How to budget for clothes

How to budget for clothing

It’s tricky to know how to budget for clothing as you don’t necessarily need to buy clothes every month. In fact, depending on your personality and fashion sense you may only be buying clothes every 6 months. (And let’s face it some people need serious help when it comes to what they wear! lol) Clothing is one of those things that you know you need, but you don’t always have the money for. Let’s look at how to make a budget for clothes.

Another interesting aspect of spending money on clothes is that in some cases you actually need to dress a certain way in order to be taken seriously which could result in you getting the job you are after, a promotion or an increase. Your clothes portray an image of you which is very important in some business environments.

So let’s see how to make a budget

Take Stock

Before we rush out to shop with newfound money rather start off by making a list of what you actually have in your cupboards. You might feel that you have nothing to wear, but do a stock take to see what’s there.

Note down your formal clothes, casual, swimwear, shoes, etc and take the opportunity to get rid of items that you don’t wear anymore (for whatever reason). There are many charities and families that would love your donation! If you haven’t worn something for months (or years) then you really need to question yourself about why you’re still keeping it. If you feel guilty to give it away because it was expenses and yet you don’t like it, then perhaps you need to learn from that experience. “Use it or loose it”; that’s my motto.

Wish List

Now that you know exactly what you have, start a wish list of what you would like to buy over the next 12 months. Think about different seasons and occassions and specifically think of any special upcoming occasions such as birthdays, weddings and award ceremonies.

Example clothing budget

The harder aspect of this execrcise is to estimate the costs of all the items on your wish list. You should have a fair idea of the cost of clothing and you most probably have some favorite stores where you like to shop. If you really have no idea of the price of something why not pop into a store and have a look. At this stage you don’t need exact prices but rather a good estimate. You can buy a pair of shoes for R150 or you can buy a pair for R1500 (or even far more) but you should know your own personal spending limits based on your usual behaviour so stick to your norms and be realistic about prices.

I’ve created a sample list and as you’ll see the final figure for a 12 month period is R9,000 which means that the monthly amount is R750. This is your ideal monthly budget, but remember that this was a wish list. (If South Africa Rands don’t mean much to you don’t stress, it’s just an example)

How much to budget for clothing

It’s great to dream a bit but now it’s unfortunately time to be realistic about your money and circumstances. Have a look a the monthly amount that you calculated and see if it fits into your budget. In fact, if you don’t yet have a budget why quickly create a simple budget.

Budgeting is really a way to look at your finances holistically and to work out priorities and goals. And now your clothing budget must go through the same scrutiny. Looking at all the things you need to spend money on, can you afford the clothing on your wish list? Think about your priorities. Is buying new work clothes more important than a new outfit for a wedding you’re attending? Would you rather eat out less for 3 months and buy those new shoes? How important is clothing and style to you? You may need to alter your wish list a little in order to make things work.

There are no right or wrong answers here as it all depends on your own circumstances, priorities and desires. If you really want to spend a lot on clothing then you simply have to cut down elsewhere. You only have a certain amount of money to cover all your expenses, so if you spend more in one area your obviously need to spend less somewhere else. You can go ahead a count your money and actually allocate it all to various categories; a useful and ongoing exercise.

At the end though you need to come up with an affordable and manageable monthly clothing budget.

The monthly process

So here’s the fun part! You can go shopping spend your money without feeling guilty! But there is a process to follow along with some habits to start.

How to budget for clothes.

Stick to your allocated monthly allowance

In order to build a good budgeting habit as well as to protect your cash flow, don’t spend more than you have available. So in the first month, you only have your monthly budget available. If you don’t spend it all, you can carry that money forward. But, don’t take from next months budget now. With other words, save money then spend it instead of spending money in the hopes that you will be able to see it later. So don’t rely on money you don’t actually have.

Wait and save for big purchases

It’s easy to plan your clothes shopping as you already have a list of what you would like to buy over the next 12 months. If you need to buy an outfit that will cost more than your monthly budget, simply wait a month or two until you have the money available. This makes for stress-free and guilt-free shopping!

Save it even if you don’t use it

As clothing costs per month vary, just keep aside money not used. This is very important! If you don’t use your full clothing budget in one month, save it! Don’t go a blow it on entertainment or other things. You can either use an app to keep track of your spending, a spreadsheet or just a pen and paper. It’s really easy!

Sidenote: I use an app called YNAB which works really well for me. There’s a free trial and using my link will get you a free month too which seems like a deal.

If you have a monthly budget of R750 but you only spend R400 this month, you simply carry R350 over. So in the following month you have your normal budget amount of R750 plus an extra R350. Easy! You can see how I track multiple savings in a single account using what I call Savings Pockets.

Some people like to use envelopes and store cash for each category; literally called the “envelope system”. This is a great way to help you carry over money that you don’t use as you don’t even need to think about it.

In summary

Budgeting is all about planning and prioritising your money. Instead of spending your money and hoping that things will just work out, rather spend an hour each month and make sure that things are working out how you want them to! When making a budget for clothing is much the same. Decide what you need first.

Once you’ve worked out how much you can realistically afford on clothing, as well as what you need to buy then you can go out and enjoy the shopping! No need to feel guilty about spending money; as long as you have done you homework beforehand. Have fun and don’t forget to budget clothing!


  1. Certain clothing needs like School uniforms can be known in advance. One tip is not to wait for the school season to begin, as closer to the season, the price will be more. One can make a buy slightly in advance or slightly later (by using last years clothes to begin the new year) and get the uniforms at a cheaper rate. Watch out for discount sale and buy only what you need during those discount sale.

    In India, you have factory seconds where in there would be a very very minor issue, like a thread on the side stitch was slightly twisted. Majority of them would not be seen with normal sight. These clothes would be a great value for buy.

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    Lovely work!

      1. No problem at all. I really like reading a variety of blogs.

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