How to Create a Clothing Budget + Stop Wasting Money on Clothes

Let me preface this post on how to create a clothing budget with a note: I’m extremely Type A. I love lists. I love organization. I love assessing budgets to see how things are working.

So, if that’s not you, this probably won’t be for you — you’re going to look at this and be like…”wtf?!”

But, for all my fellow list makers, you’ll get it. It’s something that takes just 30 seconds each time I make a purchase and about a minute at the end of the month when I search “Poshmark” in the month’s transactions in my budgeting tool. Yet it helps me keep my closet organized and, hopefully, stops me from wasting money on clothes I won’t wear.

How to Create a Clothing Budget

Now, let’s get into it. My thought process behind a clothing budget is that it’s going to change month-over-month. Particularly if you’re someone who believes in splurging in the occasional item that you’ll get lots of wear out of, you can’t set X amount and expect to spend it every single month. For example, I know that I’ve been wanting a Madewell leather tote and next fall I want a quilted Barbour Beadnell. I’m going to spend more during those months.

However, I’m also a strict one in-(more than) one out buyer. So, the hope is always to net out around zero. It’s not always realistic, but I always aim for it. I like to think of it this way: let’s say I see a new spring blouse I want. I think about what I have already in my closet that would be an equivalent and think: Is this fulfilling a different need in my closet? Do I need them both? If not, do I like the new one enough to get rid of the old one? In fact, are there multiple items this could replace? 

Assuming the answer to the second two questions is yes, I either sell or donate the current items.

Note: there are occasional statement pieces that don’t have an equivalent and aren’t replacing an item. I haven’t bought a ton of those this year, but an example would be the vintage Dior blazer I snagged this month from Clothes Encounters

My Personal Clothing Log

The best way to track this fluid, as needed, net zero clothing budget is something I started years ago, but I trailed off around the beginning of 2019. I decided to pick it up back in November 2020 when I remembered that this had once existed and wanted to look back and assess past purchases. I went through a few months from 2019 and end of 2018, color coding what I still have and wear, what I’ve sold via Poshmark or consignment, what I’ve worn out, and what I probably should sell.

Looking back at what I’d purchased and whether I’d still consider those to be good buys, particularly with an eye to items that were higher dollar, inspired me to pick this spreadsheet back up.

Of course, this pandemic year has been an odd one — and one in which I had an odd entry. As some of you know, for several years pre-pandemic,  I worked primarily from home, only going in to a very casual office for client meetings. So, for all those years, my work dresses, skirts, and tops sat largely unworn. But, I kept them. They’re classic and I knew that, at some point, I would likely end up back in an office job. Which I did. At the end of January 202o…

So, I had approximately six weeks back in an office, dipping my toe back into my old wardrobe and picking up a few pieces, like nice jeans, that I’d been putting off when I worked from home.

Well, surprise, surprise, all of those clothes have sat unworn again — but it still seems like a waste of money to get rid of them. Meanwhile, I’ve needed to upgrade my previous WFH wardrobe to sweatshirts to slightly elevated Zoom-worthy comfy clothes. All that is to say, I have had to make some purchases this year, especially as I’ve settled into a professional WFH look — mostly J.Crew cotton tees and turtlenecks with sweater blazers, cardigans, headbands, and the occasional clutch.

I’ve only netted out to $136.07 total over the past 5 months, when I consider both buying and selling. My most-worn purchases are a J.Crew sweater blazer, J.Crew Factory tissue turtlenecks, Boody long sleeve tees, a Madewell vintage-inspired cardigan, and an Aurate initial bracelet (literally I don’t take it off, ever).

So, in a few months, I’ll repeat the assessment process, look back and what I’ve bought, see what worked and what didn’t. The thought is, this clothing log and budget should give me the insight I need to figure out what I actually want and wear — and what’s just a waste of money.


clothing log - create a clothing budget


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