How To Create A Guilt-Free Clothing Budget

How To Create a Guilt-Free Clothing Budget

Goodbye stress, hello clothing budget!

Do you feel guilty about what you spend on clothing, shoes, accessories or other things for your wardrobe? Does it cause tension in your relationship? If this is true for you, you are not alone. This is a common problem, particularly for women. And today I want to share with you how to create a guilt-free clothing budget. That awkward moment when you come home with something new doesn’t have to be awkward.

I remember a particular moment with my husband when he asked me, “Is that a new Tory Burch bag?” Why, yes. Yes, it is. And his response was, “Looks nice.”

My husband is somewhat unique among men because due to his previous job he knows brands and price points, so he knows who Tory Burch is, and what her bags cost. A few years ago this conversation would have been tense and full of explanations about what a good deal I got and how I haven’t bought anything in a while, and it’s just perfect, and….

But now he doesn’t question what I buy or how much it costs because I have a separate clothing budget. I’ve had a lot of questions about how it works in our family, so today I’m sharing the system we use.

This article and the video below are taken from the Stunning Style Weekly Style Snack! Join us Wednesdays at 1pm ET on the Stunning Style Facebook page or the FREE Capsule Wardrobes for Classic Style Facebook Group.

Take Value Into Account

I actually took my very first steps in my mom’s shoes. I crawled over, stood up in her shoes and toddled precariously. I have loved clothes and shoes since I was tiny. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t. I enjoy shopping, obviously, I’ve created a career around it.

Everyone has different likes, values and priorities. My husband doesn’t really care about clothes and shoes, and it doesn’t have to be gender specific. It’s just not his thing, and he doesn’t really see the value in it. I value high quality items, specifically when it comes to bags and shoes. Looking my best and buying clothes I love is important to me. It’s something I value. He loves electronics, and I don’t really care about that. I tend to shop on a regular basis, and he rarely purchases things, but when he does, he goes big. He bought himself a grand piano because he plays and it has a lot of value to him.

What each of us values is very different and what we spend money on is very different. And in a relationship, if you don’t value the same things, then one partner might say, “What are you doing? Why would you spend that much on that?” In fact, my sons will tease me saying, “Oh my gosh, Mom, how many pairs of shoes you have?” and I’ll say, “How many Lego sets do you have? You value Lego sets. I value shoes.”

I tend to shop on a regular basis, less so now that I love my wardrobe so much. I shop when it’s time to create the Stunning Style Classic Wardrobe Guides each season and I don’t shop much in between, and my husband rarely purchases things.

Everyone has that thing they are willing to spend money on, whether it’s a hobby, cars, or eating out, but if we don’t have the same value for those things as our spouse, it can cause tension when one of us spends money on something the other doesn’t see the value in.


Sixteen years ago, I went from being a business professional to a stay-at-home mom of triplets. I had no casual wardrobe to speak of, and I limped along for years on a few plain tees, some chinos, and 2 pairs of mom-friendly sneakers (but I had dozens of pairs of killer heels!). There was no time or money for me to buy new clothes. We were drowning in diapers and down my income, so we prioritized.

As the years went on, we had more disposable income and things weren’t quite as crazy. I really wanted to find my style again. I had been living on clearance rack discards that I came across while shopping for my kids, but I didn’t like any of it. I didn’t feel attractive or like I was representing myself accurately. I bought it because it was cheap and right in front of me. I still had that mom guilt about spending money on myself. I had no problem buying my kids or husband what they needed, but spending on myself felt selfish.

I wanted to be able to find what I really loved, go back to the style I used to look and feel my best in, and shop guilt-free. That’s when we decided we should have separate budgets that we could use to buy whatever we wanted. Now I can save for splurge items, buy that thing that makes me go all heart-eyes. I can get these good deals on the things that I love without having to explain what a good deal I got on this thing that would ordinarily be really expensive. It doesn’t matter because it all comes from my own clothing budget.

I would love to know, is this a source of tension in your relationship? Do you identify with these struggles that I’ve been describing? Or do you have a clothing budget and you found a system that works for you? Let me know in the comments below.

This isn’t just for people who share a checking account. If you are single or keep separate accounts, this is still a great way to be accountable in an area that is so easy to get out of hand with. If you overspend without realizing it, this can help manage it. People don’t usually get crazy with groceries, but when it comes to shoes, it’s easy to get excited. Guilt can be a self-imposed thing, maybe from messages that you grew up with, the way you were raised. Sometimes it just comes from inside of us. You are allowed to spend money on yourself, and budgeting for it will make it easy. 

What's included in a clothing budget?

So what’s included in my in my budget and what’s included in your budget? Well, that’s up to you. Your clothing budget could include clothes, shoes and accessories, including bags only. It could include hair and nail appointments, makeup, spa treatments, or any special care expenses. At first, my budget included only clothes, shoes and accessories, like bags and jewelry. It still does not include basic necessities like socks or underwear. We’re talking about wants, not needs.

I also use my budget to pay for tailoring, shoe repairs, and things like leather repair. This budget is only for my own purchases. We have a separate budget for the kids. Now my budget has increased to include my hair appointments, nail appointments, skincare, makeup and things like that. We calculated out how much I typically spend in that area, and that amount went into my budget. It just makes it easier to see what I’m spending on.

If you do decide to include more personal care items, take that into consideration as you choose the amount. We started with my clothing budget, and then we added to it with my personal care things and calculated out how much I typically spend on that. This way I’m not eating out of one budget for the other, and that worked out fine for us.

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Determine your clothing budget

Let’s talk about determining your clothing budget. The amount you have in your budget will look different based on your finances, so you need to sit down and decide what is a reasonable amount. But, even having $25 a month is liberating. That is your $25. You can save it. You can spend it on anything you want. It’s yours. And that just feels different.

I know I’ve said it a million times, but it is never, never, ever worth it to go in debt over clothes and shoes. Never. Choose a monthly amount that works for your overall budget. My husband and I set up a separate account for each of us, and we get the same amount of money. He uses his money for totally different things than I do. I don’t even raise an eyebrow at his purchases because it comes from his budget and he doesn’t worry what those new shoes I’m wearing cost because the money came from my budget. He trusts me to manage my budget and spend what I can afford. 

We call it our budgets rather than allowances because that sounds juvenile and like there is a parent-child relationship. We are both adults and equal partners, and this is an allocation, just like any other budget line item. Whether you are a breadwinner or not, the money that comes into the household belongs to both of you. And we each contribute to our families in different ways. This is all my perspective, but most professionals would agree with me that money belongs to both of you, and so your partner is not doling out money to you because they are benevolent and kind. So there’s my soapbox about that.

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a financial expert, but I do have a few ideas of how you can approach it. It’s up to you if you have a better way or if you do want to talk to a professional, I highly recommend it. These are just some ideas I have. The first thing I would do is total up all your fixed costs (and don’t forget to include payments that are annual like insurance) and subtract that from your monthly income. That leaves you with your disposable income. Then, look at your variable expenses that would use that disposable income, like back-to-school shopping, sports fees, vet bills, home repairs, gifts, vacations, etc.  Sometimes it’s a little depressing. You can decide on what is reasonable to set aside for your budget. You can learn more about figuring out your disposable income here.

You could also look at previous years and what you’ve spent on those items, or consider what annual amount is reasonable and divide that by 12. For example, we use a program called Mint and it will import your purchases and categorize them so you can see what you spent on each category, I think they have a free version. 

If money is really tight, is there an area of your budget you could be more careful with and take some of that? Groceries is one easy place to shave some money off. You might be surprised how much you spend on eating out or a weekly pizza night. A daily coffee habit adds up, or maybe you hit the vending machine at work a lot. Do you buy a lot of books when you could be using the library?

Tracking your spending can be very eye opening. Maybe eating out is something you value more than a clothing budget, and maybe it’s money you were spending thoughtlessly that could add up to a fabulous bag or some new jeans. If you’re willing to make that trade, you have to decide that. 

Create a separate account for your budget

The next step is to create a separate bank account for your budget. And to be fair, your partner gets one too. Maybe they don’t care, but it’s important to have that conversation. Keeping my clothing budget in a separate bank account just makes the accounting so much easier because I know the kids and house budgets are elsewhere. I always know how much I have available. I can easily see where I’ve spent and nothing gets lost or muddled. I hate math. And so for me, the simpler, the better.

By having your own account you’re not tempted to take that money and spend it on other people. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it’s something you deserve to have. It’s just as important to buy our children the things that they need. But some women are guilty of buying their kids the very best of the best and spending nothing on themselves because of that mom guilt.

Also, it makes it easier to save money. I’ve saved several months for big ticket items and by having it in my separate account, that money doesn’t actually accidentally get spent on groceries, braces or sports fees. It’s so easy to set up an account and we were able to do it online at the same bank we already use, which actually is an online bank anyway.

Each month we have an auto transfer that deposits the money into our accounts on the same day. So we don’t have to remember anything, it’s all auto payments and deposits. They are my favorite. I prefer a monthly deposit because it’s frequent enough that I can buy what I want, but I don’t end up with an empty bank account by August like I might if it were annually. Monthly deposits help me spend more wisely and it’s also more affordable. You can decide what works for you.

I also deposit any earnings from selling on Poshmark or eBay into my account, so that’s a little extra money in addition to my monthly budget. A couple of years ago, I had to replace a large portion of my wardrobe after losing the baby weight. Selling my old clothes was a big part of how I was able to buy the new things.

My clothing budget comes from my part time job, which varies. I thrift a lot, but buy from more expensive retailers and also from your guides! Thank you for doing the hard work for us!!

Use a separate card for purchases

My next tip is to use a separate card for purchases, whether that’s a debit card or a credit card. My husband and I love to take advantage of rewards cards. I chose to use the Nordstrom credit card for my purchases, and I earn notes, which are rewards that you can spend at Nordstrom, you might choose something else. It also gives me certain perks like an alterations credit. Early access to the Nordstrom anniversary sale.

You could choose a cash back card, a travel rewards card, or whatever you value most, but I would suggest you get something that those rewards come back to you. You can also use the debit card attached to the account. I use the Nordstrom notes to supplement my monthly budget and so that’s extra money that I get to spend. And that got it from spending, right? But it’s a form of money coming back to me. 

Always pay off your card

This is not a tip, this is a rule. Always pay off your card at the end of the month. Always. If I find I’ve overspent, that means I return things. I never carry a balance and I always pay on time. I set up reminders on my phone calendars so I don’t forget. You can also set up autopay. If you struggled with credit card debt in the past, stick to the debit card and don’t dig yourself into a hole.

I personally don’t use autopay, and one time my Nordstrom credit card was cyber stolen. Someone spent $2,000 and I had to go through a process of getting that money put back in my account. If I had put on autopay, I would have paid for somebody else’s shopping trip.

How do I spend my clothing budget?

I like to keep a cushion in my account and that’s something I worked up to. But that way, when that that item that is just so amazing suddenly comes up, I can afford it. How do I prioritize my budget? This can really be a separate topic, but I personally choose to splurge on bags, shoes and outerwear.

Your outfit could be from Target, but if you have a great quality bag, shoes, and/or coat, the whole outfit is elevated. These are also items that can last for years, even decades if you invest in quality. You don’t have to pay top dollar for them. I often shop Poshmark and eBay for them and find them gently pre-loved or even new with tags for a fraction of the cost. 

I also tend to spend more on classic clothing items that will last me for several seasons. Foundational pieces that get a lot of wear will last longer if they are better quality. That’s not to say I won’t try to get them on sale or pre-loved, but I do go for higher quality. It comes with a higher price tag, but I save in the long run because I don’t have to replace them as often. I spend much, much less on trendy items. 

How I Decide What To Spend on

So how do I decide what to spend on? Again, This could be its own post, but I keep a list of items I need/want for my wardrobe, and as I shop I reference that list to make sure I’m getting what I need/want before I spend on impulse purchases. It really helps me to be an intentional shopper and fill the gaps in my wardrobe instead of coming home with random things that don’t meet that criteria. I know I’m spending my clothing budget on the items that will fill out my wardrobe instead of wild card items that won’t incorporate well. 

When it comes to the Stunning Style Wardrobe Guides, I don’t buy all the things. I look at my budget, and I prioritize. What are the special items that I can’t pick up any season? Black shorts? Available every summer. That amazing color block tee? A sweater in a unicorn color? Unique and hard to find? Those get priority as long as I have my basics covered.

I'm a banker and know how to budget but have not been! The Stunning Style Society has helped me not buy the wild card items.

Discover a Guilt-Free Wardrobe

In the Stunning Style Society all of the shopping decisions are done-for-you, and you can customize the wardrobe to your personal style. I show you how to shop your closet first to get the most out what you already have so that you can make your own go-to list of what would fill in the gaps to make your wardrobe cohesive. Annual members also get the special bonus lesson on how to maximize your budget while still building a wardrobe you love. The doors to join are currently closed, but you can get on the waitlist to be the first to know when they open for the winter season next month!

Now that I’m retired, our girls are on their own—I do spend more on me! But I still hesitate with the thought—do I really need it? Through [April's] help and suggestions I have found my style and now a roadmap on purchasing the clothes that fit my style!

I hope this was helpful for you and that it gave you some ideas of how to create your own budget, because you do deserve to have one. Most people can find a way to make this work in their budgets. Even if it’s $10 a month, you can really kill it at a thrift store and get some really nice things for $10. Look at what works for you, and I would love to know more about your experiences, so leave a comment so we can chat. 

1 thought on “How To Create A Guilt-Free Clothing Budget”

  1. I think I am pretty lucky. Hubby and I get $50 each week to spend on what we want but whenever we go clothes shopping he insists that it comes out of the main account he is also usually the one wandering around the store collecting items and suggests I try them on. He has never questioned any of my clothing choices but instead actively encourages me to buy those pieces that make my heart sing.

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