Spring Wardrobe – Shopping & Spending

Some of my favorite posts on personal finance blogs are the monthly spending summaries. I may be in the minority, but I love seeing how others manage their lifestyles and the numbers behind it all. Such facts & figures are usually kept off fashion blogs, but I think it can be interesting to discuss. In a field that’s ripe with consumerism and mutual enabling, I’d love to hear how fellow fashionistas keep overall consumption in check, while maintaining current, well-curated wardrobes.

Last year, I posted about keeping a streamlined wardrobe. My approach and goals remain largely unchanged, but I’ve indulged in some temptations (fun trends, end-of-season sales, etc) and hope to regain focus. In light of some heavier shopping this season, I wanted to do an update and share some numbers behind the fashion posts.

Since 3/1, I spent $634 and added 15 items to my wardrobe (40% of spending was on 1 item):

I returned/sold 13 items, or 52% of original purchases due to various reasons:

I did alterations at home to save approx. $70 on tailoring (which I include in total wardrobe spending):

As mentioned in my previous post, careful assessment of each purchase can help distinguish a well-curated wardrobe from one that’s a victim of aimless consumption. One method that has helped me personally over the years is a manual log of items purchased…

By spending a few minutes each month updating and reviewing this spreadsheet, I’m able to:
– Evaluate each item individually and in the context of other purchases
– Take note of when return deadlines are; and
– Monitor the ebb and flow of purchases to make sure I’m within a reasonable long-term limit (saving my thoughts on the subjective definition of “reasonable” for another day).

*Highlights = returned or sold

So how did I do?

This season, I added a lot of variety to my wardrobe with new colors, prints, and silhouettes. My favorite additions are the Old Navy wrap dress, the cap-toe Louboutins, the H&M; floral blouse, and the Crewcuts apple pants. They met all of my purchasing criteria, filled gaps in my existing wardrobe, and are getting quite a bit of wear. The Chanel brooch was a little splurge, but it’s an item off my wishlist that should retain it’s value (barring any klutzy handling).

On the other hand, some admittedly unnecessary purchases are the Gap kids lace shell, the H&M; dot dress, the J.Crew $3 turtleneck, plus a third pair of cafe capris. One of my biggest shopping weaknesses is buying items like the aforementioned that meet so much of my criteria (good fit, good value, pairs well, looks good) but just aren’t necessary for my compact wardrobe. H&M; provides a lot of temptation for me on that front, and I’ve been keeping that at bay by putting things on hold, and only going back to buy if I keep thinking about them. We can only wear so many items at a time (and I hate having things collect dust), so a streamlined yet current wardrobe is something I’m constantly working towards.

Fellow fashionistas – How do you maintain a current wardrobe while keeping overall consumption in check? What are some of your shopping weaknesses?


134 thoughts on “Spring Wardrobe – Shopping & Spending

  • Natasha Fatah May 13, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Wow girl! You cleaned up! Good deal hunting!

    ~Natasha Fatah~
    ~Natasha Fatah~

  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    you are a star! I think I will do something similar and keep a clear set of accounts of what I pay for clothes/shoes/BAGS It may be quite a shock actually to see the reality of the situation. You are right -such things are usually kept of blogs – and they should NOT.

  • Cher May 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Some months are harder than others (like April and November when all the F&F; sales go on!). I'm still building a good basic work wardrobe, so that is where I tend to "invest". Things that are classic, good quality, fit well, and versatile is where I tend to spend my money. As women who are very petite, trying to find professional clothing, fit is a very big deal. And if it fits off the rack, particularly a pair of trousers I'm taking it home with me! As a result, I have a very expensive trouser collection! LOL. But occasionally I will splurge on something fun (or trendy) as long as I think that I will still wear them for at least several seasons. I also keep track of my spending like you do, although your method is much more detailed than mine.

    I really put a lot of thought into my purchases. I probably spend more on individual pieces than some women do, but I'm *very* particular. I pay a lot of attention to quality, fit, and details. I think if an item has all those things that I'm looking for, they are worth the little bit extra $$. I've held that philosophy for quite a few years now, and I'm very happy with my wardrobe so far and with very few exceptions, I've never had to "replace" anything due to quality or because I now realize the fit is off, or because things are no longer in style (luckily my body shape hasn't changed that much over the years). When I purge my closet (which is fairly often) and I come out of the closet empty-handed, I know I've been making good choices.

    Great post! I also like to see how bloggers keep their clothing budget. Far too often, I feel like I can't relate to bloggers because I have to keep a personal shopping budget, and it appears to me that they don't!

  • fong May 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Jean, can you post a photo of you wearing the Origami sheath from J.Crew? Either here or on Twitter or Facebook?

  • Phoebe May 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Unfortunately, I haven't been very good about keeping a well-curated wardrobe. I do mull over my purchases (before whipping out my credit card) for ages, but my only criteria, besides fit and fabric, is will I wear this? I make myself think of 3 different outfits I could make with it from pieces I already have in my closet. And while that has been extremely helpful, I've also amassed a decent amount of seasonal clothing that I tend to not wear (even though I think I will) the next year. I think for me, I need to start thinking about timeless pieces that might cost a bit more, but sometimes it's just tough when you want to have a lot of different choices.

  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Do you have any recommendations on personal finance blogs to read? Which ones have the monthly spending summaries you mentioned? Can you provide links to any particularly interesting monthly spending summaries you've read? Thanks so much!

  • Bbg May 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    This month had been really hard. I live in Singapore and during the end or the beginning of the year, the stores are selling lots of thicker clothings as its winter in many countries but in Singapore, it's summer all year long and this, when the shops are coming up with all the colors and shorts, I went a little crazy over them.
    I always try to buy clothings with better quality more than the design and I always ask myself if I can still see myself wearing it after a while. I try not to succumb to trends which doesn't seem like they will last but I let myself go once in a while ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Amy Nguyen May 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I love the way you record your purchases. I hope to do something similar when I begin shopping for professional clothing that I know I can splurge a bit more on!

    I have an absolute weakness for all of the basics. When I see a white tank with good quality, I always say to myself, "You can never have enough white tank tops!" Well, you can when you have 9 of them.

  • Unknown May 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    I definitely need a system like yours. My clothes usually just sits and/or hangs in my closet. I'll go in twice a year and find things with tags still on them. My family and gal pals love me when I ask if they want to raid my closet. I rarely do returns, and yes, that's money down the drain. =.
    As for buying clothes; for slacks, it's all about the fabric. How it falls, how it fits, and I always add the $9 to the price for hemming (I should hem pants myself). For jeans, it's usually darker shades, and has to look my age appropriate. I don't want to be mistaken as a kid. Dresses are my downfall. If its cute, I'll figure out it'll fit once I'm at my tailors'. Dress shirts and blouses are hard to find, so I usually buy fancier t shirts. But, looking through your blog has encouraged me to seek harder on nicer blouses and dress shirts.

  • My Style May 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    wow! you did actually very good! to be honest is spend this season less then I have spend this month, in my defense I have to say that I bought things for all year wear… nevertheless congratulations!



  • this is lemonade May 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This is really great! I'm not in possession of a well curated wardrobe and need to really rework my clothes. I wonder if anyone out there has worked out a really good way to make a compact but visual inventory.
    I've kept putting off a much needed wardrobe renovation because it's just so daunting! My problem us I'm so scared of spending and getting a load of rubbish and then suffering from buyer's remorse!

  • Wendy May 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Do you have any favorite on-line second hand markets?

  • Heyni Solera May 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I only allow myself $500 of spending allowance a month, and that includes everything outside of bills, e.g. going out to eat, buying books, gifts for friends, and clothes. That's my limit and it doesn't mean that I reach that limit every month. This keeps me from buying clothes that I really don't need. Also, every change of season I reevaluate my closet, and dispose of items that don't fit, have worn out, or haven't worn in a while, and make a list of items I would like to further round out my closet. Slowly my closet is representing my style and continues to evolve.

    Your blog actually has also shaped how I buy clothes. I'm petite as well, 4'10" and 110lb, and try more than ever to focus on fit. So thanks!


  • DSK Steph May 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    You amaze me Jean! The way you think really fascinates me. I wish I were more practical and smart with purchases like you. The only way I ever see what I buy is through my department store statements. You inspire me to be a more responsible shopper. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • a rose May 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

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  • a rose May 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    This might sound cliche' but I often think of how many ways I can wear a potential item with other clothes that I have already had before I buy them (silhouette & color combination). 3 is the ideal number I aim for pairing options. Also, if possible, I consider where & when it's appropriate to wear it.

  • Petite-ish May 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Jean! I try to control my spending by making a spreadsheet for all of my monthly spending (kind of like Mint.com does), and I've been doing it for the last 4 years or so. When I'm considering a new purchase that I'm on the fence about, I also occasionally pull out all of the similar items in my closet to discourage myself from adding yet a 5th pair of black trousers to my wardrobe… Since I discovered the blogging community, I've definitely noticed an upward spike in my monthly clothing budget (and also an increased volume of returns), which is sort of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, my clothes are better fitting and I'd like to think that I'm looking more put together overall, but it's also been a drain on my time/resources. But I enjoy reading your blog way too much to stop ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Aquarelle Bleue May 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Wow, I'm seriously impressed with this post! It is so true that fashion bloggers usually keep this figures in the background, and I always wonder how they keep adding things to their closet without running out of space/money. Thank you so much for such an informative post! I'm definitely going to follow your advice since I need it badly. For a long time I was able to shop to my heart's content, and now I have an overflowing closet, and I've had to get rid of so much stuff that was just beautiful but I never wore and/or was no longer in style. I still have items with the tag on hanging in my closet and I'm terrible about selling my stuff, because I just get too lazy about posting it online. You sure are providing a great example to follow and again thank you for offering your own criteria for keeping things under control. If you can offer more tips I'd greatly appreciate it!

  • Sabrina May 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Wow! I actually used to do the same thing, keep a meticulously detailed spreadsheet on items that I already have and another one listing things that I "needed" in my wardrobe (although the word "need" is extremely objective, haha). Although I've pretty much discarded it, you've inspired to re-open it again. ๐Ÿ™‚ I'd say that my biggest pitfalls are sale items, eBay, and vintage stores, as well as the irresistibly low prices of H&M; and Forever 21.

    Thanks for yet another informative post, Jean!



  • Something Nice May 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I heard an interesting "three rules" on TV a few years ago, two of which must be met in order to justify a purchase. They are:

    1. Does it fit me?
    2. Will I wear it?
    3. Can I afford it?

    I find these rules serve me well when it comes to making decisions about an item. I also do what you mentioned, only go back for something if I keep thinking about it. Overall I love the idea of a streamlined wardrobe, and in recent months I have become quite ruthless about getting rid of items that don't get enough wear so I can make space for nice new ones! Generally when buying a piece I try to imagine how well it will work with what I already own, and how often I am likely to wear the piece in different situations: work, party, casual etc. However, there are often certain things I can't help but splurge on!

  • Always Maylee May 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I love this, thanks for sharing. I usually only buy an item if I can think of at least 3 different ways to wear it, pairing it with something that I already own. I love buying clothes from inexpensive places but wear them in such a way that they look expensive. Every once in awhile I will splurge on an item, usually a bag or a pair of shoes! ๐Ÿ™‚

    xo, Yi-chia

  • Erica May 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for talking about this! It frequently bothers me that money doesn't seem like a consideration on fashion blogs. I mean, I do see the mention of buying things on sale, but the frequency of purchases seems a bit high. I keep my spending in check by using mint.com and designating $200 per month for clothes. And if I know I'm going to spend a lot of money that month on house renovations or something, then I don't buy any clothes. I try to examine my current wardrobe and find new ways to combine different items.

  • Kristina May 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Ditto the request for some personal finance blog recommendations!

  • what.jess.wore May 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for doing this post. I've decided to share some very personal feelings on shopping/spending below but will not disclose actual figures.

    While some people eat while they're stressed I shop to de-stress (plus I love getting packages). Last year I spent an epic amount on things I don't need (and I got to know my delivery person at home/work very well). I also keep a spreadsheet but for my overall budget by month so I don't remember everything that I buy. In terms of big ticket items, my total 'spending money' last year could have purchased a new car (I won't say which type of car but it's still crazy if you think about it). Note: I do pay off my credit cards in full so I'm not in any financial strife trouble but I know should and could be saving more than say, 30% of my income. Spending less has become my resolution.

    I've tried to shop at cheaper places to see if that would cut down on my budget but I found myself making more purchases and more returns (huge time waster). I think that the biggest change I made was to stop and think about something before I but it because let's be honest, impulse purchases are the worst thing you can do. Now whenever I buy something, I know it's a keeper if: (1) I really love the item and can't stop thinking about it, (2) it's something that I will wear multiple times instead of just once and (3) it works with my personal style. I immediately return things that (1) don't fit with other items in my closet/my style and (2) generate lukewarm feelings because they will eventually get discarded (given away/sold).

    Over the years I've learned that window shopping is healthier and it is okay to walk away without buying something. You will still have money in your bank account to buy something that you like better. I recently started my own blog to sell some of my things but to be honest if I'm selling it then I probably shouldn't have bought it in the first place. There is no real ROI because the discounted price doesn't begin to make up the time and effort you may have spent to purchase the item, dry clean it and/or alter it.


  • a.lace May 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm

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  • Julia May 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I love this post! I am always re-discovering pieces of my wardrobe that have been hidden away and forgotten for months. Every time I do, I swear off any more shopping, but I always break this declaration within weeks of making it. I love the way a good outfit can show your personality, but also make you stand a little taller and feel better about the way you look. I believe strongly in retail therapy, especially after a long and arduous semester, but as a poor graduate student, I can hardly afford it. I've been staying away from malls and online stores to avoid temptation, but your expense list is a smart way to indulge and refrain from binge shopping and the subsequent guilt trip.

    Also, on more of a general blog note, I love that your blog is more than just pretty pictures of your great outfits. I like that you talk about how to save and smart ways to make purchases and make them fit your figure, and that you really walk the walk. I love that you portray pret a porter fashion and wardrobe choices as a lifestyle – like dieting! it's about making smart choices according to your lifestyle and personal style, and I don't feel like I have to be filthy rich to have a great wardrobe.

    My question for you is, as someone who is hoping to work in the creative side of advertising (as a copywriter), I have trouble deciding what to wear and how to present myself for interviews. I want to look smart and well put-together, but not too stiff and not too casual. I also tend to look on the young side – i'm 25 but people still think I'm in high school, and I don't want this to count against me in interviews. I know (think?) you work in finance, but do you have any tips for creative hopefuls?

  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    yeah! was wondering about the same thing.

  • Suzie Q May 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Such a great post. You're so amazing at keeping such an organized book keeping for your clothes spending! I need to do a much better job. I use mint.com currently. Would love to see your recs for finance blogs!

    Suzie Q

  • Jamie- Thao Huynh May 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    This is a really smart way to control your shopping! I should start doing this too. Do you plan to sell back some of unnecessary piece? If yes, where would you sell it back? Thank you Jean!

  • OohLookBel May 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Trying to maintain a regular record of spending is just so tedious (for me, at least!). But it's really the only way of keeping tabs on what you've bought and whether it's worthwhile. Well done to you, Jean, but for now, I'll rely on my scatty memory!

  • DaintyandDecadent May 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I try to only buy items that I've either been lusting over for awhile or pieces that I know can be styled many different ways. And unless I really really really want something or know it will get sold out quickly, I will wait until it goes on sale and really get a great deal ๐Ÿ™‚ Great post and information!



  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Where can I get some authentic Christian Louboutin shoes for a good price??

  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    i love this post, i've been trying to streamline my wardrobe as well! it's so hard and i have definitely added some items that weren't necessary to my wardrobe :/

    but i do adore your purchases this spring!


  • Franziska May 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I appreciate your honesty in what you spent. I think as bloggers it is important to be honest about what you spend on clothes and how that fits into the rest of your financial situation. I recently had to make the realization that money can't just be spent willy nilly and have no consequences so I now have set a budget for myself for each month and total my costs in a spreadsheet to make sure I stick {close} to that budget. Hopefully that keeps me in check with my spending.

    It seems like you got some quality pieces without falling into the "only trendy items" rut so good for you ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Lauren May 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I keep myself in check by posting monthly spending totals on my blog. I figure, if I can't justify it to The Internet, I can't justify it to myself! So far, that's been working quite well.

  • fabulously frugirl May 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Jean, I love this post! As a PF blogger, I sometimes feel torn between saving and spending money on beautiful clothes/make-up, from following awesome fashion blogs, such as yours.

    Sometimes, I dread putting together my monthly spending and posting it, because I know that I over indulged that month. At the same time, those updates keep me in check and keeps me on the path to financial independence.

    I think I need to "curate" my wardrobe, as well. I've been purging my wardrobe for a while, and I constantly get rid of clothes that I no longer wear or haven't touched in about a year or so. I still need to figure out my "holes" so that I can buy with a mission! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • The Little Dust Princess May 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Great post, Jean! I keep a monthly spreadsheet as well – recording both my spending and income. I shop a LOT, but like you, I end up returning things a lot of the time. I like to take things home to think about and see if they can be paired with other items I already have. Right now, I'm focusing on building my accessories collection. Clothes are definitely not a priority at the moment, but I do pick up a piece or two at times after selling my clothes through the blog sale or to my friends.

  • SewPetiteGal May 13, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I have a spreadsheet that has been woefully neglected. When I kept up with it, the numbers themselves kept my spending in check. At the moment, I'm doing ok purely because I'm distracted with the kiddos and am on maternity leave. Once I go back to work, I'll be in trouble again (and the spreadsheet will remain neglected still) because I'll be face to face with other people and that always makes me want to spend money to look "cute."

    I'm really curious about your secondhand silk blouse (assuming this is the scarf print?) and how you'll use it!

  • ellesy May 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    thank you for this post – i agree that it's an important topic and so many of your words resonated with me. i record all my expenses daily on a spreadsheet but i find i don't analyze my spending enough – it's sort of become a daily ritual so i need to step back more often and take a look at the big picture.

    i started doing a clothing inventory a few years ago but found it overwhelming because i have so much – i really love the idea of a more thoughtful, curated wardrobe and i think i may work towards that. i've been really good this year though… i created a thrift challenge for myself (i'm purchasing almost all clothing, shoes, and accessories second hand) and i've also limited the number of designer items i will purchase (when i reach certain savings thresholds, i'm allowing myself to purchase a luxury item)… these were a couple of my 2012 goals in an attempt to combat my weaknesses of buying "throwaway" pieces from h&m;/zara and what was becoming an unhealthy obsession with designer bags.

    so far, so good but it's definitely a work in progress and i found your post to be really helpful.

  • Mary Ann May 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    This is a great post Jean – I really like seeing how your track your purchases. Blogging and reading blogs has made me a lot more critical, as well, of purchases. I've bought and returned 3 Target purses since March! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Olivia May 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Thanks for another great post!! Would you please recommend some good PF blogs (when you get a chance)?

  • Alexis May 14, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Jean, I've been lurking for awhile now, but I really have to say I LOVE this idea. I just started working for Ann Taylor Loft and surprisingly, it's so easy to shop there!! I think I'm going to have to follow in your footsteps and start tracking what I buy. I've never needed to in the past because I've always just had the bare minimum and kept them for years. (Not that they were "classic pieces" or anything). Thank you for always being inspirational!!

  • Janey Moore May 14, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Great post! Thanks so much for sharing.


  • Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 2:15 am


    Can you suggest some personal finance blogs? I've been wanting to keep track of my spending for a while but haven't found a good method to keep track. I've been using Excel and it's been okay for me but I want to try other things and maybe get some finance tips as well.

  • Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 2:56 am

    I agree! I'm also really interested in economics, so this would be really interesting!

  • Sensy~Style May 14, 2012 at 3:21 am

    Jean my personal hero!

  • Katherine May 14, 2012 at 4:16 am

    This was such a great post to read – I know you have been thinking about doing a PF post so was so happy to see this! It's cause of you that I started keeping a Google spreadsheet of my purchases and it's been really helpful. I've been thinking about putting up a PF post with budget/% savings and stuff but have been a little wary so this gives me inspiration. Thank you Jean!

  • couturecoco May 14, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Excellent post! I am always interested in PF and how everyone tackles it to suit their own individual needs. I had to make a list about 18 months ago when my closet audit started and it's become invaluable with your suggestions so Thank You!

    Now that I have managed to cross off most things from my wishlist and succeeded modestly in making weak areas of my closet work better/harder, I just have to be disciplined and remind myself I simply do not need something when temptation occurs (mainly shoes/bags but lately jewellery – aaargh!). It doesn't mean I have to live like a 'fashion nun' because that's impossible for me but the condition is that I simply remain pragmatic and remember other goals for the short and long term.

  • Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Agree…was going to ask about this too.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies May 14, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Jean, one of the reasons why I keep coming back to your blog is your sensible approach to fashion (and life!). I love consumerism like any other girl out there but personal finance takes precedence. I used to buy a lot from what I call High St stores (Gap, H&M;, Zara etc) and found out that they just don't get a lot of wear. These days, I have a 1 in 1 out rule. I recycle a lot to pay for new things. I don't keep a spreadsheet but these 2 practices keep my expenses in check.

  • budgetbrunettes May 14, 2012 at 8:54 am

    i loved this post, it has inspired me to do my own. thanks!

  • Kathleen Lisson May 14, 2012 at 9:05 am

    My wardrobe makeover began when I made a list on a piece of paper of every item I owned in categories dress/shoes/purse/top/pant etc. Seeing it all on paper was a wakeup call. Then I donated a bunch of clothes, which opened up my wardrobe and made it easier to put new outfits together. I focus mainly on buying dresses that flatter my figure for warm weather looks, and pants and cashmere for cold weather looks. Since I only have two 'uniforms' I can get away with only owning the basic colors in purses (6), belts (4) and shoes (10). I buy classic and quality, so my clothes are not going out of style any time soon. I personalize my look with jewelry and hats!

  • phiphis blog May 14, 2012 at 9:15 am

    this was an amazing post! i will look into a spreadsheet too, to keep my spending in check. i often just buy impulsively, and calculate the savings per purchase, but never added up. this may make me budget more carefully. i only behave when i am actively saving up for something big. thanks for inspiring me to be more responsible!! xox P

  • Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Great post. At the time I am in the process of a closet cleansing therefore resisting tempatation quite well. I have a wishlist going with items I feel are staples, good basic additions, etc. I plan to stick to the list for rebuilding and updating my wardrobe as I don't want to end up with a dysfunctional, hoarding mess like I've had in the past. Wish me luck! The spreadsheet is genious, I may have to give that a shot.

  • Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I second this. I have been eyeing that dress for months but am scared to make the splurge. It's so hard to find dresses with sleeves!

  • SweetAmbitions May 14, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Love this blog post! I'm a CPA so I'm pretty conscious about how much I spend on clothes/shoes/handbags. In the past, I'd buy clothes and shoes from department stores, H&M;, Forever 21, Charlotte Rousse, and Target because they were more affordable but I'm finding that they just don't last as long as the pieces that I buy from Ann Taylor, The Limited, etc. As I'm approaching the big 30 this year, I've decided to invest in quality classic pieces and recently just splurged on two vintage Chanel bags and two Louboutin pumps that I know I'll will last me for a very long time. I still shop at the department stores but I will only buy blouses/scarves/jewelry that I can wear with my suits to work.

  • ERIKA May 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I love this post Jean! If I had kept track of all of my items on a spreadsheet when I was out of control spending, I think it would have helped a lot. Right now though I mainly focus on saving for short-term and long-term goals so I try to keep my monthly shopping limit to $100 or less. Sometimes I go over and sometimes I go under, but I like setting that limit there to keep me accountable. Of course, blogging also keeps me accountable ๐Ÿ™‚

    Love seeing these posts as a lot of younger gals should take note that saving money is very important!

  • Jenny May 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Great post! My New Year's resolution was to keep track of my finances, although I'm a bit old fashioned and did it via a ledger book rather than Excel spreadsheets.

    Is the printed dress in your photo of "Spring 2012 alterations" an H&M; dress? I have a very similar (if not the same) dress in navy from H&M;, and have been trying to alter the sleeves and torso. Any tips on how to do so? Thanks!!

  • lisacng May 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks for being so candid about your purchases and returns. I love your excel file! I think you pretty much broke even, and haven't even factored in money saved on DIY alterations. I have a lot to learn from you!

  • LaLa May 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Love it, smart shopper!


  • Jackie May 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Jean! I like these kind of posts. I like to see how others spend/save money, especially fashionistas lol so I can say "So THAT'S how she does it!"

    I can't say that my habits even compare! I might spend $50 or less every few months on stuff for me, but I've really been going minimal with spending and what I own the past few years; partly because of the economy and the financial issues that come from quitting work and starting a business of my own. 0_o

    I simply keep a list of things that I'm wishing for and when I get something on the list, I check it off I also take inventory; this way I never buy dupes. I also like to donate or get rid of one thing every time I buy something new because I live in such a small space.

  • Anne May 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Wow, you're really good at keeping track of the items you purchase, altered, etc. I wish I could be that good!

    You mention that your closet is super compact. Just curious to see how small your closet is, and also how you organize it. Would love to see a photo!

    xo Annie

  • Lela May 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I always advocate tailoring pieces so love you've included it here!

    Enter to WIN my hotel, afternoon tea and beauty Competition!

  • Janette May 14, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I love this post. I found it extremely helpful as I often go overboard shopping (esp. after reading your blog :)) and then have to not shop for awhile. The spreadsheet is a great idea for staying on track. What would also be helpful is a post about selling things on ebay. Do you find that you have a harder time selling items at smaller sizes? I have several unworn dresses (size PO from Armani Exchange for example) that cannot be returned, I want to sell, but feel it might be more trouble than it's worth. Thanks so much for all your help/advice! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Cee May 14, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Haha I'm an Excel monkey too! Spreadsheets FTW. I use it to keep track of my spending, but break it down by cost/wear rather than how much I spend per month. Seeing your spreadsheet piqued my curiosity so I went and tallied up my spring spending: $519 since March. Not bad but I was surprised at the amount (really thought I had spent more). For more data samples, I also spent $643 in Jan. (more than I expected) and $59 in Feb. (less than I expected). Both seem like they're extremes and my spring spending is more normal.

    I think I've gotten to a point in life where I'm at peace with my spending. I'm not sure how I got there (need to do some self introspection), so hopefully this doesn't come off as bragging but more like what works for me. Fortunately I make a decent salary, where I don't need to pinch pennies but at the same time I don't have many wants. This balance works for me because I don't need to necessarily watch what I spend. I understand that there will be some months that I spend more and others where I spend less, so in the end, everything will average out. I did try setting a budget for myself in the past, where I gave myself $X to spend on fashion/month. Towards the end of the month, if I'm under the set amount, I find myself giving in to more impulse purchases because hey, I've still got money to burn.

    I've come to realize that it's much better for me (and closet space) if I put every item through the same thought buying process. Sure, I'll give expensive items more thought, but I'm also more willing to spend money on them now if I really love the items. So comparing my current spending philosophy with the old one where I gave myself a budget, I don't see a whole lot of difference in the average amounts. And also, I'm happier as a result.

  • perkywallflower May 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I am super curious as to where you sell your clothes? Do you consign to local stores? Or is there a specific site aside from ebay that you are able to sell your clothing?

  • Elle May 14, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks for this post! It's important not to sacrifice financial health for your closet. It's easy to forget that with so many tempting outfits on the web, in stores, and magazines… you have amazing discipline. If I did all that shopping, I don't know if I would be able to return those items… out of sheer laziness!

  • Jane Squared May 14, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Jean, I really enjoyed this post! It's always interesting to see how people approach spending and budgeting, so I appreciate your candid thoughts.

    I also use spreadsheets to hold myself accountable, and I'm also a chronic returner… so I definitely know where you're coming from. I try to evaluate my closet each season and get rid of anything that doesn't fit well or hasn't held up well. To prevent the impulse purchases, I always ask myself (and my sister!), "Where are you going in that dress/shirt/shoes" or "Name 5 specific occasions where you can wear that." Those questions help me determine cost per wear more easily.

  • yutzyjbear May 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE seeing this financial breakdown. Please do more posts like this!!! It encourages me to set up something similar and see what happens. I am lazy at returning items and REALLY need to better budget. This is practical, useful and awesome. Thank you thank you thank you!!!! -Lauren

  • Brigitte May 15, 2012 at 3:18 am

    I've read your blog for some time and I do have to say I've never felt compelled to comment though yours is one of my favorite blogs. Honestly I LOVELOVELOVE financials… like managing money, going on Mint.com to budget, etc. just to keep myself on track. This post is brilliant. I could definitely go in-depth about just how much I love this post but I'll stop at: brilliant. It's honest, telling, and I'm sure useful for yourself as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kat May 15, 2012 at 3:19 am

    Thanks for being so open with us!! I think when it comes down to it, I am not the most financially savvy and I beat myself up for it all the time. And the things that taunt me the most are those sales!!! I am such a sales shopper and always have been but it leads to unnecessary purchases, as you have mentioned yourself. What is it with girls and sales?

  • Melissa May 15, 2012 at 3:20 am

    This is awesome. I think I need to start doing this because I get tempted really easily by sales and H&M;'s pricing that I buy on the spot and let things hang in my closet with tags and find out I have never worn it and it's too late to return. Thanks for the tip!

  • Brigitte May 15, 2012 at 3:20 am

    I would also like to know the answer to this. Several days ago I cleaned out my wardrobe and as much as I would love to just donate it to salvation army I have so many clothing items with the tags still attached… Any tips on selling lower-priced items (H&M;, Zara – this is especially hard) and/or more coveted items (Alexander Wang dress for example)?

  • Melissa May 15, 2012 at 3:21 am

    She offers a lot of her clothes here for her readers.

  • Anonymous May 15, 2012 at 6:56 am

    yes please!!

  • KateJ11 May 15, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Thank you! I always wonder what type of budget fashion bloggers have for their clothing, and it is so refreshing to see your breakdown of items!

  • newpetite May 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Its nice to see that you are not one of those who will buy stuff for the blog! I admire the way you handle your finances. I am the same way an think twice even for a $5 item!

  • Vickie May 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    i was wondering the same!

  • Lesley May 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Jean..

    This is a completely random question..I was wondering if the ON rockstar jeggings you have stretch out at the knees quite a bit? Reason being I got some from Zara, and they stretch out so much and it's really annoying.


    p/s: I should probably start a spreadsheet on my clothes/beauty buys as well! (My hubby and I already have a spreadsheet of our daily buys and it's easy to go back and see what we spent our money on each month).

  • Sunny May 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    You can try the Alterations Needed forum or eBay.

  • Sunny May 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Jean, you've inspired me to create my own Excel spreadsheet to better track items. I already track spending via Mint, but tracking indivdiual items will help me with the closet curation aspect!

  • Ms. Keeli May 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you so much for showing us readers this assessment! I got inspired and will start keeping tabs on what I buy this season. I can't believe I never did this before!

  • mina May 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm
  • eliz. May 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    I used to never return items until recently…I hate the online shopping/return hassle though…which is why I don't shop online as much.

  • Lien May 16, 2012 at 1:06 am

    One of my shopping weaknesses are the sales. I've tried to adopt the shopping philosophy of "If it was full-priced, would I have bought it?" to tame myself but of course, there are those few items that are simply irresistible! In terms of keeping an up-to-date wardrobe while maintaining consumption costs, I tend to shop for investment pieces or just items I know will get their money's worth of wears. I guess I don't mind splurging on a piece once in a while so long as I know I can wear it multiple times and for several seasons to come.

    I loved your monthly purchases spreadsheet/log so much that I decided to make my own! To be fair, it was a relatively easy start for me as I've only purchased those Crewcuts apple capris since April (I had to return them because I'm in between sizes). This is a great way to remind yourself to control the shopping urges or in my current case, indulge a little. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • grace May 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm


    Which personal finance blogs do you read? My favorite one is Get Rich Slowly, but I would love to add more great personal finance blogs to my list.

    I've always loved how clear cut you are with all your clothing/shoes/bags purchases. I used to be much better at keeping track, but in the last few years it's just been kept to the wayside. I desperately need to clean out my wardrobe as there are things I never wear and they just take up space. Definitely need to streamline.

    You are an inspiration =) Classy and fit wear with a great budget ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Christie May 16, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Love the budget friendly tips. It is always great to invest more into the basic necessities and than purchase trendy-er items for cheaper.

  • Anonymous May 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Kathleen, you are a goddess! That is a fabulous idea, and one I'm excited to begin tonight! You should check out the book Elegance, by Kathleen Tessaro- one of my all time favorite books! Your fashion plan is similar to that adopted by the main character, but you make it sound a lot more fun! I've always meant to streamline into perfect classics, but I've put it off… No longer, hopefully I'll walking in style soon!

  • Whoha May 17, 2012 at 1:51 am

    I use MINT – I've found it very useful and it's great for lazy people because you can train it to categorize things your way and the data can be manipulated and charted a number of different ways. You can also jot down notes about each transaction, e.g. description of items bought, returned, etc.

    The only downside is that to be most useful and hassle-free (basically I just check Mint for my summary, everything is automatically entered), you have to enter in your personal banking info and financial products like credit cards. And you can't be a big cash user since that data is not automatically captured.

    I agree your method is more precise when it comes to auditing a wardrobe, but I know I could not keep that up. And I am also interested in my other spending habits.

    ….I just checked – spent $331 within the same time period, March-present. I consider this on-target for me!!

    It helps that I only shop the sales racks at Banana Republic and Club Monaco for clothes, occasionally the Gap, and sporadically at the Bay for shoes. So I don't actually go to that many stores and the first two have more limited and harmonized collections (again, this is where my laziness is showing) compared to the zoo that is H&M.;

    I only buy online at the same stores and try only to purchase things I've already tried on in-store to avoid returns, which can be quite time-consuming. I used to buy knowing there was a high likelihood I would end up returning even before I bought it – crazy!

    Now, I try to buy with the intention to keep, and will sometimes use the hold trick to see if I really want an item.

  • Whoha May 17, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Good lord – just did some more fiddling around on Mint.

    In 2011 over 12 months, I spent almost $1800 on clothes!! For me, this is around the upper limit of "reasonable", maybe even over. I know what I purchased, since I kept notes, and a lot of it was online stuff that I only semi-liked and couldn't bother to return.

    I WILL to better this year, though. Less online shopping will help.

  • Annabelle May 17, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Great post. I tend to lean toward adding only two or three better-quality pieces to my wardrobe per season and stay away from places like H&M; that tempt me to buy things I don't really need just because they're cheap. That does mean that my wardrobe doesn't move with the trends as much as many women's, though. I also try to leave at least a month to think about any one piece before I buy since they're mostly not cheap.

  • Riani Irawan May 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    OMG!!! You scored a louboutin for only $150!!!! You should help mee finding one!! I am always afraid if I received counterfeit items (considering a lot of fake louboutins there)


  • Jocelyn May 20, 2012 at 12:14 am

    There are many ways to learn more about finances. I learned by going to a bookstore every month and reading all of the finance magazines, even though I didn't understand it at first. As I read them over a few months, I started understanding what the articles were saying, what the finance terminology meant, and how to apply it. These magazines I read were Money Magazine (also online but it's more manageable going through the magazine at first so it's not too overwhelming at first), Smart Money, and Kiplinger's Personal Finance. I think this is the best way to learn more about finances. After I did began understanding the articles, terms, etc., I took a class on how to manage your finances (i.e. short term and yearly budgets, tracking your expenses ahead of time, etc.) at the local community college, which I also recommend taking.

  • Perryn Ryan May 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    This is a really great post! I definitely assess my wardrobe prior to shopping for upcoming seasons. I usually start by getting rid of anything I haven't worn within the last 2 years and then I fil in the gaps from there. Filling in the gaps is usually based on how I can incorporate current trends that can be reworked and still worn in future seasons. Price is also a factor, since I'm a designer myself and have experience with costing and producing clothing, I can really identify quality items in the midst of a sea of not so quality items. I use the same budgeting software (Mint) that Whoha mentioned above. It's really great categorizing your spending and allowing you to set your own budgets per category. But I always scour the sales racks before stopping at the regular priced items. And living in NYC def helps, despite many would think because every store in the world is here and it's the Capitol of all things sample sale. But to sum it all up I'm a huge bargain shopper, that tries to go shopping keeping in mind that I'm only looking for certain items and to stay within my mental budget I've decided to spend per shopping trip. You've def offered some helpful advice. Hopefully I can be as organized as you one day!

  • Frugalista May 22, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I love reading about other people's shopping budgets. Thanks for the wonderful post. I write down EVERYTHING I purchase to make sure it's something that I want. Keeping track does make a difference in my purchases.

    I'm actually starting a new personal challenge. No shopping for 3 months! I'm going to write about the tough challenge on my blog ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Vicky G May 23, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Hi! This is where she sells her stuff: http://extrapetitesale.blogspot.com/

    Found it by accident ๐Ÿ™‚

  • shimmering2light May 24, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for doing this post. I don't know if I can be as diligent to track my purchases on excel. But with tax season, recent move, vacation expenses, and having a commission job, I've had to scale back significantly on my spending to make sure I can afford what I buy. The fact that I have a smaller closet and less space helps too. I would love to do an inventory of my closet bc I know there are prices in there that don't get any attention. Need to be marred about my budget. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Elaine A (TOBeautyReviews) May 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    AGain, in awe of how organized you are!

  • Jana Davis May 29, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Thank you for posting about keeping a streamlined wardrobe and maintaining a realistic budget on clothing. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the cost of clothing, yet pressured to buy due to the materialistic nature of fashion and wanting to stay in style. This was such a refreshing, realistic post! Thank you!

  • Anonymous May 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    I really love the spreadsheet idea. I recently discovered that writing down every clothing/beauty purchase in a notebook has helped a lot, especially when I add up the numbers and cringe at the total, but the spreadsheet definitely takes this up to a whole new level!

    Any personal finance blogs you'd recommend?

  • PetiteAsianGirl June 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    For those asking for personal finance blogs, my absolute favorite one has shut down (was called Me in Millions about a 20-something year old woman working her way into having a million, one step at a time) so I'm also looking for a good one to relate to. Some that I've read include:

    http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/ (not super personal but great articles and good discussions)

  • PetiteAsianGirl June 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Also, on where to sell pre-owned items if you don't have a blog:
    – eBay (I used this predominantely before starting blogging) but there are fees
    – Alterations Needed Forum Marketplace at forum.alterationsneeded.com

  • M Evans June 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I am always impressed and inspired by your resourcefulness. However, and not to offend, but do you think about where/how the bargain clothes are manufactured? Economy at others' expense?

  • Anonymous June 12, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    love your iphone case! where'd you get it?

  • Olivia July 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks Jean!! Also, those Miu Miu pumps are so sweet! – but the heels are too high for me ๐Ÿ™

  • Anonymous August 29, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Great post!

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    "LearnVest" is great. Lots of good tips on budgeting – and when you sign up online, you can request a financial expert to call and speak with you re. budgeting / what to do with savings.

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