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Not Buying Clothing Is Very Liberating


One of my New Year Resolutions is the No New Clothes Challenge for 2013. I figured it shouldn’t be that hard because I have plenty of clothes and shoes. Since I don’t work outside the home anymore, I don’t really need to be that presentable and it will be fine if I just wear some clothes down.

Apparel spending is one of the smaller expenses in consumer expenditures so even if you cut your budget here, it won’t affect your expenses that much. According to the US Census Bureau’s data, apparel is only about 3.5% of an average family’s annual expenditure.

Free from having to worry about clothes

Cody Lundin from Dual Survival doesn't have to worry about clothes or shoes

Cody Lundin from Dual Survival doesn’t have to worry about clothes or shoes

3.5% is not much, but it’s very liberating to not have to think about the whole apparel sector. Not that I spent much time thinking about clothing previously. I went clothes shopping only once or twice a year, though I always kept an eye open whenever I found myself near Banana Republic or The Gap. I would browse their sale rack and hope to score a nice shirt for $10-$20. I did the same thing with shoes whenever Mrs. RB40 went to Designer Shoe Warehouse, even though I never found anything to buy.  This kind of shopping was just another thing that just took up time and cluttered my head.

This year is very different. Now I just ignore all of these stores and it’s a load off my mind. All I have to do about apparel is work with what I have in the closet. Now I’m thinking maybe I can continue my no new clothing challenge in 2014 as long as my shoes hold up. This must be what people felt like in the old days when they only have a few outfits.  (Or Batman, he just wears one outfit.)

Could this be done for items other than clothing?

Now I’m wondering if I can cut out some other category of expenditures too. Clothing is very easy for me because I’m a guy and I no longer need “work clothes.” Let’s see some potential categories. I’m going to skip the big ones like housing, transportation, and food. Let’s stay mainstream and avoid being an extreme cheapskate today.

  • Apparel ($1,725) – The average family spent $1,725 on apparel in 2009 according to the US census.
  • Alcoholic beverages ($435) – I only have one or two drinks a week, but I don’t know if I can give up alcohol completely.
  • Personal care products and services ($596) – This one won’t be any problem for me. I don’t think I spend any money in this category now that Mrs. RB40 helps cut my hair.
  • Reading ($110) – I get all my reading material from the library so this is a piece of cake.
  • Education ($1,068) – I haven’t spent money on education for a while. I don’t think anybody should cut this one though.
  • Tobacco products and smoking supplies ($380) – This category is nonexistent for me.

It’s too bad, but I think apparel is the only category that I can do this in. I guess I can stop buying alcohol, but it seems a little too cheap to me. I like to enjoy a beer once in a while and it doesn’t seem worth it to deprive myself in Beervana. As for the other categories, I already don’t spend money on the rest of these things so it won’t make any difference. Oh well… Mrs. RB40 on the other hand is still worrying about boots, jacket, tops, etc… I feel sorry for her.

Have you tried cutting any of these expenditure categories? What other discretionary spending categories would you try to cut or limit?

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

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{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Joey May 1, 2013, 11:25 am

    I havent bought clothe in a long time, I think for the past 14-15 month or so. I have to agree that it is very liberating. Also I have sold many clothe that I’ve owned, that is no longer fit, appropriate, or just not me anymore. This has also created a small income for me using Ebay, garage sales and etc. The only thing is that my new baby (7 weeks and 1 day old) seem to grow out of his 0-3 month clothe quite fast. Those baby clothe expence can add up, consider my wife likes to buy them in bulk. like Jason mentioned in his comment, how are you going to account for Litte RB40’s clothe expenditure? I would love to hear your thoughts.

    • retirebyforty May 2, 2013, 9:51 pm

      We got a bunch of gifts from families and we didn’t have to buy much baby clothes at all when he was young. Now we go to consignment sales and pick up used clothing. We don’t really buy much because as you say, kids grow so fast at that age. I don’t think he needs a closet full of clothes. He always want to wear the same thing anyway.

  • Jason May 1, 2013, 10:44 am

    I must admit I’m puzzled by the no-clothes-buying challenge.

    I can see that it could be helpful for someone who’s a huge clothes-buyer that’s big on designer labels, but you don’t seem to strike me as that type. If you get paint on something or of your shirt tears, you may need to get something new. Plus, with a baby, there’s going to be new clothes needed nearly every quarter! 🙂 Are you counting on having no expenditures for the little one too?

    • retirebyforty May 1, 2013, 2:49 pm

      No, we are still buying kid clothes. I just have way too much clothes. It would be nice to use some of them up. Some shirts are getting more holes now and the kid love to poke his fingers through the holes…. 🙂

  • S April 30, 2013, 12:24 pm

    We (my husband and I) also decided to not buy any clothing items in 2013. I agree that its liberating. Before even if I said to myself that I was “just looking” in a store, at the back of your mind is always the option to find something and buy. Now, there is just no point in going into these stores, so I just skip them and in fact don’t go shopping as much.

    The big hitter for us that we could cut down on is eating out, but we also do lots of cooking at home and find eating out very relaxing and entertaining, so I can’t see us cutting back on that unless there is a financial need.

    • retirebyforty May 1, 2013, 7:35 am

      Great! I feel the same way about eating out. There are so many restaurants in our area and we want to try them. It’s fun to try new dishes and go out. We only do it once a week to keep the expense down though.

  • Chris April 30, 2013, 7:55 am

    To control some spending and get things under control while our 4 kids were younger, we cut apparel spending to a bare minimum. That was about $30/month at the time. As the kids started getting older (and for some reason needing bigger clothes and shoes), we upped it to about $60/month.
    Just this year though, after our refinance went through, I bumped it up again to $100/month. That really isn’t a lot for a family of 6, four of which are 13 year-olds and below. Although my dear wife who is a SAHM, will sometimes use this money to treat everyone to a movie or something, so it isn’t truly all dedicated to clothing.

    • retirebyforty May 1, 2013, 7:32 am

      Wow, 4 kids. It must be pretty hectic at your place. 🙂
      $100/month is great for a family of 6. That’s below the US census number and I think they only have 1.5 kids.

  • [email protected] Guy,Skinny Wallet April 30, 2013, 5:10 am

    My husband could do this easily. Me, on the other hand, it’s a different story. I would like to think that since I am almost at my goal weight, shopping will slow down. I’ve been forced to buy entire wardrobes each season after losing almost 90 lbs. I dont have any summer clothes for my size. But all my sprees are Goodwill sprees and I save a lot of money!

  • Bobby @ Ban Excuses April 30, 2013, 4:57 am

    I haven’t bought new clothes in a while, although I do get a t-shirt here and there from volunteering at different events.

  • CollegeMom April 30, 2013, 4:52 am

    This is an interesting exercise. When I’m thinking about cutting back my mind is flooded with a lot of little ways I can cut back…not an entire category.

    I work from home as well, but I’ve gone so long without buying clothes that I have to buy some clothes this year if I plan to go out in public at all. I’m going to have to think about this one. I don’t smoke, use the library & free ebooks, don’t drink, rarely go out…etc. I’m sure if I think about it I will come up with something to cut out and it won’t matter if it is a large expense…it isn’t always about the money. Sometimes, it is about the discipline.

  • nicoleandmaggie April 29, 2013, 3:51 pm

    It seems like I replace part of my work wardrobe in one fell swoop once every 5 years (and spend ~600 to do so). Shoes I buy about once every 2 years. I definitely aim for good quality and long-lasting clothing. I have a nice manageable closet and I wear what I own.

    • retirebyforty April 30, 2013, 10:40 am

      I’ll buy better quality clothing from now on too. It’s much more noticeable this year. The crappy clothes are all falling apart with more usage.

  • Mike April 29, 2013, 12:54 pm

    I think it’s noble to reduce this particular expense! If you can reduce it, then you’ll come out ahead. This might be easier if one can easily mend a few of the clothes/shoes that one has and make them last a little longer.

  • My Multiple Incomes April 29, 2013, 10:54 am

    I’ve cut down a little on those expenditures, but I do not totally stopped buying anything I need, because not buying things we want is like going on a diet. If we deprived ourselves too much, we might find ourselves on a binge. I think it will be better to do things slowly, don’t buy things then reward yourself every now and then by buying things you really want and need, but within a budget you have specifically set for that.

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:57 pm

      I agree with you. It’s still quite nice to not worry about buying clothes though. I already have plenty in the closet.

  • krantcents April 29, 2013, 10:38 am

    Although I am not trying to cut any expenses, I do not shop except for replacements for anything I own. If enough Tee shirts wear out, I will replace some of them. This is true of all my stuff. I know I will be buying 4-6 bicycle shorts this year or next, because they are starting to wear out.

  • [email protected] April 29, 2013, 9:35 am

    It seems that to an extent, finding more expensive but good quality clothing pays off. It lasts a lot longer.

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:56 pm

      That’s what I’ll do in the future. Just buy good quality clothes and have less of them.

  • Pretired Nick April 29, 2013, 9:35 am

    I hate shopping so it’s pretty easy for me. Plus without a formal office job, buying new clothes is a lot less necessary. What I want to know is where can I SELL some clothes? Particularly shoes. I have a fair number of used leather office style shoes that I bought in search of something that wouldn’t hurt my feet. I’m not sure where I should try to sell those where I can get at least a little bit of money for them.

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:55 pm

      Craigslist? I usually just donate good condition shoes to Goodwill.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules April 29, 2013, 9:05 am

    I never bought clothes all that often, but now that I work from home I do it much less. Thankfully the main culprit is buying for the kids, but that is usually at a second hand store or at a consignment sale.

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:55 pm

      We are buying kid’s clothes from consignment sale too. It’s great because our kid wears the heck out of it pretty quickly. Shoes on the other hand, we usually get it from baby R us. He goes through them pretty quickly too.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina April 29, 2013, 8:30 am

    I like clothes. I don’t think I could cut out clothes shopping. Regardless, I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes.
    I don’t have a lot of money sucking hobbies: I don’t drink, smoke, drink supplements, or do drugs.
    I do spend money on my hair. $45 haircut every 2 or 3 months. Hair products $30 every month or so. It’s worth it because my hair stays healthy. Joe, if only you had long hair, you would realize how much work it is to keep it up. And i don’t even do anything fancy to it. I have curly hair, so all I need is shampoo, conditioner, leave in conditioner, mousse, and hairspray. I never straighten it, and I don’t color it yet.

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:53 pm

      Thanks goodness I’m a guy. 🙂

  • Sidney Levesque April 29, 2013, 8:02 am

    Ha! My aunt in Seattle shops at Value Village and mails me stuff. Good finds.
    I held off shopping for a while now and then went to the semi-annual consignment sale here in our town this weekend. I bought an Ann Taylor dress, Nine West shoes, Eddie Bauer sweater set, Talbots sweater and green shirt all for $41!
    I was pretty proud of my bargain hunting until the next day, when I went to Dillard’s at the mall and splurged 🙁
    But it was all stuff for work. I guess if you work from home you don’t have a need for a nice wardrobe.
    Other ways I save money: checking out books from the library instead of buying them, ordering water with meals instead of $2-$3 sodas and tea, shopping at consignment stores for my clothing and my todder’s, shopping garage sales and estate sales for good finds or Christmas gifts, checking out Goodwill, where I bought my daughter’s Easter basket and plastic eggs.

  • sin camisa April 29, 2013, 7:06 am

    As I mentioned before, having a Value Village store here in Redmond, where Microsoft is headquartered, exposes me to Eddie Bauer, Patagonia, Columbia and other good quality brands barely used for $10 or less (and I shop with coupons or when they have their 50% day off). Let me tell you; those people do not get their money worth out of their clothes; some are donated even with the new tags still on. I have more jackets that I know what to do with. I just can’t leave them on the rack for those prices ($10-$20).

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:52 pm

      Wow, that’s awesome. We’re heading up to Seattle next week and maybe we can drop by.
      Thanks for the tips. Ugh… Almost forgot I’m not buying clothes this year…

  • [email protected] April 29, 2013, 6:04 am

    I’ve been pretty good with my clothes purchases, but I don’t know that I have ever gone a full year without buying something. I am with on focusing on all of those other items. One to add that I do is limit costs for exercise. I run and use a basic set of resistance bands rather than pay for a gym membership. I also bike to where I am going if at all possible to save on gas.

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:49 pm

      Those are two great ways to save and stay in shape. Great job!
      I like going to the gym, but I don’t want to pay for it.

  • I had to buy a pair of pants in 2012 because I had nothing respectable to wear to a work function. There is a difference between being frugal and looking homeless.

    I do have to replace my work shoes twice each year because I stand all day and I need to keep my feet in good shape so I can continue to work. Knee, hip and back problems are rampant with women in their 50s at my work and they often have to retire because they can’t do the job anymore. I can’t afford not to work.

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:48 pm

      I used to buy a few pieces of work clothing once a year or so. It makes a bad impression if you wear worn out shirts and pants to work. Luckily, I don’t have that problem anymore.

  • My Financial Independence Journey April 29, 2013, 2:52 am

    I try to limit most of my expenditures. But I’ve found that trying to cut something out entirely doesn’t work. Either I start wanting to buy it (alcohol, some days you really need a good drink) or I have no choice (shoes are falling apart). Since I don’t really have stockpiles of anything stored up yet, I can’t just use what I have at home. I have to buy or do without.

    • Judy Woodruff April 29, 2013, 6:34 am

      Very rarely will I buy retail clothing (except undies). I shop at the thrift stores and garage sales if I need things. I am a nurse so I don’t have to shop for office apparrel. I buy my scrubs at the thrift store as well. I don’t drink or smoke. I do drink coffee though. We are presently selling our home and all the possessions (except a few personal possessions) and will be full-timing in a Class A 1995 RV. We have renovated/updated the RV to comfortably accomodate our lifestyle (which is a simple lifestyle). Our ages are 57 and 66. Husband is retired and I can travel nurse until retirement. I love your blog! Keep up the good work!

      • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:51 pm

        Wow, that sounds exciting! Good luck! I think it will be a lot of fun to travel around the country.
        Shopping at thrift stores doesn’t really work for guys. I think most guys just wear their clothes until they’re torn up.

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:47 pm

      Usually I limit my expenses too and just buy when I really need to. The closet have built up over several years though and need a little culling. 🙂

  • Do or Debt April 29, 2013, 12:21 am

    I don’t buy new clothes either. I am one of the few women that absolutely hate shopping. I find clothes to be very utilitarian and that’s it. I don’t really spend money on personal care at all, maybe $20 a year on sunblock or some eye shadow. Alcohol, food and coffee are definitely my budget busters! On my challenge now, I’ve learned a lot about my desires and I think I can cut back and not go out so much….but I also am not going to completely stop living a life!

    • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:46 pm

      That’s quite unusual. I assume your closet should be quite manageable then.
      I like going out to eat and drink too, but not too often. Once a week is good for me. I would feel bloated if I go out everyday. Yeap, enjoy life while we can. 🙂

    • nicoleandmaggie April 29, 2013, 3:45 pm

      There are plenty of women who hate shopping.

      • Dividend Growth Investor April 30, 2013, 8:08 am

        While i do think that one should spend less than what they earn to accumulate wealth, cutting out small things that add to your happiness is not a smart idea. I enjoy taking my beverages with friends/family, and the amount I spend is not material in my retirement planning. Of course you have to be smart about it too, and if you have to choose between getting a drink at a bar for $4 – $6 or a 12 pack for $6, you might have to choose the 12 pack option 😉

        After all a retirement without the option of enjoying some simple pleasures is more like a prison 😉

        • retirebyforty May 1, 2013, 7:34 am

          You’re absolutely right. Taking the joy out of life isn’t sustainable long term. I guess everyone will just have to figure out what really bring them joy. For me, it’s beer, for others it could be coffee. I don’t understand paying $3 for a cup of coffee, but if it makes that person happy… 🙂

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