Fashion maths

J Lo’s love might not cost a thing, but clothes certainly do.  It should be blindingly obvious from this blog that I love clothes, and thus I must outlay my hard-earned to acquire them.  In my youthful past, it was no worries if I ended up with a dollar in my wallet on a Friday evening, with payday still a horrifying 5 sleeps away.  This is a true story – I spent that dollar catching the Cable Car home in the rain.  I ate a family size can of fruit salad and half a packet of slightly stale rice crackers for lunch at work on the Saturday.  

From these trials, we learn.  What I learned was that occasional malnutrition in the name of a fabulous handbag is entirely survivable, but the stress of having nothing put away for a literal rainy day is bloody terrible.  So, over the past 17 years I’ve slowly developed an Approach. 

First of all – make a budget.  I make a budget in December for the year ahead (thank you Excel and your magical formulas) and then I update as I go through.  To me, clothing purchases fall into three broad camps: frivolous stuff, things you buy on an ongoing basis, and maintenance.   These should all be reflected somewhere in your budget – there’s no point in a budget that’s a fantasy. 

Maintenance:  because I like to look after my things and make them last, I always have an amount in my monthly spending for shoe repairs, tailoring or drycleaning (as required).  If I don’t spend it, it goes into my frivolous stuff account.  You may not need a maintenance account for tailoring and drycleaning, but I’d be amazed if your shoes never need repairing.

Ongoing spending: I know that at certain times of the year I will spend money on things I have to have.  At the start of most winters I will buy a new pair of black shoes that I will thrash mercilessly and destroy, and two basic merino that I will wear on constant rotation (including as pyjamas, occasionally).  At the start of summer I will usually buy a pair of sandals, and at least one plain white cotton tshirt.  I buy tights by the bushel in March and April.  All of these get reflected in their respective monthly lines.  

Now that the dark days of fruit salad for lunch are behind me, I also budget a flat amount every month for fashion.   Some people would find this excessive – fair enough.  The success of budgeting is knowing yourself and your life and being real about it.  Setting a budget gives me a framework to think about what I really want, and focussing on vintage/second hand and locally designed and made things keeps the dial down on the environmental impact.

Then there’s frivolous stuff.  Now. You need to save for REAL THINGS (like retirement!) and pay off any interest-bearing debt, first.  But then, frivolity!

The frivolous stuff account has a long history with me.  Even in my student days, I eventually had a jar I put spare change into, for the same purpose.  To be honest, I was probably more committed to that jar than any other aspect of saving, but that’s the life of a student.  I also definitely emptied that jar one more than one occasion to fund a mid-week night out.  Magical times.

For those of you who are less into fashion than me, this might be where you save for any hobbies you have,  or just put the occasional $5 towards doing something fun down the line.   Any time you get an unexpected windfall, you should see if you can put it in here.  It’s not always possible, of course – sometimes an unexpected windfall is just in time to cover an unexpected outlay. 

This account is where I draw from when I am buying something that even I think might be a bit ridiculous, or, more usually, things I’ve been plotting for a while.   When I got a surprise annual leave windfall, some of it went in here and paid for a jacket I’d been eyeing up for two months.  In August I have to pay the balance on a dress I pre-ordered, so for the past two months I’ve put away a bit here and there towards that day – that takes the heat out of the spending that month. 

I’m always keen to refine my approach.  Tell me – how do you manage your “just for fun” spending (and it doesn’t have to be on clothes!)?  

The photos in this post are from a recent shoot organised by The Residents - check it out here for Lucy's tips on transitional dressing, and a peek at me in another fabulous get up.  Many thanks for making me look so good, Wilson Trollope (on clothes) and the lovely Ash of Dinosaur Toast (on photography)!  Wilson Trollope is in SALE right now - what a great way to make those dollars work ;)  (pants are vintage)