A couple weeks ago, I surveyed my Instagram friends, and a large majority were interested in a no-spend February, wherein we all commit to not spending any money on clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. No money spent on unnecessary wants; only on needs like food, utilities, gas, rent, etc. The idea is to be able to put any money you might have spent unnecessarily on clothes, etc, towards retirement, debt, and such. While initially I was quite gung-ho about the idea of not spending any money at all next month, questions starting pouring in about exceptions: What about Valentine’s Day? Birthdays? Can we use gift cards?? So I went back to my public health roots and thought about about the theories I learned about human behavior and what we think about when we consider new interventions: primarily, I thought about sustainability. WHAT IS THE GOAL HERE?
My person goal is to spend more consciously and stop spending money on food that will get thrown away because I didn’t meal plan; clothes and shoes I bought on a whim that I never wore; or makeup products I bought and didn’t like, and ended up cluttering my makeup bag until they expired; because, yes, they expire!! More to come on that.
Years ago, I read a post by Jeanette Johnson of J’s Everyday Fashion. It was the first time I’d read about setting a “clothing budget”. As you know, I was a grad student, then a post doc, and didn’t make a lot of money during either of those training periods. So budgeting was something I did out of necessity. When I became an assistant professor, I was making more money, but school loans have also kept me from over-spending. Still, one of the things I love to do is shop, and since embarking on my purging journey the past two years, I realized that some of that money might have been better spent. J’s clothing budget allows you to set aside 2-8% of your monthly salary on clothing. In general, I have followed that rule, but I could also benefit from spending less, accumulating less clutter, and buying more thoughtfully moving forward.
Okay, so if you’re still reading, you’re probably wondering: SOOOOO, are we shopping or not shopping??
In public health, when thinking about health interventions, we often think about ensuring that outcomes will be sustainable. So I asked myself, “Is it sustainable to not shop at all for the rest of my life??” Of course not. Is the point to do this for a month and what? Save $100? No. The goal, a sustainable one, is to learn how to budget and spend mindfully. So, I’m proposing a variation of J’s clothing budget, to 1) learn how to budget; 2) ensure more mindful spending; 3) redirect more money towards other long-term goals, debt, etc.:
$60 a month for the rest of the year. YIKES!
$60 a month. How did I arrive at that number? Well, when I polled my Instagram friends, the most popular response was that many were working with about a $3000 budget (the sliding scale and other questions pictured below). If we take the lower range of J’s shopping budget percentage, then we’re looking at 2% of $3000, which equals $60. $60 a month!!
Have you recovered from the shock yet?? I’ll tell ya, once you write down every single thing you spend money on, you will think $60 is too much to spend. $60 dollars is enough to visit the Dollar Spot a couple times a month, buy a Who What Wear top from Target, and pick up a pair of shoes on clearance from TJMaxx. Not to mention a pair of earrings from Forever 21. Hello, $5 J Lo hoops!
What are the rules??
- $60 to spend after groceries, bills, mortgage/rent, etc. $60 for clothes, shoes, accessories, the Dollar Spot, etc.
- Can you use gift cards to increase my clothing budget?? Absolutely!
- What if I make extra money? Can that be used to to increase my clothing budget? YES! The goal is simply to not take more from your take home income. If you’re comfortable meeting goals without allocating that extra income towards those goals, then spend away.
- What about credit card points. Again, YES. If many cases, you can’t turn these into cash, so might as well get yourself something nice if you have enough of them sitting around.
Have I piqued your interest?? If so, know that I will be keeping you updated with the purchases that I make myself these coming months, along with a summary of what I spent and on what. I do plan to be savvy and do extra things to try to pad my clothing budget. What kind of things you ask?? When I polled people on Instagram, the tips and tricks for making extra money when running low at the end of the month, were numerous.
- Sell clothes on Poshmark
- Pick up an extra day at work
- Donate plasma
- Sell things on eBay
- Make extra money pet sitting
- Consign clothes, shoes, accessories, etc
- Teach (yoga, crafts etc)
- Freelance (eg on Upwork)
- Sell, sell, sell anything and everything that is extra in your home
- Participate in research studies
- Work overtime
- Use credit card points
- Offer to babysit for friends and neighbors
- Sell/pawn used items
- Uber, Instacart, and/or Shipt
- Market research participation
- Review textbooks
- Sell kids clothes online (like eBay or ThredUp)
- Sports leagues (coach a team and charge a fee for your time)
- Sell things on Facebook
- Bring on new clients (for those with a business)
Now, how do you start? Last month, I wrote down everything I had spent the past three months, and I categorized my spending into categories. Your categories will vary from mine depending on your household, personal, and professional needs. I, for example, no longer have to budget for daycare, but I do have to budget for after school care. So write it all down. Then, write down what you bring home each month. Deduct every single expense (down to the penny) that you will anticipate spending that month. Then decide how much to put away in your 1) emergency fund, 2) retirement account, etc. After that, take your $60 for clothing. If you do not have $60 left over to dedicate to clothing/etc, then use some of the ways above to try to make extra money, if shopping is how you want to spend that extra money.
I checked the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in 2017, women made the following median salaries per month:
- 16 to 19 years: $404 weekly/$21,008 annually
- 20 to 24 years: $508 weekly/$26,416 annually
- 25 to 34 years: $727 weekly/$37,804 annually
- 35 to 44 years: $877 weekly/$45,604 annually
- 45 to 54 years: $851 weekly/$44,252 annually
- 55 to 64 years: $869 weekly/$45,188 annually
- 65 years and older: $800 weekly/$41,600 annually
According to statistics provided by Instagram, people I interact with on instagram (followers and people I follow) are on average 25-34 years of age, with a smaller proportion in the 35-44 years of age. Based on the data above, if you divide $37,804 by 12 months, you arrive at $3150 per month, of which 2% equals $63. As it turns out, the data I collected on Instagram was not too far off from the median salary reported in the US.
Some tips I plan to keep in mind as I strive to keep to my $60 budget: 1) keep receipts! I might buy something that fits within my $60 monthly budget, but that I change my mind about later, so I’ll roll that money over to the following month; 2) shop thrift and consignment stores; 3) accept gifts!!; 4) have clothing swaps with friends; 5) sell, sell, sell!!
So what do you think? Are you in, or are you out?? If you’re in, I look forward to going on this money saving journey with you! Let me know in the comments section if you would like a post on creating a budget, although based on my data, most of you already know how to budget, so perhaps that isn’t as great a need as finding fellowship in spending less. Onward, and save!