Where I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut, one out of every four of my friends carries a designer handbag—and has at least two spare ones in her closet.
Some of those friends wear Tory Burch flats, gold initials buckled to the toes, on nice autumn days. Another friend has a closet rack stacked with Louboutins.
I admire these beautiful luxuries, but only from afar.
For nearly two years, I’ve been living on a lean, self-restricted, $600-a-year clothing budget. Of course, I acknowledge that the word “lean” in clothing-budget terms is relative. $600 per year is extravagant in some parts of the country, where many families rely on less than that amount to clothe a family of six.
According to a 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the most recent data available, the average American household spent $1,700 on apparel that year, but the largest chunk of that — $562 — was spent on apparel for women ages 16 and over. But where I live, in the one of the 10 most expensive counties in the United States, spending at the “average” level for myself is considered paltry, to say the least.
And while spending just $600 a year on clothing has afforded me so many benefits, it requires discipline and dedication. Here’s how I do it.
Why I Had a Bigger Wardrobe as a Kid
It’s not that I can’t necessarily afford to spend more than $50 a month on clothes. But as a journalist and mom, and co-contributor to rent, insurance, day care, groceries, living expenses and health care, there’s only a certain amount of discretionary income available.
There was much more discretionary income in my youth, however.