So…how much should you spend on clothes per month?

The short answer is 3-10%.

The long answer is it’s complicated.

Because while the amount you should spend on clothes each month should absolutely be factored into your budget, the exact amount depends on several variables that you might not have considered, like your lifestyle, occupation, and the number of people in your household.

This article will give you a good idea of how much to spend.


Understand Your Clothing Budget

Let me begin by saying that clothing is a necessity.

It ranks right up there with food, housing, and transportation as things you NEED to function in society, so don’t treat it like some little luxury you can take or leave when money gets tight, like Netflix, a manicure, or a Starbucks run.

That said, how much you should spend each month depends on a couple of things.

Let’s start by looking at how you should spend your money, according to financial experts, using something called…

The Percentage Method

The percentage method is where you allocate a certain percentage of your NET income (take-home pay) to specific expenses.

Since these can vary wildly depending on your marital and dependent status, work environment, local cost of living, and financial or retirement goals, use these AS GUIDELINES for creating your budget, then adjust as necessary for your particular situation:

Household BudgetHousing: 25-35%
Food:  5-15%
Transportation:  10-15%
Clothing: 3-10%
Utilities:  5-10%

Health:  5-10%
Personal:  5-10%
Entertainment:  5-10%
Debt:  5-10%
Savings:  10-15%
Charitable:  10-15% 

Now before you use this as a permission slip of sorts to head to your favorite store to spend 10% of your monthly income on clothes, there are a couple of variables you need to consider:

1. Your Lifestyle

How much time you spend in the public eye determines how much you spend on clothes.

So if you wear a uniform to work, work at home or in a casual environment, or are retired or are getting ready to retire, you can probably get by on a 3-5% clothing budget (or less).

But if you are regularly photographed, are a public official, speak, consult, or charge a lot of money for your products or services, you will need to spend more on your wardrobe, typically 7-10%, in order to stand up to scrutiny.

2. The Needs of Each Dependent

How many people you have in your household determines how much you should spend on clothes.

How many family members?So if you are married and/or raising children, you’ll need to spread the budget between everyone in the house.  As the number of bodies to clothe goes up, the amount to spend per body goes down.

Now while your teenager (or pre-teen) will no doubt argue that she should be allocated the bulk of the budget to buy the status symbols of her peer group, don’t do it; the distribution should be based on each person’s lifestyle requirements.  Look at the wage earners’ needs first, then work your way through each person in the family.

So if Dad does computer programming for a hospital, for example, Mom sells diamonds to socialites, Junior is heavily involved in sports, and little Susie is the scholarly type who prefers books to friends, then the allocation might look something like this:

*Mom should spend the most (sells a high dollar product)
*Then Junior (school clothes, sports gear, and uniforms)
*Next Dad (casual, low-profile work environment)
*Finally Susie (school clothes, a few casual clothes)

Make sense?

How to Assess This

Determine the needs per person, then allocate accordingly.  Reassess as needs change.  If Mom gets a back-office job, for example, or Junior goes off to college on a sports scholarship where his uniforms and gear are covered, then re-allocate the excess funds elsewhere, like to savings or paying down debt.

Whatever you do, don’t scrimp on your own wardrobe to dress your kids “to the nines.”  While this is common practice in a lot of families, it’s counterproductive: the most money goes for the clothes that are worn the least and that have a fleeting impact, while the least amount goes for the clothes that are worn the longest and need to have the greatest impact.

Because here are the facts:

The more polished you are, the more money you make and the less polished you are, the less money you make, so don’t sacrifice your own image goals to buy expensive clothes for your kids that they’ll outgrow in a few months.  Instead, put your own needs as the wage earner first, increase your income, and you’ll have more money to spend on clothes for everyone.

Make sense?

3. Your Existing Debt Load

Spend too much on clothes?This whole spending plan assumes that you operate your household on a cash basis, meaning NO DEBT.  If you’re carrying a lot of debt – or even a little – beyond your mortgage or car note, then you need to reduce your expenses to a bare-bones minimum until you’ve satisfied your creditors first.

So if you’re still paying off last year’s fall wardrobe or that spending spree you went on after you broke up with Mr. Wrong, don’t add to your strapped finances by assuming that these spending percentages are etched in stone.  They’re not.  Spend low while you pound away at the debt, then re-adjust as necessary once you’re back in the black.

So…what’s the bottom line?

If you commit yourself to stay within your budget, you’ll spend less, make wiser clothing purchases, teach your kids how to handle money appropriately, AND be able to sufficiently fund your retirement to dress well for years to come.

So how much money should you be spending on clothes each month?

Enough to help you look good, feel good, boost your income, and meet your financial goals.  No more, no less.

Need more help in determining your clothing budget and how much you should be spending on clothes each month?

This resource can help.


Diana PembertonDiana Pemberton is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to dress well, look good, and create an image that helps them reach their goals.






How much should you spend on clothes per month?

    2 replies to "How Much Should You Spend On Clothes Per Month?"

    • Elizabeth Day

      This is the most sensible explanation and plan that I’ve seen. Common sense that makes sense. Ive been retired for 10 years and of course went through a drastic lifestyle change. With a recent move to Plano, Tx, where our social life is keeping us busy, plus involvement in a huge church, I’m having to make different wardrobe choices again. That being said, I’m having trouble finding nice pants for cross-over use. Where are buyers for Senior adults?

      Again, thanks for being my mentor.

      • Diana

        Hi Elizabeth,

        Glad you enjoyed the article! It’s always nice when things “click” into place and make sense. Glad I could help.

        As for finding pants, look for dressier tailored styles at places like Kohl’s, Eileen Fisher, Lands’ End, Chadwicks, Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers, and the like. Just Google “dress pants for women” and several shops will come up, both locally and online. Good luck!

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