Tightening the Purse Strings

Tightening the Purse Strings

It’s well known that I have a fairly type A personality.  I love lists, and utilize Google Drive to organize basically every aspect of my life into a beautiful list or spreadsheet.

Since about 2010, we’ve had a written monthly budget based loosely on Dave Ramsey’s model.  My grandpa taught me the Dave Ramsey method while I was still in college.  At the time, I didn’t utilize it much as I had little debt, and even less income.  To be honest, I would really love to take another one of his courses, or read some of his books.  I think now as a mature 30+ adult (stop snickering), I’d be able to gleam more from it.  But I did learn to keep track of expenses and to plan out where each of your paycheck will go.

Now, for about the last 5 years, not much has changed with our budget.  Our income went up slowly over time, as did our expenses.  Each change, since it was gradual, was easy to incorporate into my already perfected monthly budget.  For example, when we upgraded from our starter home to our current house in 2012, I was able to just bump up the amount of our mortgage payment, and luckily take away from our budgeted “play” money.  However, since we’re moving half-way around the country, and going from a double income down to one, I had to go back to basics and am recalculating our estimated monthly expenses.

An area I’m struggling with right now?  Clothes.  Right now I don’t budget for clothing purchases; they come out of our “play” money.  But guess what?  Our play money is about to be drastically reduced when I finally achieve the goal of becoming a SAHM, but we’re still going to require clothes.

Did you know, that on average the American family spends $1,700 on clothes per year?  Ugh.  So, that’s roughly $150 a month that needs budgeted.  Do we really spend that much?  Surely not.  Then I thought about my current Kohl’s credit card statement.

So, I did what no one should ever do, but what actually needed to be done.  Since I order most of our clothes online, I looked back on what we’ve purchased in the past 6 months, or roughly the amount of time Wee One has been alive.  I only looked at the 3 stores we shopped the most, so these results don’t even take into consideration any stores I made random purchases from or any clothes actually purchased in person.  Let me tell you, it is ridiculous.  I won’t go into the cost, but here’s the amount of clothes we bought.

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To be fair, Princess Pigg (our 4 year old), and Wee One (our 7 month old) likely required some of those clothes since they change sizes frequently.  But, other than being pregnant and requiring maternity clothes, I have been the same size for at least the last 5 years.  And yet, I *usually* clean my closet out twice a year.  This cleaning process ususally results in at least two big black trash bags full of clothes being donated to Salvation Army or our local women’s center.  And that’s just my clothes.

My question is this: Is this normal American family shopping habits, or are we excessive?  Or are American shopping habits just excessive?  Is the answer to budget $150 a month and tighten things up everywhere else, or stop buying so many freaking clothes?

I’m going to say it’s a happy combination of the two.  Or a not so happy, but at least not sad, combination.  My belated goal for 2016 will be to average only one new article of clothing per month per family member, with exceptions being made for the piglets.  I’m going to budget $100 a month for clothes, for our family of 4, and we’ll see how far that gets us.  Hopefully this combo will require me to not only shop thriftier, but also to evaluate every purchase to see if it’s what I want in my closet.

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