Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Budgeting with Kimmie
I've mentioned my annual clothing budget a couple times and have gotten some questions, and a few of you have told me that I've inspired you to start a clothing budget (yay! thumbs up for budgeting!) so I decided to put up a post about how my budget works and how I stick to it.
My husband would probably laugh that I'm giving budgeting advice, because I'm THE WORST at keeping track of my money and I'm confused by numbers. I'm no expert, obviously, and this is just what has worked for me in the past year.
Why a clothing budget?
People usually underestimate how much money they spend on clothes. No proven statistics (so in this case, "people" just refers to me), but this is what I feel. I never realized how much I spent until I broke it down and added up my receipts.
Clothing is optional. Hah, not really, but you don't really need new stuff all the time. I FEEL like I need new stuff, but I really don't. We could probably all survive on three shirts and a pair of pants, but then there wouldn't be any fashion blogs to read anymore. Kendi has taught us that remixing is awesome, and we really could live on a lot less clothes than what we have.
It's good to save money. Duh. Retirement sounds like it's so far away, but that doesn't mean we can wait until we're 50 to start saving up. We should be putting away money NOW. Not only saving for retirement, but there's also other stuff that we should save money for, based on our own personal goals, such as saving for a house, kids, emergency fund, or just a nice vacation. Seriously though, who isn't trying to save money?
Limiting your spending forces you to think more about what you buy. Before this budget, I would buy whatever I felt like buying, and sometimes I would end up with a bunch of clothes I liked, but didn't love. I didn't think about what I bought, or how I would incorporate it into my closet. A bunch of things sat unworn in my closet because I just didn't know how to style them. Now I'm more careful with my money, because I'd rather spend the limited funds I have on stuff I really love.
Our budgeting process:
We started budgeting a few years ago just to see where our money was going. Husband has a spreadsheet on his computer, and he enters all the receipts in and it does some fancy Excel magic and it tells us how much we save or go over every month. We noted that the one area where we were spending too much was our clothing category, so we decided to tackle that separately at the beginning of last year.
At the beginning of the year, we each started with $600 to buy whatever clothing items we wanted (clothes, shoes, accessories, socks, undergarments.. pretty much anything you wear). I could either buy a pair of Louboutins in January and then nothing else for the rest of the year (that would be counting the fact I'd be able to find Loubies on sale and in my size... OMG. WANT. But too impractical for my lifestyle or wardrobe). I chose to go with the $50/month route, and if I went over for a month, I'd just spend less the next. There were some months were I spent $20, and some months were I spent $80, but I kept track diligently to make sure I still had about $50 per month left (nothing worse than the end of the year with everything on sale and you have no money left).
I won't bore you with our failed attempt at keeping track (involves an envelope of cash and keeping track on a piece of paper. #FAIL) but halfway through the year, I found a method that worked really well for me. I downloaded a free iPhone app called CashFlow Free, which is a very simple tool that lets you keep track of cash transactions (or in this case, a set amount of money). If you don't have an iPhone, you can probably just keep track on your phone or computer or something that you will see everyday (you don't want purchases to go unrecorded!)
Whenever I buy something, whether it's online or in a store, I pull out my phone and enter it in so I don't forget about it later... even if there's a chance I'm going to return it. If I return it, I go back into the app, and put in the amount I get back.
Here are some tips that have helped me:
Partner up. If I didn't have my husband to keep me accountable, I probably would not be able to stick to the budget. Have your significant other help keep you accountable (they'll be happy to, because I have not yet met a guy who doesn't think his wife/girlfriend buys more clothes than she needs). You can also have your sister, your mom, your best friend, or even your blog help keep you accountable in sticking to your budget.
Keep it separate. I have found that having my own budget for my own clothing made more sense. Stuff like groceries and entertainment is shared, but husband can't wear my clothes, and I can't wear his, so it's better if it's separate. I take responsibility for my own clothes, and then you don't need to worry about all the "I spent this much and you spent that much."
Be diligent. I've learned that if I let one purchase slip by unrecorded, I'm more likely to let others slip as well. Keep track of everything. Keep on top of your purchases.
Keep receipts and tags on clothes until you wear them. Unless it's thrifted, I keep tags on all my clothes until I wear them, and keep a mental note of the store's return policy. I had a pair of target pants that I loved but didn't fit right. After two months of sitting there without being worn, I decided that if I'm not going to wear them now, I probably never will, and so I took them back. Bonus points because you now have extra money from the return to spend on other things.
Find more ways to add to your budget. I asked for gift cards for my birthday, and filled out surveys to get some extra cash. I used ebates and Bing cashback (now defunct), and sold clothes and random stuff on Craigslist. Credit card dividends are awesome (but also the worst because it's like, "awesome! $100!" but then you think about it, if I get 1% back, that means I just spent $10,000 last year on my CC the year before. CRAZY.) and I put my skillz to use by doing a few blog designs for some extra cash. So I calculated it out, and I had an extra $400 that went to my clothing budget over the year (majority of it from my birthday money and credit card dividend)... which is AWESOME.
Find alternative ways to get new clothes. Thrifting is a good way to get new clothes without spending a lot. Do clothing swaps with friends and trade stuff that doesn't fit anymore. Shop your sister's closet (if she's nice. Mine is. I got a few new things from there, for free!) Learn how to use a sewing machine so you can restyle old clothes into new. If you know of someone who has a fabulous wardrobe and knows that she donates a lot of stuff to Goodwill, ask her if you can have it (okay. this worked for me. Might not work for everyone, but doesn't hurt to ask ;) hehe)
Be cheap. Only buy stuff on sale.. unless you really really love it. Everything will go on sale eventually, and if they sell out, it's really not the end of the world. Use coupons. Ask about discounts.
Don't read fashion blogs. HAHA, I'm kidding about this one, but there is some truth to it. I feel like a lot of purchases I make are because I saw a similar item on another blogger. I'm obsessed with J. Crew cardigans I can't afford and shoes I'd never wear, but I want them just because every other blogger has them. Kendi put up a good quote a few months back, and I was reminded of it by Taylor today: Comparison is the thief of joy.
Don't tempt yourself. If you don't go shopping or browse your favorite online stores, you can't buy anything. Find other things to keep you occupied and stay away from your favorite stores if you know you don't have money right now to spend. Even if I plan on just window shopping, I usually end up seeing something I can't live without. Best avoid it altogether and find some other hobbies that will keep you away from the mall.
I really hope this helps. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask :) Good luck!! Saving money FTW!