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?



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  1. Anonymous wrote:

    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?

    Posted 5.30.12 Reply
  2. Jana Davis wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.29.12 Reply
  3. AGain, in awe of how organized you are!

    Posted 5.28.12 Reply
  4. 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!

    Posted 5.24.12 Reply
  5. Vicky G wrote:

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

    Found it by accident 🙂

    Posted 5.23.12 Reply
  6. Frugalista wrote:

    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 🙂

    Posted 5.22.12 Reply
  7. 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!

    Posted 5.20.12 Reply
  8. Jocelyn wrote:

    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.

    Posted 5.20.12 Reply
  9. 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)


    Posted 5.17.12 Reply
  10. Annabelle wrote:

    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.

    Posted 5.17.12 Reply
  11. Whoha wrote:

    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.

    Posted 5.17.12 Reply
  12. Whoha wrote:

    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.

    Posted 5.17.12 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.16.12 Reply
  14. Christie wrote:

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

    Posted 5.16.12 Reply
  15. grace wrote:


    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 🙂

    Posted 5.16.12 Reply
  16. Lien wrote:

    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. 🙂

    Posted 5.16.12 Reply
  17. eliz. wrote:

    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.

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  18. mina wrote:
    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  19. Ms. Keeli wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  20. Sunny wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  21. Sunny wrote:

    You can try the Alterations Needed forum or eBay.

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  22. Lesley wrote:

    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).

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  23. Vickie wrote:

    i was wondering the same!

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  24. newpetite wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  25. KateJ11 wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  26. Anonymous wrote:

    yes please!!

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  27. Melissa wrote:

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

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  28. Brigitte wrote:

    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)?

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  29. Melissa wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  30. Kat wrote:

    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?

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  31. Brigitte wrote:

    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. 🙂

    Posted 5.15.12 Reply
  32. yutzyjbear wrote:

    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

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  33. 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.

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  34. Elle wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  35. 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?

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  36. Cee wrote:

    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.

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  37. Janette wrote:

    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! 🙂

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  38. Lela wrote:

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

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

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  39. Anne wrote:

    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

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  40. Jackie wrote:

    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.

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  41. LaLa wrote:

    Love it, smart shopper!


    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  42. lisacng wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  43. Jenny wrote:

    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!!

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  44. ERIKA wrote:

    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 🙂

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

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  45. 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.

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  46. Anonymous wrote:

    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!

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  47. Anonymous wrote:

    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.

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  48. 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

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  49. 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!

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply
  50. i loved this post, it has inspired me to do my own. thanks!

    Posted 5.14.12 Reply

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