Aside from a brief flirtation with new clothing in 2015-2016 (first in fall 2015 when I bought myself a 6 basic t-shirts at H&M when I had a slightly larger income due to cobbling together a few part-time jobs, then again in the latter months of 2016 when I tried out Modcloth for two orders (meh) and H&M one last time, after I started my current full time job), I’ve stuck pretty well to this resolution made eight years ago.
This is relatively easy for me for a number of reasons, most of all that clothing made by fast-fashion and big box retailers tends not to fit me very well, so why bother messing around with it anyway? Meanwhile, the likelihood of something from the 1940s-1960s fitting me is significantly higher, curiously enough. I’ve also noticed a marked difference in quality with fabric on newer clothing pilling more readily, not only on my hips where my bag rests, but frequently over the whole item, even with delicate washing or following the “dry cleaning only” instruction. Meanwhile my 50-to-75-year-old clothing remains in excellent wearable shape even with regular use.
Some favorite vintage I found in 2018. Oldest items are from the 40s, newest from the 70s.
Reading back over my post from 2011, what strikes me the most is how I wrote that deciding not to buy new felt freeing because I no longer even bothered to look at clothes at places like Target or H&M.
Meanwhile, ever since Jan 1 last week, when I took a long, hard look at my finances and then wrote out a money diary accounting for my clothing-related expenditures, and just now as started to draft out my clothing budgeting plans for 2019, freedom is not how I would describe it at all.
Instead it is all about control now. How can I account for every expenditure and justify it, and how can I make more rules for myself for the coming year?
I find this curious and worrying.
In a generalized form (I can post the full money diary for the curious, something I’m still considering doing in an Instagram post at least), this is what 2018 looked like:
New clothing/shoes: 29% of total spent (if bridesmaid related expenses are excluded: 25.2%) – most expensive non-undergarment: bridesmaid dress, $47.99
Used or existing clothing/shoes (including tailoring): 71% of total (if bridesmaid related expenses are excluded: 74.8%) – most expensive item: vintage black dress to wear to my grandfather’s funeral, $58.75.
A mix of thoughts about 2019:
Happy to see that in 2018, aside from that bridesmaid dress, I didn’t buy any new non-undergarment/sock/shoe clothing new. I can probably get through 2019 without buying any new socks, undergarments, and shoes (but I think I shouldn’t try to compromise too much in that regard). It would be good to find more sustainable options for these when I do buy them, however. They would cost more, but that would be ethically better.
How can I make thrifting and other secondhand clothing shopping even more:
a) sustainable for the environment
a) One thing that isn’t figured into the above, by nature of its difficulty to calculate, is the carbon footprint I generated by ordering clothes online that are mailed to me and with my own driving to local secondhand stores. If I ban myself from all online clothing shopping, that would definitely cut down on expenses and the cost to the environment of air and land freight and delivery. That being said, since my package isn’t custom shipped to me end to end all on its own, but part of batches of mail with USPS and the mail delivery truck comes to our apartment complex every day whether I order something or not, while it is good for me to think about what I contribute to those deliveries, if I want to minimize my impact on the environment, I need to think about my own time spent behind the wheel instead.
Going forward in 2019, unless the thrift store is directly on my way to or from somewhere I need to be for work or a household errand, (there are three along my route to the grocery store, for example, and, depending on if I drive local roads or the highway to work, another 5-6 directly on those routes. I really should take the bus to work more often, however…), perhaps I should not go to any other stores unless I take the bus to get there. The exception to this would be if I am doing this as a social event with a friend and, since I have no friends who thrift with me out here, this isn’t likely to happen. (But if would be fun if it did!)
b) This past summer, I listened in on a financial webinar put on by my employer’s retirement financial services management company about budgeting. One thing that shocked me was in the breakdown of a model “good budget” that we were invited to consider regarding our own finances, we could allot up to 4% of our post-tax income to clothing. Meanwhile, my clothing-related spending in 2018 that I used to generate the percentages above comes out to about 2% of my post-tax income.
Nonetheless, I feel a compulsion to control this and cut it back even more. I have this tendency to feel like I have to forgo things that I enjoy because they are “wasteful,” “excessive,” and “unnecessary.” Moderation is important, but constant guilt is not good. Thinking about that percentage is a good reminder to me that I don’t actually have to be so hard on myself. Perhaps, instead of feeling like I need to cut back further than 2% of my post-tax income, I should make a commitment to donate 2X or 3X of whatever I spend on clothing in 2019 to charities. In 2018, I did manage to give more to charity than I spent on clothes, but not quite 2X as much.
After spending my 20s having next to no savings, I’ve felt incredible anxiety about catching up in my early 30s and, consequently, haven’t dedicated enough of my new income to others so far. I have much room for improvement in ways that ask me to be expansive and generous, rather than controlling and narrow.