How to afford your spring wardrobe

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Now that the days are longer and the temperatures are warming up, it can be tempting to want to give your closet a spring cleaning, too. But how much is too much to spend? And how do you justify those high-end staples and fast-fashion trends?

When thinking about budgeting, personal items like clothing are often overlooked. Depending on who you ask, there are different opinions on how much you should be setting aside for sartorial splurges. But a general number is to budget about 5% of your take-home (after tax) salary on clothing

While everyone has a unique financial position and you likely know your own situation best, the 5% rule can be helpful for reeling in oh-so-tempting shopping sprees.

Here are a few other tips to help keep your wardrobe looking fresh:

Know where to spend your clothing budget

Designers and fashion experts like Michael Kors advise investing in ‘meat and potatoes’ wardrobes staples. These are the pieces you reach for the most in your closet. What those pieces are exactly will be different for everyone based on your lifestyle, work environment, and personal style.

Do the math

Evaluate the cost-per-wear of the potential purchase. If you will get your money’s worth, then it might be better to pay a little more up front. Take a pair of jeans for instance. You find a pair that fit like a glove and accentuate all the right places, but they’re $150—a little more than you would typically spend. But consider this: If you wear those perfect jeans three times per week (or 156 times per year) that works out to around $0.96 per wear. And that’s just one year. The right pair can last you much longer if you take care of them, meaning the cost per wear will be even less over time. Plus, the satisfaction from having the perfect pair of jeans at your fingertips? Priceless.

Shop around

Be sure to investigate your options and make sure you’re getting the best price. Can you get the same thing at a different shop down the street for $10 less? Maybe there’s a tax free-sale or another promotion coming up. Every little bit counts! Another option might be to get familiar with your local consignment shop that specializes in slightly pre-loved high-end labels.

Go shopping in your own closet

There’s an adage that we wear 20% of our entire wardrobe 80% of the time. Take a couple of hours and sort through what’s already in your closet. Go at it alone or grab a friend for a fresh perspective. Try to look at the pieces individually and see how you can re-work them into your wardrobe. This audit also gives you the opportunity to get rid of those pieces you aren’t crazy for. Want to pad your clothing budget? Upsell your pre-loved threads for cash to a second-hand store. You can also do clothing swaps with friends or coworkers, which gives you the chance to shop somebody else’s closet.

Come back tomorrow

It’s easy to spend $25 here or $50 there on small-ticket items. But when it comes to the big purchases, it’s ok to think about it. Love something, but it eats a huge portion of your budget? Sleep on it. That will also give you time to do some research on the item: Can you find a better deal at another store? Maybe a pre-loved version online? How does it fare using your cost-per-wear ratio? Impulse buys waste the most money, regardless of how much you’ve saved. If you sit on it for a bit, you'll often find that you don't want it all that badly. And if you still do, then it’s probably worth it.

Like most things in life, it's always a good idea to add a line to your budget to make sure you don't overspend. Here's our handy guide to get you started.