August 11, 2014 - Better You, Style

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

Clothing Budget 2

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.

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  • Yes we have a budget here too. Sometimes I do well with it and other times I go over. We just went back to school shopping. My daughter has grown 4 inches since last year so she needed a lot of things!! I wanted a pair of boyfriend jeans. I tried them on at Loft and decided to wait since they were almost $80! When I got home, Loft was having a 50% off sale on line. So I ordered the jeans, a sweater, and a blouse all for less than $100!!! I had a gift card so the whole thing cost $10!! It pays to wait. I am not always so disciplined but I do try!! Thanks for the tips! Susan

  • tealady3

    My husband lost his job a while back,his company just up and left, after 30 years, so my budget for any extras are pretty much gone. Maybe next time you offer the class I might be able to join. Sounds like a very interesting class.

  • Great post! We decided years ago that my husband would work and I would stay home with the kids. It was very tight for a few years and then his career took off. However, setbacks came years later and the beauty of hard times is that it makes you realize what’s important and how crafty you can be to make things work! I will buy some high end things too because they last but I’m definitely not a impulse buyer and will search for a good deal. Budgeting is hard but necessary:) A good reminder because it’s easy to get off track!! Have a wonderful day!


  • Brilliant post, Alison! I need to set myself a budget and also set one for my kiddos clothing too!

  • I love having a clothing budget because I don’t feel guilty about spending it and it’s fun saving up for larger purchases!

  • These are great tips, and I’m really going to have to start doing this since I won’t be working once I go on maternity leave. It’s stressful to think about, but this definitely helps me put things into perspective!

  • OH I love budgets too! We budget for EVERYTHING! Car maintenance, buying a new car, house maintenance…etc. It really comes in handy when you have $1000 in the car budget and you need new tires, makes that month less stressful knowing that we already have that money set aside. Same goes for the house, we needed all new plumbing, I was on maternity leave and not really bringing in an income, it made it less stressful to know we had already “saved” a bucket of money. Same goes for clothes for us…although I tend to spend more than my allowance, but like you said, we move things around in our budget so that everything is covered. I love our monthly budget meetings and seeing how much we’ve “saved”, or put towards each savings bucket…last year I wanted to save up for a fancy Christmas tree, so we’ve done little to no furniture/decor shopping so each month that budget gets rolled over to the next month. Can’t wait to get a better than a $20 fake Christmas tree!

  • I REALLY need to set up a wardrobe/beauty budget… Although I strongly suspect mine and my husband’s projected numbers would differ greatly!!

  • I became really good at budgeting when we decided I would leave my job and stay home with the babies. Now that we have our own business I budget even more! Great suggestions and really valuable information 🙂

  • Rebecca

    I would so love to participate in that challenge, but I work as a registered nurse and wear the same darn thing to work everyday! Maybe one day if I am no longer at the bedside anymore 🙂
    I loved this post, and the fact that you called it a “pretty budget” – that is so something I would say!

  • Natacha

    Please tell me, where that amazing leopard belt is from..?

    • Hi Natacha! It’s from Target. 🙂

  • These are great tips Alison! Yes, I do have a budget. I color my own hair and do my own nails so that I can spend that money on items that are timeless and classic. I also allocate part of that budget to have a maid to clean up my house once a month…otherwise I will go crazy.


    Mama in Heels
    Find me at : bloglovin’ | facebook

  • Alison, this is such a great post! I’m pinning this! I so agree with you about the importance of 1-budgeting and 2-making good choices within the budget. Some things are truly worth the extra and others not so much. Thanks for breaking down the criteria you look at for what to spend more or less on. I also love the example of your daughter…she reminds me of my 13 year old, 🙂

  • Cathy

    I’ve never really had a budget. I shop sales and discount retailers like TJMaxx and Ross. So I come home with lots of “great deals”, but nothing to wear. Participating in these Challenges will actually help me budget, spend less, but have more to wear! Win, Win!
    Thanks so much for your blog and these Challenges. They are just what I needed.

    • Denise Z

      Cathy, that was me before the challenges; Alison changed that. And a whole lot more!

      • So glad to hear it, Denise!

  • Kim

    Hi Alison! My husband and I worked up a new budget last night and discussed how we needed to include an allowance for clothes and other “girly” things. I have a tendency to spend more than I should so your reasons for setting a budget were very helpful. When you did some research on the eye shadow your daughter wanted, how did you go about doing that? Thanks for all your tips. I look forward to reading your blog each day.

  • I don’t have a budget but I do keep my shopping spending on a spreadsheet. This way, I can see visually how much I have spend so far. If it’s too much, I will stop. I am always amazed how many items I return.


  • Ugh. My clothing purchases for July/August are WAY above what I normally spend, which is usually nothing. Or $60 every 6 months. Just this month I’ve already spent over $200 🙁 I’m not pleased about it but it’s done so I need to rein it in a lot of September. There probably will be no clothing buying next month 🙂

  • Great post Alison! Great tips that anybody can easily apply!!!!!!! Good work friend!

  • I 100% agree that you need a “pretty” budget. Lately mine has been going to home projects and clothes for my daughter instead of myself though. I need to do better about taking the cash out and setting it aside. I hope one day to have a bit larger budget to work with so I can get monthly pedicures or a massage. 🙂 Sounds lovely!

    • Sometimes we get sidetracked with the kiddos, Tiffany. I’ve been there. Even if you set aside a small amount…maybe a new lipstick or eyeshadow. Every little bit helps!

  • Great post! I believe in cost per wear too… I tend to splurge on jeans, bags, and shoes. I also treat myself to a pedicure once a month. I’m getting one tomorrow and have been looking forward to it all week! 🙂

    • Thanks, Stephanie! Hope you enjoy your pedi!

  • heidi

    im glad tob back, and see this post. I like to think i’m a budgeter, but it’s more like, we don’t spend more than we earn, we have no debt other than a mortgage, but we could do better.. I think setting up a ” pretty” budget is an awesome idea!!
    how much do you all pay for mani/pedis on your area??..
    great post Allison!

  • Kay

    Love this Alison! I let a lot go over the last several years and now want my manicures and pedicures again. Our daughter used to blow me away with “I NEED a pedicure” at age 15!