How much do we spend on clothes?

March 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

Dan with some lady

Oh yes, this might be the most contentious spending category between women and men.  Most men are ‘hunter’ shoppers while many women are ‘browser’ shoppers.  When I’m shopping, I know what I need and there’s no need to look outside of my zone.  However, my wife has to see everything to figure out what she wants.  If I never got to buy new clothes again in my life, I think I’d be just fine.  However, my wife probably wouldn’t think I’m fine so that could be a problem!

Clothing is probably the most elastic spending category because it can easily increase or decrease based on our habits.  It’s probably also the most highly correlated with our salary.  If you have no money to spend on clothes, you’ll probably figure out a way to survive just fine.  Inversely, if you have a boat load of money to spend on new clothes, you can easily find a way to spend it.

You don’t have to look far to find shops on both sides of the spectrum.  I read many forums where people spend almost nothing on clothes and manage to get quite a bit.  I also see designer jeans at Macy’s that cost more than most people spend on clothes in an entire year!

So, how much does the average US family spend on clothes?  According to the data released from the US Census Bureau, the average family spent $144/month on clothes in 2009.  This includes clothes for the entire family, along with footwear.

how much we spend on clothes

The clothing category is one of the few categories that dropped in total spending in the last ten years!  Sure, it only dropped 1.03%, but that’s much better than food which has risen by 26%.  This also explains why clothing stores have had such a tough time surviving in the last decade.

The numbers are even more interesting when you look at them in detail.  Women and girls clothing expenses have only increased by 3.5% in the last decade.  So much for everyone who says women have a serious shopping issue!

However, there is one category that has increased big time in the last ten years – clothing for children under two years old.  This amount has increased by almost 36% in the last ten years!  It makes sense when you think about the new stores and designer clothes for children.  My wife has come close to buying baby clothes even though we don’t have kids just because the clothes are cute!

If you look at the total amount spent on children under two by family, the total is only $8/month.  This isn’t very high, but when you consider how many fewer people are buying for children under two (on average) than the rest of the categories, you can see it has increased a lot per kid.

Our monthly clothing budget is actually higher than the $144/month average.  We could buckle down pretty easily if we wanted to, but my wife’s job does require her to be ‘stylish’, and frankly, that amount fits into our monthly budget so we are ok with spending it.

I have heard some of my friend’s clothing budgets, and they’re even much higher than ours.  Once again, this is a high elastic category and you should make sure your clothing expenses mesh with the rest of your budget.  How much do you spend on clothing?  Have you found cheaper ways to do it? 


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