Fashion Budgeting 101: Calculating Your Budget

Certainly the most important thing to determine before you go crazy with your credit card is the budget itself.

There's no hard-and-fast rule for calculating budgets. For some, clothing is just as insignificant as what brand of flour they buy. Others will drop $2000 on seasonal favorites to placate their style cravings. A variety of factors will determine the correct budget for you, such as climate, occupation, background, and -- perhaps most of all -- salary.

Personally, I'm of the belief that whatever your income, your wardrobe budget should be a percentage of your earnings from the previous season and should remain consistent through the year. It just doesn't make sense to spend money you don't yet have. Especially on fashion. I don't care how much you (or I) love it.

For example, imagine if you spent $180 on clothing last summer. In fall perhaps you spend $210. It would be reasonable to estimate $200 as your seasonal clothing budget, right?

Only so long as your income is consistent, and the rest of your budget is predictable.

Let's say on November 29th you find the perfect wool coat for your winter wardrobe. Assuming you'll have $200 to spare, you purchase the coat as soon as December hits. On December 15th, your car won't start and you pay $300 in repairs. On December 20th, an unexpected holiday gift arrives and you have no choice but to return the favor. All of a sudden you could really use an extra $200... When you budget before the fact (save for fall spending in summer, winter spending in fall, etc.), you sidestep this problem. You're spending what has already been determined excess.

Budgeting a percentage of your earnings, rather than a firm figure, will allow for flexibility within your income. If you make $3000 a month, setting aside 4% leaves $360 to spend for the upcoming season. Say one month you come up short, at $2500 -- Just apply the same percentage for an adjusted seasonal total of $340. This strategy keeps your spending habits in line with what's actually available.

Adapt your budget to suit your habits. I'm quite practical-minded when it comes to clothes; factors like weather and daily to-dos weigh quite heavily in what I purchase. Thus, a seasonal budget suits me best. If you're prone to spending money as soon as you have it, creating a monthly budget might work better for you. If you live somewhere with unvaried climate, or if you hate shopping, a yearly or biyearly budget could be ideal.

Finally, once you've budgeted your funds, don't be afraid to spend them! If you don't use it all, you can always roll the excess money over to next season.

Coming Soon: Shopping Tips!


Fashion Budgeting 101: Culling Your Closet

They say admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. I've already explored my trouble with letting things go, so I guess I'm on my way in that regard. Getting down to business, though, is another story. It's all very easy to wax poetic on my wardrobe issues, but as soon as I face the challenge of putting my money where my mouth is... well, let's just say I'm a better thinker than a doer.

How do I love thee...?

If you're like me, closet culling will be the hardest part of the budgeting process -- or at least will take the most willpower. It's tempting to hold on to stuff that's still useful or has sentimental value, but (hey) you've got to hide that love away. For now.

Step 1: Pull all of the clothes out of your closet and drawers. Throw them to the floor in wild abandon. Enjoy the chaotic mess that is now your bedroom.

Step 2: Consider each article, one at a time, and send it flying into one of four piles:
             1) I love you / I can't imagine my closet without you
             2) Mixed feelings / I know you're wrong but you feel so right
             3) There are things I still enjoy about you but I'm kind of bored / would trade you for money
             4) You're holding me back / We're done here

Soulmates, Friends with Benefits, Temporaries, and Toxics. That is all ye know and all ye need to know.

Step 3: Put your Soulmates back on the shelf. Consider what these items have in common -- Comfort? Sophistication? An obsession with neon? This will be your calling card. It will come into play later. (Note: If your wardrobe is already stuffed at this point, consider doing away with the remainders immediately and skipping to step 7.)

      My examples: favorite Lucky Vintage leather jacket, best-fitting Lucky Brand jeans, classic Ray-Ban sunglasses, versatile knee-high boots

Step 4: Reconsider each of your Friends with Benefits. Have you worn them in the past year? Do they jive with your calling card, or do they belong with a you of the past? Are they secretly a Soulmate you're just not being real with yourself about? What about a Toxic? Ideally, about two thirds of this pile will end up with the Temporaries or Toxics and one third will join the Soulmates as part of your minimalized wardrobe.

      My examples: quirky ballerina print skirt, first-ever pair of high-top converse, favorite yoga pants with stitched-up hole

Step 5: About half of your Temporaries should be in pretty good shape. After all, your relationship with them likely didn't last long. The other half (and probably the discarded Friends with Benefits) may be unflattering or outdated. Take the first half to a consignment store and cash these babies in! Abandon the second half at your local donation center. They are off to find their own soulmates.

      My examples: fancy dress a friend pawned off on me, not-quite-the-right-length pencil skirt, uncomfortable heels I wore to one dance ever

Step 6: Onto the Toxics. Don't think twice about this pile. They are stained, pilled, pitted out, or otherwise offensive. They've been hiding in the depths of your drawers, and they are doing you no good. Take them to the trash.

      My examples: just about everything polyester, overstretched bra, misshapen Old Navy tee shirts (along with my faith in Old Navy)

Step 7: Make yourself a drink. You just went through a lot... of clothes.

Step 8: Look at your new wardrobe. Love it. Put together some outfits.
            Now think about your calling card. What's missing from your current items that would bring everything together? Do you love colorful tops? Maybe some neutral pants and skirts would balance out your brights. Are your retro-inspired blouses and heels begging for a pencil skirt? Write it down. Eventually you'll have a shopping list.

Don't get too excited yet, though. You've still got a budget to calculate.

This and more coming soon!


Closet Psychology

We buy things to show the world who we are or what we like,

but all too often we end up defined by what we can't get rid of.

I tend to hold onto things for a long time -- often for sentimental reasons, but sometimes in avoidance of a bizarre guilt that immediately accompanies my disposal of anything remotely useable.

I think perhaps Toy Story ruined me forever in its personification of inanimate objects. Initially, it just resulted in my taking extra care to love my dolls & stuffed animals equally, lest they worry they'd been "replaced" by something new. For a while the effects were positive: my possessions were well-loved, but well cared-for. But as my interests expanded beyond these childhood treasures -- into the world of boys and makeup, music and fashion -- I suddenly felt as if I'd committed some wrongdoing. After all, wasn't I betraying what I once loved?

Eventually I got over abandoning my Beanie Babies in the crawlspace and squishing The Barbies into a bin I imagined would be very uncomfortable for them, but this odd principle (unfortunately) stuck with me. Even today, I find myself hesitating over the donation bin, a once-favorite skirt in hand, thinking I ought to apologize to it for not "taking it out" more. I essentially charge myself with neglect for a piece of fabric. I have to remind myself constantly that this is completely absurd. A favorite sweater may evoke sentimental feelings, but that doesn't meant it has feelings.

The sad circumstance of letting our "stuff" own us, rather than the other way around, is a loss of control over our own personality. We buy things to show the world who we are or what we like, but all too often we end up defined by what we can't get rid of. My deep-seated fear of growing up is likely to blame for the toys I couldn't say goodbye to. Similarly, my clothes represent various personae I've "tried on" at different points in my life. To throw them away is to admit I am no longer that which I once aspired to be. It's another kind of growing up, really.

As a solution for this stifling sentiment, I decided to develop a wardrobe budget. Under the stipulation that I must throw out one similar item for each item purchased, I began portioning a modest amount each season to spend on "me" -- the current me. Knowing I had cash to burn enticed me to make room in my closet for new personality. It's an odd way of embracing change in myself, but it's certainly been a successful one. As for those items I have bid farewell, I can honestly say I haven't thought of them sense.

Since nothing inspires (or terrifies) me more than sharing my learning process, I've decided to divulge some of my budgeting exploits in more detail. Hopefully you'll find these upcoming posts useful in your own planning, whether your personality is overflowing onto your bedroom floor, or you just need some motivation to explore a new you. The road to change is never easy, but it's always nice to have a travel companion.

Winter budget coming soon -- Enjoy this holiday Monday!


The Chelsea Comeback

How excited are you that Chelsea boots are back??! Probably not as excited as I am. To me, these boots have one master and one master only: The Beatles.

I think it's positively charming that the Chelsea has returned just in time to honor the 50th anniversary of this legendary band's American "conquering." What better way to pay tribute than tapping out "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" in the same shoes that started it all?

While the true Beatle boot design features zippered sides, the classic Chelsea's claim-to-fame is its expandable elastic siding. In years past, I've been skeptical of elastic on shoes. It reminds me of those ugly 90s Tom-like slip-ons that boys used to wear with sweatpants and rat-tails. It evokes the horror of not knowing what to do with shoelaces. No more, I thought. I'm proud to wear shoes that tie. The more complicated, the better.

That aside, the more time I spend slipping shoes on and off (in accordance with my household mission to vacuum as little as possible) the more I feel I need some of these majestic beauties in my life. Lucky for me, I'll have my pick of the litter; like the very band they stand for, these boots are here, there, and everywhere, and they just might conquer 2014.

Chelsea Love