Continuing with our Back-to-Basics series, another potentially problematic area in our spending plan is clothing. I find it interesting when I coach people on their finances to find that most don’t have any amount budgeted for clothing. Ironically, they are wearing clothes so it would follow that something was spent on clothing at some point. If you have children, you know that kids are probably the biggest budget busters when it comes to clothes because they either wear or tear their way out of them at warp speed (ask me how I know this).
While it is fair to say that we may not spend money on clothing every month, we can’t leave it out of our spending plan altogether either. Even if we implement some of the most frugal options for obtaining clothes, we need to be consistent about setting the money aside so it is there when we need it. Depending on your household, you should set aside anywhere between 2%-7% of your monthly take-home pay for clothing.
How do we make the best use of our money when it comes to clothes? Before I even hit the stores, I check with friends. It has been great to receive clothes from other families and reciprocate by sending our things their way. My kids enjoy seeing some of their favorite items on their friends and they are also reminded of a friend when they don something that was given to them from someone else.
I also check Freecycle.org. Most communities have a Freecycle group and people are more than willing to pass along their children’s used items, free for the asking. Of course, it is a give-and-take group so if you post that you want something, it is encouraged to post something you can give away as well.
If there are still things we need after gleaning from the free resources, I will typically shop the second-hand stores. This way, I don’t feel as badly when my kids grow out of things in three to six months because I know I can post them on Freecycle or pass them along to another family we know who could use them.
Garage sales can also be a great resource as long as you’re not driving around for eight hours, eating up the money in your transportation category for the sake of saving a bit on clothing.
Once I’ve exhausted these options, I will hit the retail stores. Mainly I try to save the retail stores for when I truly need to buy things new. Usually this is limited to shoes, socks, and underwear. Of course, I still try to get the most bang for my buck when buying new by waiting for a sale and/or a coupon incentive. I’ve also found that my kids can get away with wearing the same color socks for just about every occasion. I buy my son black socks and my girls wear white socks. This way, if a sock gets a hole in it, the good sock can still be paired up and the one with a hole in it becomes a dusting sock for me! I try to employ a similar mentality when it comes to shoes. My kids have a pair of dress shoes and a pair of sneakers. In the summer, they can usually get away with one pair of nice sandals for church or dressy occasions and flip-flops for play.
These are a few strategies for paring down the clothing budget, but no strategy will completely alleviate the need for setting something aside, however small, to avoid whipping out the credit card when your child wakes up one morning one pant size too short.
“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:30