How to Create a Guilt-Free Clothing Budget

How To Create a Guilt-Free Clothing Budget

That Awkward Moment Is no longer awkward

“Is that a new Tory Burch bag?” my husband asked. Yes, yes it is. “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 care 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 what we do.

Why should you have a clothing budget?

I actually took my first steps in my mom’s shoes. I crawled over, stood up in her shoes and toddled precariously. I’ve obviously loved clothes and shoes since I was tiny. I enjoy shopping. I’ve created a career around it! 

Everyone has different likes, values, and priorities. My husband doesn’t really care about clothes and shoes. 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. 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, they are very expensive. 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.

Thirteen 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 shoes (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!

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 myself. 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 made me go all heart-eyes, and it doesn’t matter because it all comes from my own clothing budget.

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. People don’t usually get crazy with groceries, but shoes…

What's included?

What to include in your budget

That’s up to you. Your clothing budget could include clothes, shoes, and accessories only. It could include hair and nail appointments, makeup, spa treatments, or any special care expenses. My budget includes clothes, shoes, and accessories like bags and jewelry, but not necessities like underwear or socks. 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.

If you do decide to include more personal care items, take that into consideration as you choose the amount. We are considering increasing my monthly amount and including those items. They are pretty much the same every month, so it’s easy to figure out. 

Determine your clothing budget

The amount you have in your budget will look different based on your finances. You need to sit down and decide what is a reasonable amount, but even having $25 a month will be liberating. I’ve said it a million times, but it is never worth it to go in debt over clothes and shoes. Never. Choose a monthly amount that works with your budget.

We set up an account for each of us, and my husband uses his money for totally different things than I do. I don’t so much as raise an eyebrow at his purchases because it comes from his budget. He doesn’t worry what those new shoes cost because the money came from my budget. 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.

To figure out how much you should use, there are several ways to approach it, but 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 what else comes up that would use that disposable income, like back-to-school shopping, sports fees, vet bills, home repairs, gifts, vacations, etc. After you see what is left decide how much of that 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. 

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.

Create a separate bank acount for your budget

Keeping my clothing budget in a separate bank account makes the accounting so much easier. I always know how much I have available, I can easily see where I’ve spent, and nothing gets lost or muddied. I’ve saved for several months for big-ticket items, and that money doesn’t accidentally get spent on groceries, braces, or sports fees for the kids.

It’s so easy to set up an account, and we were able to do it online at the same bank we already use. Each month we have an auto-transfer that deposits the money into our accounts so we don’t have to remember anything. I prefer a monthly deposit because it’s enough that I can buy what I want, but I don’t end up with an empty bank account by August. It helps me budget a little better.

I also deposit any earnings from selling on Poshmark or eBay into my account, so that is extra money in addition to my monthly budget. I recently had to replace a large portion of my wardrobe after losing 2 clothing sizes, and selling my old clothes was a big part of how I was able to buy the new things.

Use a separate card for purchases

How to create a guilt free clothing budget

My husband and I love to take advantage of rewards cards. I chose to use the Nordstrom credit card for my purchases and earn Notes (rewards you can spend at Nordstrom). It also gives me certain perks like an alterations credit, early access to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, etc. You could choose a cash back card, a travel rewards card, or whatever you value most. You can also use the debit card attached to the account.  I use the Nordstrom Notes to supplement my monthly budget. So that is extra “money” that I get to spend.

Always pay off your card

I ALWAYS pay off my card at the end of the month. ALWAYS. If I find I’ve overspent, I return things. I never carry a balance, and I always pay on time. I set up reminders on my phone calendar so I don’t forget. You can also set up autopay. If you have struggled with credit card debt in the past, stick to the debit card. Don’t dig yourself into a hole.

How do I spend my money?

This could really be a separate post, 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

This could also 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. 

In the Stunning Style Wardrobe Guides, everything is strictly Minimal Classic, but in the shopping links I provide options for all the Classic Style Twists.  You’ll find Edgy, Cute, Soft, and Sporty options so you can customize the wardrobe to your personal style, and 100 outfit options for inspiration! Take the quiz below to find our your Twists.

But what if it's on sale????

If you have the money in your account, go for it! If you don’t, it will have to wait. I usually keep a pad of a couple hundred dollars in my account for just such occasions. However, I basically drained my account replacing my summer wardrobe (literally, nothing fit and I started from scratch), and I am currently missing out on the biggest sale of the year, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. I’m not even browsing because I don’t have the funds. However fabulous those items may be, I’m out of cash. Even if those items sell out, I guarantee they will show up on Poshmark and eBay soon enough.

Before my big summer wardrobe shopping trip, I really didn’t buy anything for a few months to save up for it. I also had the extra money from selling on Poshmark. I knew I needed to buy a lot of things, so I planned ahead.

Shop Guilt-free

How would it feel to come home with a new handbag and have your spouse say, “Looks nice,” instead of interrogate you about the expenditure? Would you like to know that you have some money set aside for guilt-free splurges? A clothing budget can do that for you. It takes the stress something that you could enjoy.

Looking for more inspiration? Discuss capsule wardrobes and classic style with a fun community of like-minded women in the Capsule Wardrobes for Classic StyleFacebook group

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4 thoughts on “How to Create a Guilt-Free Clothing Budget”

  1. I am single but still work to keep my purchasing in the reasonable range. I don’t keep a specific budget but more of a true “needs” list and a few “wants.” I made a list at the beginning of summer of what I truly needed and what was a want. It helped me focus my shopping and not overbuy but also be patient for sales for the items that could wait.

    1. Jenifer, that’s awesome! I also shop from a list, and having a budget helps me space out my list purchases and I don’t overspend if several of my items show up at once.

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