Clothing and budget. Two words I never like to hear in the same sentence. However, those two words became very real to me when I graduated college with $10,000 in credit card debt and a job that required professional attire. I suddenly felt like I was shopping for two people, "Work Grace" and "Weekend Grace" while trying to balance all the other things that came with my new found adulthood. All too often I was choosing clothing over food. Turns out when you live with your boyfriend, that's not really an option. Since then I've shed my credit card debt and my first job, but the lessons I learned about working within a clothing budget will last a lifetime.
Have a budget, and stick to it.
Seriously. I realize this may sound like a no-brainer, but it is unbelievably easy to tell yourself "I'll just spend less next month" and then not do it. It doesn't matter if it's an annual, monthly, or weekly budget--choose what works best for you and stick with it! Don't forget to check your progress to make sure you stay on track.
Don't know how much is appropriate for your new salary? I reccommend staying around 5-8% of your of take home pay if you are a fashion lover, less than 5% if outings and adventures are more your thing.
Look for items that can pull double duty
Again it sounds obvious, but it's really easy to slip into a work/weekend mindset with your clothes. For the longest time I would mentally organize my clothes into work or weekend, immediately doubling the amount of clothes I "needed" in my closet. Versatility is king (or queen) in a "New Professional's" closet.
Consider alternatives to mall stores
This is one I didn't learn until after I left my first job but it's definitely worth sharing. It's also great if you work clothes don't exactly fit into your weekend wardrobe. Goodwill and thrift stores are great places to find separates. My local goodwill is a hotbed for office dress-code appropriate a-line and pencil skirts, for $4.50 each! That is a price you can't beat. Just remember, as with any thrift store purchase, to give each item a through once over, and check the washing instructions.
If brand names are your thing... Wait for the Sale
Working in retail now only reinforces this tenet for me. There will always be a markdown, just wait for it.
Know your style
And by "know your style" I mean, know what is worth spending your money and what is not by how much you will wear it. Are you primarily a pants person, but wear skirts every once in a while (read: blue moon). Then you are better off getting those skirts at the aforementioned thrift store while spending a little more money on pants that fit great, and last through many washes and wears. I like to call it saving by spending.
I'm sure this list could go on, but I will keep it short and sweet.
Now you tell me, what is your best tip or trick for keeping your clothing budget in check?
Grace blogs on fashion and saving money over at Money Smart Fashion. Check her out!