I'm planning a shopping trip in June, and I'll have $300 to spend. I'm cheating a bit because I will be using birthday money. Oh well, it's still my money!

I think planning 2-4 trips/year at around $300/each is reasonable. It all depends on what you need to replace and what items you just can't live without. I hate the feeling of wearing the same old stuff day in and day out. I try to ask for bigger items as gifts, like the Hunter boots BF bought me for xmas - best gift ever!

You have to treat yourself sometimes. Otherwise, you'll feel deprived and just go crazy and buy something when you really don't need it or haven't thought it out.

banclothing said...

I find as you get older clothes become more expensive... you can no longer wear a $20 DC t-shirt to work. I definitely spend more per piece now however, I try to limit myself to good pieces rather than a bunch of stuff from forever 21. I think 5-10% is a lot to spend on clothing in a year. I would probably be okay with spending a maximum of $2000 per year on clothes. The only time I can imagine getting up to the 10% is if I had a job where I had to wear suits.

Louise said...

wow! thats a helluva clothing budget! I'm wondering if the booklet was sponsored by a clothing company lol!
I spend very little on clothes now, a couple of hundred dollars a year. A year of no clothes buying cured my of the clothes spending habit.

Cassie said...

lol, you guys have MUCH more reasonable figures. The magazine was focusing on jobs where people wear suits, but even that is high. At 10% of a $60,000 job, you'd be spending $500 a month on clothes. If you go with medium end clothes (say, a MEXX suit and ALDO shoes), you could buy a brand new suit, plus shirt, plus shoes... every single month.

Or, if you do what a well paid friend of mine did and buy an Armani suit and a couple shirts... you could do that 3 times a year with that budget.

Do you get rid of your clothes after a year because they're dated or "old"? You'd have to, because your closet would fill up pretty quickly if you weren't buying designer clothing.

Target10mil said...

I still wear shirts that I bought 12 years ago while in High School. The shirt I'm wearing today I think I bought in 2003 from Gap. I spend an average of maybe $100 / year.

Typically I will go 3-4 years without buying anything, and then as things wear out, then I'll make a big trip and buy several new items of clothing. Jeans seem to last around 4-5 years for me.

Fortunately at work I can wear whatever I want (I'm a software engineer). So I just wear jeans and a t-shirt.

I did recently go on a business trip to a customer site, so I had to buy some business dress clothes. Went to local discount store and bought a 4 pairs of a nice brand (forget the brand atm) for about $10 each.

Finding nice / modern dress shirts is another matter. I've had a few I've purchased for special events over the years. I normally go with CK shirts - which get spending... like $40-$70 / shirt. But they are very nice and at least where I live, only one store carries the style I like, so I don't have many alternatives.

I would never spend anything over $300 / year - that just seems insane to me. But I'm a guy. I know women and their clothing. My wife spends probably 20x more / year on clothing than i do.

Kim said...

That's the dumbest advice I've ever heard. We can assume no one who shows up at a 9-5 is rich. I spend about $1100/yr on clothes. I am an attorney, so wear somewhere between business casual & regular business. I replace things as they wear out - I particularly go through lots of sweaters, because I can't stand to iron blouses! Tops wear out much faster than bottoms, go figure. Honestly if you wear nicer clothes than most of your co-workers, people sneer. I once was a law clerk in the Pentagon where a fellow law clerk wore Armani suits (her Dad was rich). Lemme tell you, that did not go over well - military folks are not rich.

Cassie said...

@target10mil - You software guys get away with murder in the wardrobe department, lol. I envy your thrift.

@Kim - An attorney who worked at the Pentagon! I'm impressed! Your work wardrobe is probably a touch more formal than mine is, mine is more business casual. I'm with you on the sweaters though, I HATE ironing.

Daisy said...

Ha! That cricket bat comment made me laugh out loud.

I love dressing for work. I have a very limited work wardrobe, though, and since I've gained a lot of weight I find my dress pants a little big snug, which makes me look like I can't dress myself. I can't really afford to buy more than what I already have, so I'm stuck with the too-small dress pants.

One thing that really gets me is how to dress business-casual for summer! Without, of course, bearing too much leg/arm/cleavage. I'll figure it out one day, but by then I'll probably be a puddle in my winter clothes.

Cassie said...

I was dumbstruck when I read it! lol.

I had that problem too for a little while. I worked on a construction site for a while, and when I came back to the office all of my clothes were super snug. Oops! The weight will come back off soon :)

Maybe I should do a post on summer work clothes. Hmmmm. I'll bank that one in the back of my head for a bit.

Anonymous said...

It's so interesting reading how much everyone spends on clothes and how they view what a "reasonable" budget is.

Last year, I spent about $1,200 and the year before that about $2,000. This year, I am on a shopping ban, so it should be very close to $0.

I am making a list of some "wants" and how I will be challenging those "wants" of how they will make my wardrobe better. I believe that more is less. A few great pieces will go farther than too many mediocre pieces.

That being said, I work in construction, as well. And, there is little opportunity to dress up for work.

Cassie said...

I found that working in construction made me appreciate my weekend clothing more. Sounds funny, but its true. I enjoyed having a couple great pieces that I could throw on and feel like a million bucks. I've had them for a few years, they still get tonnes of compliments and they're still my go to pieces :) I completely agree with your stance that more is less.

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