Why You Need a Clothing Allowance (Yes, You!)

Why You Need a Clothing Allowance (Yes, You!)

If there’s anything I get more excited about than style, it’s money.  Alright, so who doesn’t get excited about money?  But I’m not talking about making it or spending it (although that is fun).  The thing that really excites me is budgeting it.  Yes, budgeting.  🙂

As a former financial analyst for a large telecom company, I was responsible for making high dollar decisions on a daily basis.  Now that’s exciting, right?  Some days, yes.  Other days, it was terrifying.  Now that I work for myself, I’m still making financial decisions for my family and business but those numbers are much, much smaller.  Still exciting but not nearly as terrifying.  It just has more of a personal impact now.

Our family budget includes money for vacations, back to school, birthdays and Christmas.  This year we set one aside for a living room makeover and of course, we have one for our son who is heading off to college in a few weeks.  There’s something really exhilarating about setting a money goal and then being able to reach it.

But when I got laid off from corporate America a year and a half ago, our family’s income was slashed in half.  Unfortunately, some things I budgeted for just had to go.  One of the first was my very own “pretty budget” –  the monthly allowance I set aside for clothes, makeup, manicures and hair care.  I felt guilty for still expecting those things because I wasn’t bringing money into the house.  Nobody was seeing me anyway so it didn’t really matter.

But it did matter.  And when I fell into my “mom rut” a few months later, I realized just how much. 

I no longer wore makeup except for special occasions, I lived in my yoga pants, my gray roots were peeking through, I completely stopped taking care of my nails, and my closet needed a top to bottom makeover.  I didn’t have a need for the corporate clothes in there but they were all I had.  What I really needed was a good core wardrobe that worked for my new daily life.

With a little coercing from my husband who probably saw what a disheveled, unhappy mess I was (although he’d never admit it because he’s too sweet!), we decided to make some cuts in other areas to give me a small “pretty budget” again.  At first, it was VERY small.  But just having that little bit of money set aside for new lipstick, nail polish and other splurges felt incredible.  Slowly, we built it back up to a level where I now get to pick and choose what to spend it on according to my needs for the month.

As research for this post, last week, I did a survey on my Facebook page about clothing budgets.  Of the 75 (and counting) women who responded, over half said they do have budgets ranging from $25 a month up to $500 a month.

Facebook Budget Comments

A lot of your budgets not only include an allowance for clothing but other fun money for things like manicures, salon visits, makeup, massages and even Starbucks.  Many of you have already realized the most important reason for giving yourselves an allowance.

Reason #1 – If you set a reasonable budget, it allows for guilt-free shopping.

Like I said, knowing that the money was there in my pretty budget was the best feeling.  I could choose to save it up for a few months for a higher priced item or spend it on little luxuries throughout the month.  Either way, I never had to feel guilty for taking money from the family budget in order to pay for the things that made me feel good.

But why do we feel guilty for spending money on things that make us feel better about ourselves?  That money is an investment in our well-being which makes us better for the people around us.

I realize that some of you may fall on the other end of the spectrum and spend a little more than you’re comfortable with on a monthly basis.  I fell more into that category when I was working full-time.  Lunches out every day and fancy work clothes and shoes really took a toll on my monthly income.  Again, setting a reasonable, responsible budget allows you to still enjoy those things guilt-free.

Reason #2 – A budget allows you to pick and choose what’s really important.

My 15 year-old daughter and I have been back to school shopping the past few weeks.  She knows what her budget is and I allow her to decide how she wants to spend it.  One of the items on her wishlist was some Stila “Kitten” eye shadow.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about spending money for quality.  But makeup is one area where you can often times get comparable results with less expensive brands.  We did some research on her favorite color and found a perfectly acceptable dupe for a lot less.

stila vs. wet n wild eye shadow dupe

Ultimately she decided on the Wet n’ Wild “Walking on Eggshells” eye shadow trio.  One of the colors is a perfect dupe for Stila “Kitten” and the texture is nearly identical.  If she had decided to go with the more expensive eye shadow, I wouldn’t have been disappointed.  The way she spends her budget is her choice.  She pocketed the $16 difference and applied it toward a pair of shoes she’s been wanting.  Smart girl!

Which brings me to my next point.  How should you decide where your budget is best spent?  That’s really a personal decision and each of you may have a different answer but here’s the guide that I follow.

Do a cost per wear analysis on everything you buy and invest in quality and classics that will stand the test of time. 

Items I’m willing to spend more on:

  • Shoes
  • Handbags
  • Jeans
  • Outerwear
  • Knits

Items I spend less on:

  • Make up
  • Hair products
  • Accessories
  • Trendy items

OK, so at this point, some of you may be thinking “all of this is great, Alison, just like rainbows and unicorns.  But my budget is more like a unicorn – mythical and nonexistent!  How can I get there from here?”

How to Set Your Budget

You have to know where you’re at in order to know where you’re going.  Take a long hard look at where you’re spending your money right now. 

Look at your current spending.  Do you feel like you need to be spending more or less on yourself?  If it’s less, then that’s easy.  Adjust your monthly budget to a level that allows you to enjoy what’s truly important while still being financially responsible.

If it’s more, that’s a little bit more complicated but still do-able.  What can you squeeze out right now to spend on yourself?  If it’s nothing (or not quite enough), then where are you willing to cut back to make it happen?  When I first made my budget, we sacrificed one dinner out per month in order to “donate to the cause”.  You may not be willing to do that, which is fine, but there may be another area where you are willing to cut back.

When I set my current budget, I decided that monthly manicures and pedicures were most important to me, not clothes.  So the cost of my monthly nail salon visit is the baseline for my budget.  I also allow a reasonable amount for updating any necessary clothing items, replacing makeup, touching up my roots and the occasional massage.  That’s what I call my monthly maintenance package.  Some months it’s a little more, some a little less.  If I don’t spend it all, then I can carry it over or splurge on something else.

My hope is that one day every woman can have a reasonable amount of “guilt-free” money set aside to feel pretty.  After all, we deserve it!  Are you with me?

It’s Your Turn:  Where do you fall on the budget spectrum?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share with us?  Tell me in the comments.

Work Wear Header 2

Want to stretch your clothing budget a little further?  Join me for the Work Your Work Wear Challenge and I’ll give you three weeks of new ways to mix and match your basics for less than $1 a day.  Registration closes this week.  Get more information and sign up HERE.