I recently read an article on GMBMFB and subsequently the original article on Money After Graduation. Both of them are about how much you should spend on clothes. They used the rule of thumb that 5% of your income, or less, should go towards clothing. I, of course, had the sudden urge to calculate two things. First, how much I spend on clothes a month and how much 5% of my net income is. The answers are 0.28% and $179.50 respectively. Wow. Apparently I am once again an outlier. I'd say that was strange, but, well, it's not really that surprising.
I took a bit of time to think about the numbers. Is 0.28% good enough to keep me appropriately dressed? I have to say that, for the moment it is. Most of the clothes that I own (probably around two thirds) never gets worn, not because I don't like them, simply because I only wear one outfit a day and wash my clothes every week, so the clothes on the top of the pile are always the same. I own two very fancy sets of clothes, one for summer and one for winter. (Though they only get worn every 4 years or so.) I have a solid set of runners that will hopefully last another couple years, as well as two replacement sets (left over from my cross-country days where I could wear out one per season.) And while yes, most of my socks do have holes that is personal preference. If I kept replacing the ones with holes I would have to try and avoid putting holes in them. Which would mean no more skipping and sliding around on my wood floors. I'd prefer to slip and slide. As for the $179.50 per month, I would honestly be really hard pressed to try and spend that much money on clothes every month. Truly, there is nothing that I want out there. I don't want to get rid of the stuff that I already have or need to store even more clothes.
The interesting thing that I noticed in both articles was the fact that "clothes expenditures should be 5% of your overall spending" and "clothes expenditures should be 5% of your overall income" were used interchangeably. This infers, of course, that you spend everything that you earn. I would hope that this is not the case. I have always lived on roughly half of my income, even when earning a pittance as a student. Thus my spending has always been 50% of my income, meaning that 5% of my overall spending and 5% of my overall income are very different. I hope that they are very different for you as well.
So we come back to the question; what percentage of your money should be spent on clothes? My answer is, what ever percentage you need to spend. If your house just burnt down obviously you're going to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe (especially if you work at a job that has a certain dress code.) On the other hand if you have a perfectly serviceable wardrobe at your disposal you have no need to add to it.
At the end of the day you can do one of two things with your money. Spend it (occasionally required and may admittedly be a source of some pleasure) or save it. Savings give you two things, options and freedom. Options could be as simple as being able to go see family on a whim or as complicated as giving you the time you need to go back to school after a job loss. Every dollar you have in the bank gives you the option to chose what direction you're going to head, especially when life throws you a curve ball. Freedom is what happens when you have enough in the bank to allow you not to worry where the next dollar is coming from, you already know. True you may choose to keep working, but you are free to do it by your own rules, not somebody else's.
Some argue that the purchase of something, or the wearing of certain luxurious clothes bring them happiness. I would argue back that the happiness that they feel in such instances pales beside the happiness one feels with experiences such as spending time with loved ones, marvelling at what natures has to offer, overcoming personal challenges, and giving back to the world more than you take. As such I honestly wonder why someone would chose to spend dollars of the fleeting happiness of a purchase when they could save those dollars thus giving them the freedom to search out and enjoy the happiness that comes with experiences that are, more often than not, free.