Monday, January 27, 2020

Spending Money on Clothes

Clothing is one of the areas where my spending has really decreased since I stopped working. I used to work in an environment that was relatively casual by corporate standards, but I still had to wear suits sometimes. Even when I was wearing jeans, I was conscious of wanting to look halfway decent, so I'd try to buy good quality jeans and not let them get too faded, and keep things interesting with sweaters and jackets. I also was always willing to pay for good quality shoes and boots that would last a while and not go out of style.
New York City brought lots of temptation at times-- there used to be some great shoe stores near my office, though they'd closed by the time I left. And when I moved in with Sweetie, my walk home from work often took me past a really nice little boutique. They had a well-curated selection of casual sweaters, jeans, work clothes and dressier things for evening wear, most of which I would just admire and walk past, since their stuff was quite expensive. But I eventually did buy a few things there.

One day, I passed the shop and noticed their signboard outside was offering a 15% discount if you spent $1,000. I just laughed and thought "oh my god, this neighborhood is getting so bougie for them even to post an offer like that." But a few days later, I went in and fell in love with a sweater. Then I tried on some pants. Then the salesperson, who was really nice, started suggesting things. I usually don't like being sold to, but this woman had a nice way of doing it. It was like having a personal stylist-- she suggested things, some that pushed my boundaries a little, some that made me say "no way," but others that made me think, "huh. This is something I can actually wear!" It wasn't long before I was at $900-something and then I threw in a t-shirt to get over $1,000 and get the 15% off. I couldn't believe I'd actually become the bougie customer taking advantage of the offer! I have never bought sweaters that expensive any time since (one was over $300) but I still wear all those clothes sometimes and love them dearly. I never felt like it wasn't worth it.
Other than that, most of my work clothes were purchased at chain stores like J. Crew or Banana Republic, and I'd order the occasional pair of boots or sneakers from Zappos. I'm not sure what my biggest ever year of clothing spending was, but it might have been 2016, when I spent a little over $5,000.

After I stopped working, all that changed. Without needing to dress up for an office, I find myself wearing a pretty basic uniform of jeans, t-shirts and a sweater or fleece top most days. In the summer, it's shorts and t-shirts or tank tops. I wear either sneakers or basic casual boots, and finally gave in and bought a pair of Birkenstock sandals. For a while, I bought no new clothing at all. Then I realized some of my jeans were getting a little worn out and decided to refresh them-- but to my horror, my favorite style from J. Crew was no longer available. I also had a favorite shirt from J. Crew, and was wearing it one day when my sharp elbow suddenly poked a hole through the threadbare sleeve.
I don't even live near a J. Crew store anymore, and their website didn't have any similar shirts anymore. So I turned to eBay, where I was able to find exact replacements for the jeans and shirt I already had for extremely low prices. And this is now my favorite way to shop! I'm in a phase, or perhaps the prevailing fashions are in a phase, where I just don't like or want most of the current merchandise that is out there. So since little of my wardrobe was ever particularly unique, and since most items still had tags where I could find style numbers to use in eBay searches, I've just duplicated some of the things I already own and love, for a fraction of the original cost. In 2018, I only spent $900 on clothes, and that even included a couple of things for Sweetie.
In 2019, I ended up spending a bit more, but that was mainly because I had some weddings to attend that required a bit more dress-up. I thought I'd be ok with stuff that was in my closet, but discovered that some of it dated back to when I was thinner, which was pretty depressing! But I still had outfits that worked, and I was able to jazz them up with some super cheap stuff from a local department store. Retailers seem so desperate these days, there are sales on all the time, and there seems to be so much cheap, low-quality "fast fashion." It kind of went against my natural impulse, but spending $20 or so on a colorful top to liven up an "oldie but goodie" black suit was just what I needed, even if the top ends up disintegrating in a year.
So this is my new clothing reality-- comfort and value, and a degree of minimalism in my daily attire. It's working for me, and for my budget!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that Ebay's working for you. My biggest clothing category expense is workout gear, to be honest. I work at home pretty much full time, so it's rare that I have to dress up for work anymore. (I do get dressed to work even though I'm home, though. Working in pajamas just doesn't feel right.)

My partner's a big fan of my dressing up to go out, so I make an effort to do that. It's more fun anyway since I don't have to stick to strictly professional attire. I don't buy second-hand, but I do wait for sales. Left entirely to my own devices, I'd just wear sweats and fuzzy socks all the time.

frugal zeitgeist said...

^^ That was me, frugal zeitgeist.

Madame X said...

It's funny, I've never been a fan of used clothing or thrift stores, as I don't have the patience to sort through racks of random stuff, and sometimes things seem kind of musty (or worse). With eBay, perhaps because photos online seem more abstract, I don't think as much about whether some gross person wore the clothes before! So far, at least, everything I've bought has been freshly laundered and in great condition.

DebtNinja said...

Glad to see you're still updating from time to time. I discovered your blog years ago when I was learning how to get out of debt and start saving. My office is pretty much anything goes so I don't spend much on clothes. Tights and tunics is pretty much the order of the day. I've been here 2 years and haven't had reason to wear a suit. Saves a lot of money since my clothing splurge is usually the clearance rack at Target or kmart. said...

How are things going in pandemia? Long time no post - hopefully being out of the city has made things a bit easier.

I was trawling through some old blog rolls and it was depressing how many of the old PF blogs have either folded up completely or have been monetized to death.

You still have a link to the defunct NetworthIQ in your side-bar. Have you thought about moving to networthshare? It pretty much provides the same functionality that NetworthIQ used to provide.

Hazzard said...

Hey Madame X,
It's Hazzard from the very old "Everybody Loves Your Money". Completely off topic but I wanted to just say congratulations on your retirement. I sold the blog long ago but was just thinking about some of the people I was blogging with way back in the day and looked up your blog to find out that you've retired. We had similar numbers back in the day so I guess I always kept an eye on how you were doing. I'm just about to turn 49 and have been considering retiring. It's crazy to think how fast the years have gone since we were blogging about personal finance back in the early 2000's?? with net worths closer to 5 digits. I think blogging back in those days and finding "like minded" people chasing a dream that now is commonly referred to as "FIRE" really helped me push along to get to where we are now.

Anyway, just wanted to drop a quick note to say congratulations and I hope you and your "Sweetie" are enjoying life the way it was meant to be enjoyed.