The “Ask the Readers” feature is well-loved here at Get Rich Slowly, but by far the most popular question I've ever asked came at the end of July. “How much do you spend on food?” I wondered, and GRS readers posted 367 comments sharing their buying habits and the costs in their cities (and countries).
Several readers sent me e-mail after this question asking for more. “You should do a whole series of questions like this,” one woman wrote. And she's right. So, for a while at least, I'll be posting one similar question every month — a survey of our spending habits as a whole. This is by no means scientific, I know, but it's pretty darn interesting.
Today, let's talk about the things we wear. I want to know how much do you spend on clothes?
Because I've lost fifty pounds over the past couple of years, I've had to buy a lot of new clothes. My method for re-building my wardrobe isn't exactly what I'd imagined. First, I got rid of the things that didn't fit. Also, using my one-year wardrobe project, I purged the things that I no longer wore. From the little that remained, I've been s-l-o-w-l-y adding new items.
I do this in two ways:
- About half of the time, I buy clothes from thrift stores. All of my pants, for instance, come from thrift stores. (Well, except for a couple of pairs of travel pants.) So do many of my shirts and sweaters. I'm much more selective about what I buy at thrift stores than I used to be, though. I only buy things that I really like. (In the past, I used the shotgun approach to thrift shopping, buying tons of things because they were “cheap”. But cheap clothes you never wear are no bargain!)
- The rest of the time, I buy from outdoor stores like REI. Over the past few years, I've become a fan of functional clothing. And wool. God, I love wool. In fact, I recently purged 90% of my cotton t-shirts in favor of a handful of wool t-shirts. I could write pages in praise of Icebreaker wool shirts, but that would be silly. These clothes are expensive when purchased new, so I try to buy as much as possible at sales (REI and Icebreaker both have awesome sales) or at outlet stores.
Last weekend, I bought a new sweater at the Icebreaker outlet near my home. As I paid, I chatted with the clerk. He, too, loves wool clothes, but he's a student and can't afford many. “I buy them on eBay,” he told me. “I set up alerts to track the stuff I want, and then buy it if I can get it cheap.” Brilliant!
So, how much do I actually spend on clothes? I don't know. I've been tracking my spending since the beginning of the year, of course, but I haven't analyzed the numbers yet. Besides, this year is a total anomaly. I've essentially re-created my entire wardrobe because I'm now a medium (with a 32-inch waist) instead of an extra-large (with a 40-inch waist). In a normal year, I don't buy this many clothes!
But what about you? How much do you spend on clothes? How do you shop for them? Do you buy used? Only shop at Nordstrom? Do you have certain brands you're loyal to? How do you weigh cost versus quality? What tips can you offer for building a wardrobe on a budget? And what role does gender play in the cost of fashion? Last but not least: How much of what you wear is wool?