Getting my clothing spending down to 5%

I think it was the lovely Adina J that told me clothing should be 5% of your spending (or maybe it was 3%?). Not sure if she heard this rule somewhere or if she made it up herself, but regardless, she is a frugal and fashionable woman so I trust her judgement. And thus my new personal spending rule is this:

Clothing should be 5% or less of your overall spending.

Why this is a good idea:

  • instead of being a fixed amount, a percentage is proportional to my income. Therefore, the more money I make, the more I’m allowed to spend.
  • limiting my spending on clothing will result in more money elsewhere, which means more for debt payments, savings, or important items like furniture.
  • limits will force you to evaluate your choices. If you know you can’t have it all, you will instead select what’s most important. I’m all for prioritizing my wardrobe to keep junk out!

I’ve been tracking my spending for a few years now, and I know I spend more than 5% of my money on clothes. It never feels like I do, because I don’t own a lot of clothes. When I become bored with something, I give it to my sisters or donate it to Goodwill without a second thought.

I remain really dedicated to a minimalist wardrobe. I can just feel when I have too much stuff and it gives me anxiety until I cut back. If my entire closet amounts to more than 4 loads of laundry, it’s time to get rid of stuff.

However, owning fewer items frequently gives me the illusion that I spend less on clothing than I really do. In reality, I spend a ton of money on clothes.

I like expensive items. Fabrics like leather, silk and cashmere aren’t cheap to buy OR keep, but they’re my favorites. Sweatshop-free cotton tees are 3x the price of those at H&M or Forever XXI, and denim made within North American borders will have a price tag that reflects a North American minimum wages.

My clothing budget also reflects regular tailoring, dry-cleaning, and shoe repair expenses, which count towards the 5% total.

For 2013, I was heavy on clothing shopping early in the year. I bought a pair of leather boots early in January and stocked up on my favorite jeans when I went to visit my parents in Utah. These two shopping trips alone account for at least 1/3 of what I’ve spent on new clothes this year! Since then I’ve slowed my clothing spending down, save for a recent stock up on basic t-shirts from American Apparel for summer (using my spending account, so I shopped guilt-free!), I’m hoping to see the percentage drop. To date this is how my spending looks:


Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 7.44.31 PM

total spending so far for 2013

Eep! Nearly 8% on clothes and I still need a new pair of sandals =( How can I bring my clothing spending down to 5% of the pie? Two ways:

1) Cut down spending on clothing (obvious, right?)

2) Increase spending elsewhere.

Now, I don’t want bigger bills to pay and I shouldn’t go crazy and spend more on food, but if I increase my debt payments and investment spending, each of those categories will grow thus shrinking the clothing spending slice of the pie. All around source of win!

So my plan going forward is to slow down — but not eliminate! — my spending on clothing while increasing my debt payments and buying some more stocks. Can’t go wrong there ;)

Closet cull Winter 2012

My original, very first closet cull was in November 2010. That was a long time ago, so I thought it was about time to do another. I’ve bought a ton of new clothes since then, so I was expecting my closet to have grown exponentially. However, it turns out I’m still partial to chucking things I don’t like or want anymore so I’ve kept it pretty small.

Bridget's closet!


In total I own:

  • 2 pairs of lululemon pants
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs of dress pants
  • 1 skirt
  • 3 cardigans
  • 2 sweaters
  • 10 t-shirts
  • 13 tank tops
  • 13 dresses
  • 4 blazers
  • 13 blouses

Total = 64 items (6 bottoms, 45 tops and 13 dresses!)

It’s not much, but it all looks good so that’s what matters ;) I am planning to purchase a second pair of jeans this month, and another dress. What I really need are skirts and even some more blouses, but those additions will have to wait until next payday.

Itemizing my closet is more a way of tending my OCD, organized mind than anything else, but I do believe it’s important to be aware of the number of items we own and how they serve us. By keeping my wardrobe largely uncluttered, I wear things often, I love nearly everything I own (and like very much what I don’t love), and find it easy to put outfits together in the morning.

How many items of clothing are in your closet? How much of your closet do you wear?


The Story of Stuff – a case for minimalism

I recently picked up the book “The Story of Stuff” by Annie Leonard. I haven’t finished yet, but so far I really like what she has to say.

I found this on YouTube so you can get a quick look:

Crazy, right?

I think she makes a good case for minimalism, even if she doesn’t necessarily name that as the goal. She does point out however that less consumption (purchase of goods) means:

  • less pollution and less waste of natural resources
  • less exploitation of people in the third world
  • less exposure to toxins
  • more money (from less spending), more free time (because you no longer need to work to pay off debt and if you reduce your TV watching), and more happiness!

I am still participating citizen of the first world, and I consume. I even consume more than I should, especially when I know better — for example, I really should be more consistent bringing my reusable mug to coffee shops! But I’m also proud of reducing my consumption in other areas, like only purchasing books and movies digitally. I try to only buy what I need, and when I do buy, I seek high-quality long-lasting products over disposable, short-term things. I do want to work on buying more second-hand, though!

I think it’s important to be critical of our habits, not only as a nation but as individuals. When she points out in that video that the average american is producing 4.5lbs of garbage PER DAY, just imagine the difference it could make if you even reduced that by one pound! Changing your behaviour matters, it is not insignificant just because you are one person and every little bit counts. It might seem trivial to upgrade your iPhone every 2 years instead of every one year, but just think of the difference that would make in production and use of natural resources.

You are the consumer and you vote with your dollar — I say withdraw it whenever you can. Put it in a savings account — that does the most for you and the environment.

Work expenses

I’ve always been very proud of my spartan wardrobe. I am an unusual girl in the sense that I don’t shop very much, and never as a regular hobby like many women I know. In the entire month of August, I spent $0 on clothingand I wasn’t even trying. I just don’t buy. When I do buy new clothes, they’re usually things I’ve wanted for a really long time, and are usually a bit expensive so I only get a few. Furthermore, I like to get rid of things: donate, throw out, whatever. If it’s old, unflattering, faded, doesn’t fit right, doesn’t match anything, etc. I immediately toss it. My wardrobe is a minimalist work of art.

It’s also been demoted entirely to weekend wear.

My new job is in an office, so business attire is required. We do have “casual Fridays” where jeans are permitted, but I already feel like my stretched-out-just-right and faded pair of Joe’s jeans are too casual for casual Fridays.

It was when I was trying to find an outfit for the interview that it dawned on me that I would be totally screwed if I got hired. I owned NO (yes, ZERO) dress pants, all my dresses were too short, and my one pair of “nice” flats were starting to look like I had marched hundreds of city blocks in them.. because well, you know, I did (all over San Francisco and Paris thankyouverymuch!). In short, the only redeeming quality about my closet was a collection of decent shirts.

The day after I received the job offer, I hit the mall with a friend. We were shopping for my bridesmaid dress for her wedding (and guess which one it is? The lace Mad Men dress at Banana Republic I lusted over a few weeks ago! And I got it for $110 instead of $160 because they were having a sale!!), but I decided to pick up a few things for work.

I bought 2 pairs of dress pants ($130 total), a knee-length dress skirt ($50), black pointed toe pumps ($65), and black flats ($120). In short, it was really expensive — and that was me trying to be modest about it. I really wanted to get pants from Banana Republic, but I chose RW & Co. where they were 1/3 of the price. I could use more blouses and dresses, but I’m going to try to stretch what I have until the cheques start coming in. I should have a great work wardrobe by the new year, but in the meantime I really just needed the basics.

After purchasing the new, I then took some of the appropriate items already in my closet to the dry-cleaners. I have a feeling dry-cleaning will be a regular part of my life, now that I’m all about suits and silk blouses. 2 blazers and a dress cost me $50 to dry-clean this week.

Let’s just say it’s really fun to dress like a grown-up, but it is not so fun to pay for it.

More Minimalism.. online

I don’t own a lot of stuff. I have a very, very small bedroom and limited closet space. I have one dresser, one desk, and one shelf. That’s it. There is nowhere to hide clutter or stack papers. I can only ignore laundry for so long before it becomes a safety hazard that would surely obstruct a successful exit should my apartment complex ever catch on fire. In short, I feel like I’m doing pretty good at the minimalist thing.

But I am not a minimalist on my computer.

I get 63957297 emails per day. My desktop is full of unsorted files and photos. I have 15 different versions of my resumes, lab reports from 3 years ago, and a whole bunch of other things that are as mysterious as their origin. I keep emails from 6 years ago, “just in case”. I can’t delete anything permanently because I’m sure I “might need it later”.

It’s a sickness, friends, I swear to you.

Realizing I have a serious problem, I decided to immediately go about trying to solve it. I started with email, and the first thing I did was unsubscribe from everything. Did I really need an email every time someone replied to me on Twitter? Of course not — especially since it appears as an alert on my phone anyway. Ditto foursquare and Groupon. I cut out Morningstar investment news and relaxed my email alerts with ING. I unsubscribed from notifications from Rogers, Apple and Elle magazine. Heck, I was signed up for websites I didn’t even recognize, so I cut those out with a second thought. I can’t even tell you how glad I am I don’t use facebook.

Now my inbox is so quiet, you can hear crickets.


I have no idea how many minutes that became hours I wasted checking my email. Not to mention the serious draw on my iPhone’s battery pushing every new useless message. Every time my phone buzz, I thought it might be something exciting, but it was just spam. It’s a lot like when you go to the mailbox expecting cards or handwritten letters, but it’s full of flyers and bills.

I’m just a little too connected, and I need to let it go. Not having wifi or 3G sends me into a panic equivalent to that I would experience not having electricity. That’s not really rational, but my job/generation/nature has pushed me to the depths of dependence and I feel I need to reel it a bit. One of my Day Zero goals is to “unplug” for 48 hours — as in no TV, iPhone, iPad, or computer for two whole days — and I’m trying to wean myself off slowly before I attempt such a feat. The quiet has been nice, because it frees up more time for me to be present. Whether I’m at work, out with friends, or home alone, not spending so many minutes checking out to check email ensures that I’m not missing a beat.

Are you addicted to gadgets? How much of your day do you waste reading useless email notifications & spam? How much time each week could you save by merely unsubscribing from a list or two (or ten)?