Shopping Diaries: Exactly How Much I Spent On Clothing In Two Months

I recently engaged in a bit of an experiment when it comes to my spending. I tallied up everything I spent in one category, clothing, over the past two months, and how many items I spent that money on.

Inspired by bloggers like Sophie With a Blog and The Luxe Strategist, I wanted to become more mindful about what I added to my wardrobe. The first step in that, of course, was figuring out what it was that I was already doing (I knew it felt excessive).

The Numbers

In the past two months, I added 21 items to my wardrobe for $287.37. Those numbers were both better and worse than I expected. The total retail price of these items is around $976.03. In other words, I paid just 30 percent of retail value for these clothes.

I take home $1,459.93 twice per month. During the two-month period of this experiment, my income totaled a bit higher than that, because I received a bonus from work. In total, during the two month period, I made $7,273.27. As a proportion of my take-home pay for the two months, I spent 3.9% of my income on clothing. That said, the bonus was a bit of a surprise to me, and I socked it away in my savings account almost immediately. Had the total spend been a proportion of my expected income, it would have been 4.9% of expected take-home pay.

In two months, I added two pairs of jeans, two blouses, two pairs of tights, two sweaters, one skirt, one swimsuit, six “basic” tops, one pair of shoes, one dress, one purse, one pair of earrings and one scarf to my wardrobe.

Untitled design.png

A chart

to illustrate how my clothing spending aligned with my monthly budget.

What I Bought In January and February

Notes: I included images of the exciting items I picked up in a gallery below. The items with photos have an asterisk by the product name. I did not link to the items I purchased in this post aside from the small Etsy shop because this is a blog about money, not about encouraging you to buy things. Ethically, I did not want to use my platform to essentially advertise for certain brands. If you cannot find something via Google in this post, feel free to email me at aliciamcelhaney(at)gmail(dot)com and I can likely provide a link.

If you’d rather just hear about the takeaways of this exercise, scroll past the photo gallery!

Point Sur (J. Crew sub-brand) Jeans

Retail: $128

What I Paid: $7.99 (thrifted)

I love these jeans. I’ve worn them several times since I first purchased them. Fully worth it.

Free People Skinny Jeans

Retail: $98 (ish)

What I Paid: $7.99 (thrifted)

Since buying these in January, I have worn them twice. Not bad, but I definitely could be wearing them more.

Sheer Express Blouse

Retail: No idea. This piece was too old to price online easily.

What I Paid: $7.99 (thrifted)

This sheer top felt very Reformation to me. I want to wear it with high-waisted jeans and a bow in my hair.

Blue Theory Blouse

Retail: $275 (ish)

What I Paid: $15.99 (thrifted)

Blouses like this are staples in my wardrobe. I gained a little bit of winter weight, so the blue one I had previously thrifted (Talbots, $4 from Goodwill years ago), was gaping at the bust. I spotted this and couldn’t resist.

Cream Sweater (unknown brand)

Retail: unknown

What I Paid: $7.99 (thrifted)

After seeing an adorable cream sweater Sophie With A Blog copped, I was obsessed. I’m still figuring out how to style it. It’s a bit itchy.

Alice + Olivia Sweater

Retail: No idea. This price was too old to price online easily.

What I paid: $18.99

This is a gray short sleeve sweater with a dickie collar. It’s really cute: I’ve worn it twice already to work. I can tell it will be a wardrobe staple.

Hanna Andersson Clogs*

Retail: $70 ish

What I Paid: $9.99 (thrifted)

I saved a pricey pair of animal print clogs in my instagram “Looks” folder ages ago. When I saw these at my local Goodwill, I flipped.

Moonseeds Earrings*

Retail: $15.49

What I Paid: $15.49

Supporting an artist of color during Black History Month. Also, I’m on an earrings kick lately.

A New Day Tights

Retail: $9.99

What I Paid: $4 (on sale, received 1% cash back on purchase via Ebates)

I was ordering shampoo and conditioner, saw tights on sale and picked them up. I constantly snag tights so I figured it would be good to pick up a pair on sale.

Who What Wear Skirt*

Retail: $29.99

What I Paid: $39.99 (I had to have the skirt tailored. $10 extra charge)

My boyfriend, Dan, pointed out a green polka dot dress at &OtherStories that he knew I’d love. The price tag was a little higher than I wanted to pay. Then I saw this at Target. It wasn’t even a question of whether I’d buy it. I had to spend extra to tailor the skirt, which I wish I had factored into the initial price. Still worth it.

Fashion ABLE Wrap Top*

Retail: $68

What I Paid: $51.40 (including shipping)

After trawling sustainable style blogs I fell into a k-hole that involved saving a $168 pink-ish wrap top to my shopping bookmarks. I don’t even wear pink. Then this also-somewhat-ethical wrap top popped onto my Instagram feed. It was on sale. I went for it.

Universal Standard Foundation Short Sleeve Crew Neck Tee

Retail: $35

What I paid: $16.66

Universal Standard offers a free t-shirt for first time shoppers. They initially offered it without a referral, so I got a t-shirt a few months ago. That marketing ploy worked: the quality was incredible, and I’ve been dreaming of adding a few more of their items to my wardrobe since then. When I saw they were offering a $50 mystery box that included three tops in a pre-selected size, I couldn’t say no.

Universal Standard Mackaya Luxe Twill Knot Top*

Retail: $110

What I paid: $16.66

This shirt is nice, but it didn’t fit me correctly: it came to mid-thigh on me, because I’m short. I’ll be giving it to my mom, who wears a similar size to me, but is much taller.

Universal Standard asymmetrical button-up top

Retail: unknown

What I paid: $16.66

This is so different than what I would normally wear, but I like it. I can see wearing it with a high waisted skirt or some jeans.

Silk Neckerchief Scarf - Amazon*

Retail: $14.99

What I Paid: $14.99

I’ve been rewarding myself monthly for sticking to my CFP study goals. This was my January reward.

Rainbow Swimsuit - Amazon*

Retail: $18.99

What I Paid: $18.99

I’ve been swimming at my local recreation center weekly. I have a black swimsuit I like, but I was wearing it four weeks in a row sometimes before washing it because I don’t often go to the laundromat. So I justified buying this bonkers swimsuit. I don’t even know anymore.

White Turtleneck - Amazon

Retail: $8.99

What I Paid: $8.99

I wanted to emulate some layered looks I had seen on ManRepeller. The material of this top was literally a cheap version of Under Armour. No.

Opaque Black Tights - Amazon

Retail: $6.59

What I Paid: $6.59

Workhorses. I added them to an Amazon order I was already making.

Wilfred Free Dress

Retail: Not sure. I am seeing it being resold for $25 on eBay.

What I Paid: Nothing. I got it from a clothing swap.

I love this dress. It’s really comfortable and was free ninety nine so who can complain?

Mat & Nat Mini Purse

Retail: About $60

What I Paid: Nothing. I got it from a clothing swap.

Perfect for concerts, but I realized after snagging it that it won’t fit my EpiPen. I guess that’s what pockets are for.

Forever 21 Camisole

Retail: $2

What I Paid: Nothing. I got it from a clothing swap

I have been looking for a black tank top. Free is good.

How I Felt After Tallying This Up

The amount that I bought in the past two months is a lot. Like, it is the size of some wardrobes. Which makes me feel kind of gross in some ways? To be sure, there are some okay things about the consumption. Ten of the 21 things I purchased were used previously. Of the new items I purchased, one was purchased from a small business. Four of the new items I purchased were from stores that have some element of being “better” businesses. Universal Standard has an incredible and new way of viewing sizing, while FashionABLE publishes its salaries.

That said, the number of items I purchased seems like too much. I also feel like I could reduce the amount that I spend on clothes and divert it to savings.

Going Forward

I enjoy clothing and personal style. It’s been important to me for a long time: I started my own fashion blog when I was 12 years old. I view clothing as a means of self-expression and personal style as a hobby. I don’t think that I need to give that up. What I do need to do, though, is to change how I look at spending on clothing.

Trawling through thrift stores is something I began doing as a tween, but I think it has made me value clothing differently than I might otherwise. I feel like I can easily let things go because I have spent so little on them. But that amount adds up.

I think that there’s a way to enjoy personal style as a hobby without having to spend money on new things. I have a myriad of outfits saved on Instagram and Pinterest. I don’t have to buy the exact items in those outfits to replicate them in my own way. Instead, I can use my creativity to create new looks.

For March and April, I created a plan. I’m not going to pay money for anything new I bring into my wardrobe. If I feel an uncontrollable urge to shop, I will use a credit I have at Ann Taylor Loft outlet and the credits I have from Universal Standard. I will also allow myself to go to a clothing swap if anything comes up. I have been tracking my ability to do this so far using the Done app, which is a habit tracker available on iOS.

I started taking photos of my daily outfits to track what I wear, and give myself the chance to wear different things. I am trying to explore my accessory and shoe collection and make better use of the wide variety of options I have made available to myself.

I have been trying to use Pinterest and my saved posts on Instagram to inspire new outfits and more deeply explore my personal style. I have been asking myself daily, “does my outfit reflect my personality?” I am trying to unfollow social media accounts focused more on consumption than on personal style.

I will work on learning to repair parts of my wardrobe that have gone unworn because they have holes or need to be fixed up. I will, if necessary, take items to the dry cleaner (although I’ll try to use Amanda’s tutorial on home-washing first).

During this time period, I plan to think about any holes I have in my wardrobe. I will start making a list of items I will consider purchasing after the shopping ban lifts. Once said ban lifts, if I go thrifting, I will only purchase things that have been on my list for at least a few weeks. If I purchase anything new, I will do some research and try to buy the item from a small business owned by a woman or a person of color. If the item does not meet those standards, it will be purchased from a brand that does something special in terms of environmentalism.

At the end of the two month period, I will let go of things that no longer serve me. I will donate them to Housing Works or take them to a clothing swap. I will also update you all by sharing how the no-spending-on-clothing experiment went. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about how you curb the urge to shop.