Your Style Budget: Reasons to Set One


"You mean I should set a budget for style-spending?"
If your income fluctuates or is otherwise unpredictable, having a weekly budget for style is important.  I understand fluctuating income. Until I was 21, I paid for my occasional Starbucks coffee with quarters gleaned from under car-seats. Even now that I have a job and have a pretty stead base-line, I still fluctuate between working three, four, and even the occasional five-day week. Having a weekly budget for my expenses (including style) has been an eye-opener.
“But why a weekly budget? Are you planning to go shopping every single week?”
No, not necessarily. But if you’re saving money every week – even $5 at a time – for your style budget, it won’t overturn your financial boat when you decided to go in for a larger purchase, like a new wool coat or a nicer pair of shoes or a new dress for a friend’s wedding. To explain what I mean, I’ve listed some of my favorite reasons to set a style budget. Having a style budget is:

A Guilt-Lifter:  I used to hate those moments when I would find myself in need of purchasing something and feel like I was a shopaholic for buying it. Hadn’t I just bought something a few weeks ago? However, after setting a loose weekly budget for all my finances and reserving money especially for beauty or clothing purchases, the guilt is no longer there. I know where my money is going and how much of it I can spare for this particular section. I have tapped off money strictly for personal/beauty/style, so using it for that purpose is no longer a negative! It is such a relief/excitement to have a style budget!

A Bargain-Enabler: When you have money saved back or set aside for clothing purchases, you are able to take advantage of the best bargains. Why? Think this way: a name-brand blouse might be on sale at the mall for 80% off the original price. It’s a summer blouse, though, and you really ought to be spending your money on clothes for the current season….or ought you? If you have money set aside, you can feel good about thinking ahead for the coming season. Spend a portion of your dedicated money on shopping sales for next year. Most of us are not going to be growing massively in any direction, so purchasing clothing for the future is reasonable. Shopping off-season allows you the get the hugest discounts. I recently found a skirt on clearance at Anthropologie. I had been keeping an eye on this skirt since it debuted back in the spring. It was $178.99 then. You know how much I paid for it now, in November? $19.95. Sure, it’s a white skirt and I can’t wear it till next spring. Does that bother me? No.

A caveat: if the item is strictly summer(or strictly winter)-appropriate, invest in classic  styles, not the high-trends of the moment. For instance: neon & neutrals was a thing in 2014. You barely even see it this year. Having bought an electric yellow & camel sweater from the 2014 Winter-trends in, say, April 2015 to wear this winter would have been a slight mistake. But if I’d purchased a plum cashmere turtleneck sweater (ha. ha. who can afford cashmere?), I could feasibly wear it for the next twenty years.

A Happy Place: I say this half-jokingly, but also quite seriously. It’s fun to have a little bit of mad-money and to know you aren’t leaving anything un-funded by purchasing whatever it is you’ve decided to purchase. A style-budget means the purchase is now under your jurisdiction. You’ve allocated the funds for spending in this particular way. So the only choices you now have to make are which fun things you get to spend it on, and that’s a blast! You’ve moved on from “should I spend this money on shoes” to “which pair of shoes do I get to spend this money on?” It’s such fun.

A Class-Elevator: When I shop sales off-season, when I’ve given myself that margin to think and plan ahead, I can afford much nicer clothes than I otherwise could, as in the case of the Anthropologie skirt, or my Anthropologie blazer, or my Kate Spade wallet. Yes, you can find items by big-brands on sites like Thred-Up or Zulilly (all good things), but there’s nothing like walking into a department store and choosing something off the rack and paying a fraction of the price. Though emails from designer brands/stores can become annoying, they are a terribly good way to keep advised of the current sales. Pay attention to ads as well. My Kate Spade wallet was a 75%-off purchase because I happened to see an ad for their “surprise sale” while listening to Spotify. You can shop TJ Maxx and Ross year-round for excellent deals on good brands as well. Thrift-stores, thought they take time to work-over, are also a good place. There’s someone exactly one size too small for me who donates Isaac Mizrahi to the local Goodwill. Shrinkage plan, activate.
 I love paying bargain prices for high-quality items. Sure, some of these items (nearly $200 for a skirt?) were outrageously-priced to begin with, but there is really nothing to compare with paying a price your conscience can live with for a brand your (expensive) taste delights in. High-quality items last longer. Spending a little extra (maybe) for an on-sale pair of ballet flats that will last, versus purchasing three $25 pairs over the next three years, is a good deal. This was the case with the leopard-print flats I finally found: they were originally $55 dollars from JC Penny’s, on sale for $40. By the time I got to the checkout, they ran up for $30. And they’re a sturdy pair of flats.

A Time-Buyer: When you set a budget for style, you take the pressure off of purchasing something now. If you don’t have a budget, you’re thinking, “Okay, I have thirty spare dollars right now and even though these skinny jeans don’t fit exactly right, I’d better buy them because I’m not sure if the money will be there next time I’m able to go shopping.”
When that same thirty dollars is siphoned off specifically for your style-budget, you have all the time in the world. You can wait for the purchases you truly love and cut down on wasteful spending on items you just sort of love. I passed up so many pairs of leopard-print flats (even reasonably-priced options) because they weren’t quite what I had in mind. I wanted to make sure I was spending my money on what I really wanted and not what would suit me fine for now. No one was breathing down my neck. That money was reserved for the purchase of clothing items and would not be touched for lunch, gas, my phone-bill, or car insurance. I waited and waited and searched diligently for the perfect and pair. When I found them, the money was ready.

A Double-Check: On the practical side of all this budgeting is the fact that, if adhered to strictly as I try to do (“try” being the operative word here), you don’t have the “I don’t care how much it costs, I’m buying it” factor. You’ve reserved a particular amount of money and your purchases must fit within that amount of money. You know you have forty dollars set aside. Do you want to spend forty dollars on a plaid flannel shirt (brand new) from American Eagle or are you going to shop around a little and get a new pair of skinny jeans and a sweater or two from the clearance rack at Kohl’s? It’s completely your choice and you don’t need to feel guilty for deciding to buy the flannel after all. But you know that when the forty dollars is gone, it’s gone. And it might be a few more weeks before you have the same budget again. In this sense, budgeting is a wonderful series of checks and balances and your purchases become more thoughtful and intentional. My best friend has a principle that if it is a purchase of over $100, she doesn’t commit until she’s thought about it for twenty-four hours. If, at the end of the thinking period she still wants to move ahead, she does so in complete confidence. She owns several things from Diane Von Furstenburg via TJ Maxx (Atlanta gets designer labels. Boo.). I like the decisions her analytical mind comes to. The “price per wear” theory is helpful in such expensive cases. Google it. It’s a fantastic scheme.

Though I heartily recommend it, a style-budget will not fit everyone’s personality. Though clothing purchases will have to be made eventually and I would still recommend budgeting for it (you’re going to have to replace your jeans and winter coat and tennis shoes and tank tops at some point), I understand funds needing to be used elsewhere. Or you have the case of the Minimalistic Closet: one of my sisters so rarely purchases new clothing, she doesn’t see the sense in setting a style budget, and for her, I agree. Her money would probably be best shuttled off someplace else…we joke that she will be the one who dies, leaving a million dollars taped to the underside of her mattress. That girl can save. So tell me: do you have a style budget? If not, do you see the value of setting one or do you still prefer not setting a budget? Let’s chat about it below!


P.S. I want to meet the man who walks into Brooks Brothers, looks at the "SALE" sign and thinks, “Man. Two cashmere sweaters for $598. What a steal!” 


  1. These are great tips, I want to do something like this. I hate feel guilty about buying things.

  2. Wow, that skirt looks gorgeous! And $19.95 rather than $178.99? YES what a steal! You go, girl!

  3. Great tips! I'm currently using the EveryDollar app/website for budgeting (I looooooove it) and there's totally this category in my budget. :)

    1. Oooo! I haven't heard of that! I should check into it...