“Clothing” is part 7 of my writing series. To see full complete spending categories, read my February 2016 newsletter. This month, I’m going to write about my experience with clothes shopping.
Clothing is one of the three basic needs of human being – food, clothing, and shelter. For the purpose of budgeting, clothing includes everything that would cover you from head to toe, such as socks, shoes, hats, gloves, undergarment, and accessories. This clothing expense would be the cost to clothe your whole family, from the youngest to the oldest. Just like any other categories, we can spend a lot or a little on clothing. Here are some scenarios about clothes purchasing.
New vs Used
Some people would never entertain the idea of buying used clothes, let alone wearing them. So why would anyone want to buy used clothing? Here are some common reasons.
· Hunting for a vintage piece of clothing
· Looking for Halloween costumes
· Searching for decent pieces of clothing at bargain price
Some of the drawbacks of buying used clothes is that some styles may be old and you may need to tailor it to fit your body. I think it is for this reason that consignment stores do not accept anything that is more than a year old. They want to sell stylish, still in-fashion clothes, and sell them quickly. Fast turn-around means cash in their pocket.
How would you take advantage of shopping pre-loved clothes? Buy classic items such as white shirts, dark pants, jeans, single-breasted jackets, and knee-length skirts that do not go out of style. Carefully examine each piece to make sure it is not torn or stained.
Cheap vs. Expensive
If you can get the same item, same quality, same cut, same fitting, it’s not wise to pay extra. However, if you buy cheap clothes that don’t fit you well or don’t serve the purpose (for example, a jacket that doesn’t protect you from cold), then most likely the items would only sit in your closet, adding clutter. In the end, you end up spending money for something you’re not wearing – that’s a waste.
Compare to buying a piece of clothing at a higher price, but fits you well and serves its purpose. If you love it and wear it often, then the cost per wear may be lower. For example, a pair of jeans you bought on sale for $10 are not comfortable and you only wear them twice. Now the jeans are sitting in your drawer. You bought another pair for $50 and you love the style and the fit, causing you to wear them once every other week, or about 25 times in a year. For the first pair of jeans, your cost per wear is $5 and they are clutter now. For the second pair of jeans, your cost per wear is $2 and they are functioning as part of your wardrobe.
Here is another example. I bought a pair of sandal wedges for $25. They look good, but not comfortable. I wore them maybe 5 times in the summer. Later, I bought another pair of sandals for $50. Not only do they look good, but they are also comfortable. I wore them everywhere – to work, to church, to banquets, etc. Needless to say, I probably wore them 20 times over the first year. My first pair of sandals costs me $5/wear and achy feet. My second pair costs me $2.50/wear and I have happy feet at the end of each wear. Ever since that experience, I have not bought any more sandals or shoes that are not comfortable.
Be careful now because expensive does not always mean better. You still need to know what you are buying.
Sale vs. Full Price
I have read that items go on sale at the beginning of the season (when they just arrived) and at the end of the season (to make room for new items). So you may automatically think, well, it makes sense to buy things at the beginning or end of the season, right? Well, perhaps. I think you should buy ONLY when you need the items. Otherwise, you’d be moving the items from the store’s warehouse, to yours. In the past, I have bought items on sale that I think I might use, such as items I think would make great kids’ birthday gifts. The problem is, we did not get as many birthday invitations as I thought we did. And when we did get birthday invitations, I forgot about the items we had, and went out and bought another new birthday gift item. Now I have new clutter in my closet that I did not know exist - more waste of money.
Compare the above scenario to buying things at full price, but at a time when you need it. For my case, it would be like buying $40 worth of birthday gifts that I may not use (not to mention the birthday kid may not like it) or buying $30 birthday gift (something that the birthday kid actually wants – I know because I asked the kid’s mom what the kid prefers) at a full price that I am actually giving away. Well, the first option costs me $40 and leaving me a shelf full of new items (read: clutter), and the second costs me $30, a happy kid (the birthday kid), and no clutter.
Kids and Babies
Speaking about kids, often children outgrow their clothes, even second hand ones. Thus, in my opinion, there is no need to get the best quality, the most expensive pieces of clothing for them. It would be better to put away the money into the kids’ university fund (RESP anyone?). If your children outgrow good quality pieces of clothing, shoes, or others, sell them at consignment store and put the proceed into the university fund – less clutter, more money for the kids’ future.
Having said that, I hope you don’t think that I’m advocating for “cheap-items-only” for children. Sometimes cheap means lower quality. In the past, I have purchased a pair of $8 children’s shoes and found out that they only lasted 2 months. I have also bought a pair of $45 shoes that lasted my child for 2 years. If you do the math, the $45 shoes that lasted 2 years are better than the ones that cost $8 and lasted 2 months.
New parents who are expecting or just had babies are often targeted by sellers. These sellers know that babies are new experience for these new parents and the parents only want the best for their babies. They can’t wait to spend money on their babies. So guess what, the sellers cater to the “need” (or soft spot) by promoting baby detergent, special pails for diapers, $1,000 stroller, etc. Truthfully, if you think about it, unless your babies have special needs, it would make no difference if his clothes were washed in regular detergent, or baby detergent. She doesn’t care if her stroller is $1,000 or $30. It’s more for the parents. All this enticement is to lure new parents to spend money to make the moms and dads look good.
Whichever shopping method you prefer - new vs used, cheap vs expensive, sale vs full price - spend only what you have. There is no use of dressing well when you are stressed out about debt or having no money to buy food. You can have a decent, clean, neat wardrobe without going broke. Make a spending plan for your money, spend within your means, and sleep well knowing that your clothing items are paid for.
I would like to repeat my message from last month - set up emergency fund for your rainy days!!