Monday, August 12, 2013

clothing budget for graduate students: where's the money go?

Today is Student Loan Monday! It's officially been 2 months since I've had any real money coming in, and boy can I (and my poor credit cards) feel it. I am luckily enough that up to this point to never have dealt with student loans, so this is a whole new thing for me. When I was working, I had a paycheck come in every two weeks, so even if things got tight, I knew an influx of money was just around the corner. Now with student loans, I only receive money twice a year - equal amounts at the beginning of each semester. That means the money has to last me all the way until next August, so some of the money I receive now is actually going to be used next semester. This means a tighter budget, smarter checking account behaviors, and a new clothing budget.

While I was working, I had a $150 a month clothing budget - a little more than 10% of after tax income. I know this number may seem high to some, but I was a non-married, no children working girl who doesn't have any expensive hobbies and someone who doesn't spend a lot on expensive food or drinks. I like to shop, and the money I spent fit into my lifestyle and budget. My job gave me the flexibility to play around with my wardrobe, so I could wear jeans whenever I wanted, or try out different styles. I had time to go thrifting, and to sell no longer worn items on eBay. It worked out pretty well, and I'm proud of how quickly I learned to work with this budget in the span of a year.

Life is a bit different now - less time to shop, and with a whole different set of clothing rules. The dress code means I need nicer items - I feel it's been pretty difficult for me to find dress clothes that fit correctly at reduced prices (I've tried both consignment and thrifting and nothing has worked so far), and so my new budget will reflect that.

My new budget will be $500 every 3 months, or roughly $500 a season. It's really only about $15 a month more than my budget before was. I choose to do it in larger sections than by individual months mostly because of school - my needs change per season now, and so I have the flexibility to buy more at the change of seasons, and then be a bit more frugal in the middle. This budget will of course also include the costs of tailoring - the most important aspect of business clothing is that they fit well, so I feel that many items (at least pants) will have to be tailored to sit correctly and at the right length. I will have a separate savings account with this money in it, and so every time I purchase something, that money has to be removed from the account (just like I did when I was doing my initial school clothing prep). I feel this system worked out really well, and so it will keep me on track again with my new budgeting system.

We're almost half way through August, and I haven't used much of the money yet. I purchased a top at a consignment store for $10, and I ordered these pants in hopes that they work out for school. I ordered this skirt and this skirt, but both will be returned as I don't think they'll be that versatile. I do have plans though, I just have to wait for sales! As soon as J.Crew Factory has another 40% or 50% off the entire store sale, I'm going to order these in black as my nude ones are working out really well. I also am going to order these in the tall size (the maroon color for now) once another sale pops up- if they fit well, I think they'll be a great way to mix it up from black pants. People seem to really love them, so I'm hopefully that they'll work out for me as well! Other than that, I'm probably going to sit tight until the weather cools down a little bit, but I do want to add those three items to my small rotation of school shoes and bottoms soon as I feel a little constricted with my few skirts and dresses.

I will of course still update every month on where I stand, and so that I can see where all of you are at!