A Year of Clothes Shopping

My fashionable headgear

My fashionable headgear

I have been inspired by Lucinda Sans, who bought no new clothes in 2013, to ‘fess up to what I bought this year!

In 2012, I pared down my wardrobe a lot. It will never be minimal, but it’s not bloated any more, either! In 2013, I wanted to shop conscientiously. I would buy replacements for items that wore out, and basics and classics and things I would wear forever. In theory.

I didn’t actually make a plan and stick to it, and that was my downfall. I tried to critically assess each item I considered buying, but I made some poor decisions as well as some good ones.

Over the last 12 months, I bought 48 items of clothing: 33 substantial things and 15 accessories. I spent CDN $1262 out of a $1200 budget!

Here’s how it happened. First of all, I did have a mental list of things I needed to replace:

  • Tall, warm-lined black leather boots would be replaced with warm-lined natural rubber boots
  • Fake suede “hiking” boots with no treads left would be replaced with real hiking boots
  • Black shoes for work would be replaced with similar ones
  • 2 baggy cardigans, black and white, would be replaced with new fitted ones
  • Needed to replace 4 single-colour T-shirts I wear to work – they were 10+ years old and faded
  • Needed to replace 1 pair beige/khaki trousers for work – old ones were too casual
  • Would replace an old ‘skort’ that didn’t fit with a new one

Those items would have come in at $500 if I hadn’t run into two problems. After wearing my new work shoes for about a month, they started squeaking. So much that I couldn’t wear them any more!  I am trying to work out a solution with the local cobbler (!) but meanwhile I had to buy another pair of shoes. My second problem was an excess of single colour T-shirts. I bought 4 for the intended price, but then fell in love with a purple Ralph Lauren Chaps T-shirt that I bought on impulse for $36. For one T-shirt! But you know what? I don’t regret it – I love the shirt and I’ve worn it a lot!

  • My estimate for the replacement items: $475
  • Actual (including 2nd pair of shoes): $640. The 2 pairs of shoes cost $173.

Next I had a list of new items to buy:

  • 1 pair dark wash jeans
  • 1 work jacket (blazer)
  • Grey or silver sandals or very casual shoes

Long-time readers might remember that I got sized in a Me-Ality machine to help me find jeans that fit! Before I found the perfect jeans at Banana Republic, I found another cheap pair at Giant Tiger and bought them too. I like them both! In the search for a work jacket, I bought a plain brown one for $17 that I never wore. Then I bought a pinstripe one at a consignment shop for only $10. I like it, but the pinstripe is turquoise so I can only wear it with a turquoise shirt, of which I only have one. Then, I bought a bright orangey ruched zip-up work jacket that I love. Unfortunately, I am finding it a bit too dressy for my workplace and more appropriate for formal meetings and conferences. Sigh! Finally, I bought a pair of grey cotton espadrilles to wear with my one-and-only sun dress, and I actually got a lot of wear out of them.

  • My estimate for the new items: $185
  • Actual (including both pairs of jeans and the 3 blazers): $198

So I’ve now spent $838 on new and replacement items that I was actually looking for and planning to buy. The remainder of my clothes spending for the year consisted of things I didn’t plan to buy. Some of them were good finds and I am making good use of them:

  • Vintage boy’s cycling jacket $10
  • Vivid blue pullover sweater for upcoming holidays $10
  • Dark blue button-up shirt for work $17
  • Purple tunic sweater to wear with leggings (below) $23
  • Short-sleeve “crochet-look” summer cardigan, used, $5
  • Green cable knit boat neck sweater $17
  • Coral/white striped boat neck T-shirt $23
  • Pride Parade T-Shirt $17
  • Black golf-type T-Shirt with ruching $10
  • Black leggings/jeggings (which I swore I’d never buy, but I succumbed) $22
  • Long plaid shorts (I rarely wear shorts, but I liked these) $21
  • 3 winter hats $18 (2 would have been enough but I bought one in Toronto because it was unexpectedly cold there!)
  • Day pack (small backpack to replace carrying a purse when travelling) $31
  • 2 pairs of tights $15
  • Infinity scarf (i.e. circular scarf or cowl) $17
  • Domo character hat for Hallowe’en costume $29 (splurge)

Total of unplanned stuff I’m happy with: $285

This is the List of Regrets – the unplanned things I wish I hadn’t bought:

  • 5 packages of socks. I had over 50 pairs of socks before I bought these. I needed some replacement socks but not this many! $38
  • 2 belts. Don’t wear them, gave one away $40
  • Short-sleeve zip-up fleece jacket. I have one that I love so I thought I needed another! $35
  • Waffle-knit zip-up hoodie vest, bought used, not worn yet $12
  • Black “peasant” top. This is a bit girly for my usual style but I have worn it maybe twice $14

Total of these money-wasters: $139

Over all, I am happy with the new and replacement stuff that I thought through in advance. I think $139 is a reasonable amount for impulse purchases – if I had actually worn or used those things at all, which I didn’t!

I am currently thinking up a new strategy for 2014, which will start with the new and replacement items I actually need. Assuming I can be said to “need” anything, given the amount of clothes I already have.

I’ll be back tomorrow with an updated clothes inventory!


  1. That’s not too bad for wasted money. Of course there is always the other impacts, eg on the environment for the production of unworn clothes and their disposal.

    And maybe your strategy could be to include some fun, or interesting pieces. Something current, or with patterns, or accessories to lift an outfit.

    • I laughed when I read “something with patterns” because I never wear prints! I do need a new strategy but I don’t know what it will be yet, other than resisting impulse shopping.

  2. Oh I love how analytical you are. I should sit down with my receipts and break it down like you did, to see how I feel about things. I had two main shopping missions, both recently and shared on the blog. I wonder what I’ll dredge up from the long forgotten year that was 2013. I don’t think I have many regrets, seeing I seldom buy, and there’s a lot of reflection, but we’ll see!

  3. Clothes are so lovely and so tempting. I’m not surprised you’ve overspent. My 2013 spending plan included nearly no clothes buying but I soon caved in x

    • Whenever I set a new budget, clothes spending is the first to get whittled down. But as soon as I need new shoes or boots, that goes out the window (I bought 5 pairs of shoes or boots this year). If I really needed to stay on budget 100%, I would probably start an envelope system – I would go shopping with $100 in cash with no leeway to overspend!

  4. Fiona

    Wow – I think you got great value for the dollar – that’s a lot of things especially when it includes shoes. I think you did exceptionally well to have just over $100 of ‘Regrets’! I’ve bought minimal things this year but I will need an epic wardrobe re-vamp in Jan when my new job begins!

    • I spent about half of my year’s clothes shopping budget in May when I bought a whole new travel wardrobe which doubled as a spring/summer work wardrobe. Even though I know I tend to overspend on spring/summer clothes that I can only wear 4 months of the year! Luckily my winter wardrobe didn’t need much refurbishing except for boots. I nearly always spend $1000-$1500 on clothes each year which is weighted towards work clothes. I hope you’ll post about your new work wardrobe – will you get caught up buying it during the Christmas rush?

      • Fiona

        Oops – my reply comment (from the phone) did not post! I will definitely post about new clothes (too much fun not to!) I’ll start looking after Christmas when the sales are on.

      • It will be fun to hear what you bought and what your strategy was!

  5. Juhli

    That is too bad about the shoes. Have you tried complaining to the company that makes them? I did love your comment that you had one you loved so you thought you needed another! Story of my clothes shopping life.

    • I was really disappointed about the shoes but it was too late to return them. I didn’t think of contacting the company so now I will do that! They are Earth Origins brand which was supposed to be a little more eco-friendly.

      I have a history of buying two when I like something, and I usually regret it!

  6. I’ve been wanting to sit down and actually figure out how many items of clothing I’ve purchased this year and the total spent, but it’s going to take quite a bit of digging since I didn’t keep track all along. I feel like it can’t be more than 10 items, but I bet I’ve forgotten tons of stuff already. You may have inspired me to finally take the plunge. If only everyone would inventory their home and purchases and put them online, I find it fascinating!

  7. Pingback: Wardrobe Project Update 2013 | An Exacting Life

  8. I need to update my inventory as I bought 4 (or was it 5?) items in NY. It’s been a good frugal year for me, but I do need to buy a few new items in early 2014.
    I love how you keep such great records, especially of all those socks lol!

  9. Emmy

    As a fellow librarian and spreadsheet lover I keep a running list of all clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessory purchases in a 6 month period. I also include anything that I returned to remind myself of all that I actually bought but I don’t keep that item’s cost on the spreadsheet. If need be, I can refer back to my monthly credit and cash expenditures to find this. Although this year isn’t over yet I have spent $671.49 USD. I try to stick to a $50 a month budget but, as you can see, I’ve already gone over.
    On the same spreadsheet, I also have a column to indicate whether the item was new or thrifted/made of recycled materials as well as a “fate of item” column to write what happened to the item- did it fall apart and I had to recycle it or throw it away, did it fit poorly, did I try to alter it and it didn’t work so well, etc. Most of my notes here show that I donate items that don’t work.
    Because I am concerned about my environmental impact as well as my finances, I find this spreadsheet helps keep me on track and accountable. It also helps me recognize patterns in my purchasing such as buying pants from thrift stores almost always results in donating them back!

    • Emmy – you are a person after my own heart 🙂 I have similar spreadsheets. I have been more aware of the environmental impact of my clothes this year, and I hope to get much better. Although I knew how much I was spending throughout the year, I didn’t stop to look at patterns, and that’s where I hope to improve most. Thanks for visiting!

  10. Claire/Just a little less

    A great idea to track your clothes spending – I have a similar attraction to belts yet I rarely wear them but I do like a new pack of socks.

  11. Jodi

    I had only spent $70 on clothing before the end of October. I had donated many bags(more than 10) to the goodwill to help minimize my current wardrobe. When I started my new job, I purchased approx. $250 of clothing due to a specific dress code.
    How does this compare to my past spending? In 2012, I spent $1861. I am very happy with my improvement.
    Now I need to plan for 2014, which will include purchasing a complete new hiking wardrobe as I have lost weight and I am going on several multi-day hiking trips. I like your idea of planning purchases with a budget.

    • What a dramatic difference from last year to this! I lost weight in the past couple of years as well, and have gradually replaced most of my clothes. I got tired of the shapeless sack look! Sometimes I am tempted to buy technical clothing because it’s so cool (I don’t do any athletics) but I have resisted!

  12. I’ve scaled down my clothes shopping this year as well, partly because of not having the money to spend and partly because I am living in such a small apartment!

    The only new clothes I bought this year were the ones I got made in Thailand (which should hopefully last for years), however I did buy quite a few things from thrift shops. I’ve also gone to two clothes swaps this year and loved getting things for free 🙂

    I hear you on the socks – I got six pairs for Christmas last year, which should keep me going for ages since I only wear them for about two months a year!

    • It would be great to have some personally tailored clothes! I didn’t think about how much socks are worn – I rarely wear sandals, maybe 2 weeks a year! (I do know people who wear them for about 3 months). So my socks do get a workout!

  13. EcoCatLady

    OK… you inspired me to give it a go. Doing the inventory totally cracked me up! I guess I like bike riding…

  14. Pingback: Wardrobe additions in 2013 | Move To Portugal

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