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2013 No Spend Challenge: Clothing


One of the best things about being a stay at home dad/blogger is I can spend the day in my boxers if I want to. It’s a bit cold for that right now, but maybe I’ll try it this summer just so I can say I did it. I’m sure Baby RB40 can support me by just wearing diapers for the day. Hahahaha. 😀

Typical Blogger Uniform

Clothing budget

Seriously now, my clothing budget went way down after I quit my job. I was an engineer at Intel and the only time I wore a suit to the office was when I interviewed back in 1996. Most engineers don’t care much about fashion and every day is pretty much casual Friday. I usually wore a polo shirt and a pair of jeans to work so my clothing budget wasn’t that high to begin with. At least, I tried to avoid looking like a major slob and wore clothes in good condition. Now that I’m not working in an office anymore, I can wear out some clothing.

2013 No Spend Challenge

Can I go a whole year without buying clothes for myself? Let’s go back to 2012…. Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect this is true for all guys. I ripped 3 pairs of boxers over the last few months. This particular batch is at least 5 years old and they were quite threadbare. So we decided to go after Christmas shopping at the Outlet mall. I got 5 pairs of boxers and spent $21. These should last me another 5+ years. We went to Banana Republic, Gap, Columbia, Adidas, and a bunch of female fashion stores (for the missus) and nothing was enticing enough for me to part with my cash allowance.

So now I wonder if I could go a whole year without buying clothes! I don’t think I have ever done that before. I’m pretty sure I’ve purchased clothing every year ever since high school. My closet if full of shirts, jeans, shorts, and jackets. I’m pretty sure I can stop buying clothes for at least a year or maybe even 2-3 years.


Oops. I almost forgot that I purchased a pair of waterproof shoes from the Merrell outlet store for $55. I needed these to work on the drainage problem at the 4-plex. They’ll come in handy for the Portland rainy season as well and should last many years. I also have 2 pair of tennis shoes and quite a few brown shoes so I don’t think I’ll need to buy any more shoes for a while.

Oh yeah, talking about engineers. What do you think is the worst fashion offense?

  • Birkenstocks
  • Toe shoes
  • Bare feet
  • Flip flops
  • Sneakers

I usually wore a pair of Nike sneakers to work since Nike’s headquarters is local and all. I think flip flops should be banned from the office. Come on, this isn’t the beach.

Wear items

Since I already got new boxers before 2013, I think I’m good on that front for a while. I also have plenty of socks at the moment, but they are wearing down. Hopefully they will last the year. Guys, do you replace your underclothing before they rip? My theory is: we wear them until they disintegrate. Mrs. RB40 thinks it’s just me. Let me know if she’s right.

Too many clothes

closet clutter

Way too much stuff for a guy

I’m blogging in bed today and I’m looking into my closet right now. I have a ton of clothes. There must be over 100 items in the closet. All of these items have been accumulating for years and it’s time to wear them down. So there will be no more new clothes for a while and I think I’ll be fine with this challenge. I’ll add it to my 2013 New Year’s resolutions.

How about you? Can you go a year without buying new clothes? How many items do you have in your closet? Guys, don’t forget to answer the question above.

Aloysa @My Broken Coin spent $8,676 on clothing and accessories in 2012. Can she keep her promise to not shop in 2013?

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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, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 68 comments… add one }
  • Shovellicious January 7, 2013, 12:55 am

    When it comes to me, I can admit I… haven’t bought anything for months. Financial problems/other priorities made me to think twice before I went with someting to the register. The only two or three times when I bought something was when I received a voucher/gift card to some shops to buy what I wanted. Then I took a look at my closet and decided what I really needed, i.e. clothes for interviews, job, etc. I didn’t have any problems with giving up clothes shopping but, as a girl, I miss sometimes (but only sometimes) buying something nice just for myself. I try to do the best I can with what I have in my wardrobe but I know that when I’ll be on a regular paycheck I defenitely need to add some pieces to that. I hope it’ll happen soon 🙂 Good luck with your challenge!

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:20 pm

      I know it’s much harder for women to give up shopping. Good luck to you too. 🙂

  • Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank January 7, 2013, 4:41 am

    $8,676 on clothes is tragic. I think i could get away with about $200 over the course of the year. My wife would disagree as she feels it isn’t acceptable to wear underwear that have holes in them, but I figure that if it isn’t showing anything then i’m all good.

    The only thing i really need this year is new work shoes. My existing pair are never going to see the year out and I hate walking around in wet socks because I had a hole in the bottom of my shoes.

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:22 pm

      $200 is pretty good. I probably spent around that much in 2012 as well. A pair of good shoes is a must.

  • Alexa @ travelmiamor January 7, 2013, 5:04 am

    I like this idea! It seems like a worthy new year’s resolution! I’m not sure I could go a whole year w/o buying clothes. But like you, I changed jobs; I’m no longer in an office environment and can now wear jeans and polos to work (versus the slacks and blouse). I am hoping to see a big difference in our dry cleaning bill (since women’s clothes cost more then men’s in our parts of the US).

    My biggest problem is if I have a coupon I’ll want to spend it! Its free money 😀

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:23 pm

      I forgot about dry cleaning bill. It is much more difficult for a woman. I don’t have anything that need dry cleaning. 🙂

  • Andrew @ Listen Money Matters January 7, 2013, 5:21 am

    I actually think that’s an awesome goal and totally achievable. Last year I got no raise or bonus from work even though I was the top performer on the team. I was pissed and not even to save money but to kinda silently boycott work I didn’t upgrade any work clothes for the entire year citing in my head that I needed a raise for that. I made it! Now I need some fresh clothes direly but I at least saved a ton. Business casual isn’t cheap!

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:25 pm

      Wow, great story! I hate it when you are a top performer and they don’t give you a raise. That sucks.

  • Michelle January 7, 2013, 5:36 am

    Wow that’s a lot of clothes that Alyosa bought! I used to have a crazy shopping addiction, which was probably brought on mainly because I worked at a clothing store. I would bring home a couple of items EACH day that I worked. I spent way too much money. Lately I don’t spend a lot, mainly because I’m too lazy to go to the mall and venture into the crowds. Good luck with your goals!

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:26 pm

      That’s crazy. Did you make enough to spend on a couple of items a day?

  • Aloysa @ My Broken Coin January 7, 2013, 7:39 am

    I know you can do it. You always were quite determined. Me? God I hope I can. 🙂 Your closest doesn’t look bad, by the way. Mine is much worse.
    And stop rubbing it in that you are blogging in bed. I had to dash through the snow, in the dark, to work. I would rather be sleeping. 😉

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:27 pm

      Good luck with your challenge. It’s much easier for me because I’m a married guy. Nobody care what I wear these days. 🙂

  • Justin January 7, 2013, 8:39 am

    I am exactly in your clothes position. Time to donate for tax breaks.

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:28 pm

      You should have donated in December!

  • Well Heeled Blog January 7, 2013, 9:03 am

    I’m not sure how much I spent this year… I think somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,500-$4,500. Which is much higher than I had expected at the beginning of the year. But I needed to refresh my wardrobe for interviews, and then I just bought lots of things I thought were pretty. Case in point: I spent around $500 on 3 handbags/purses, bought 2 new winter coats ($250 total), several sheath dresses (the only expensive of which is $200), 3 pairs of boots ($260 total), and a full suit plus tailoring. This year I need to rein it in. … But maybe some shoes? 🙂

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:29 pm

      Oh wow, that’s a lot of money. I went out for coffee with a friend and she dropped $400 on a pair of boots. Women are crazy! Good luck in 2013.

  • Mercedes January 7, 2013, 9:13 am

    I actually just had a conversation with myself (in my head) this weekend while folding socks. I had a few pairs that are about 3 years old that are going thread bare, but technically do not have hole sin them yet and i kept going back and forth on if I should just toss them or hold on to them until there were actually holes in them… Well, needless to say, they are rolled up and sitting in the drawer right now.

    I also went back and did some quick number crunching on my clothing spending for 2012, and I came in around $1,000. not terrible (especially since I am a woman) but I honestly had no idea I had even spent that much! thankfully I work in an environment where I wear jeans and a t-shirt to work every day, so I’m not shelling out much for work clothing, but I could probably still corral some of the “fun” purchases. Maybe I’ll make that one of my goals for 2013, “spend less on clothing than I did in 2012” 🙂

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:31 pm

      I guess $1,000 isn’t bad. The other female commenters spent way more than that. 🙂
      Good luck in 2013.

  • 20's Finances January 7, 2013, 10:17 am

    Wear ’em even with holes… That’s my policy. I usually wear my boxers until Mrs. 20’s throws them out. 🙂 The way I figure it is that if there is still 80-90% of the boxers left, they still do accomplish their purpose. (I hope that’s not TMI for all of your readers).

    I probably could go 2013 without buying new clothes, but the question for me is why would I want to. It just means 2014 would be slightly more expensive since I only buy clothes when I need them (most of the time at least).

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:32 pm

      I threw out my boxers myself because they were all basically ripped in 2. 🙂

  • Mike January 7, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Clothing is definitely big thing for me! I don’t spend much on them, but I’m surprised how many of my clothes do need updating (holes, shrank a few sizes too small, threadbare, etc) and it looks like that this is the year that I’ll be spending more of my time trying to figure out how to update my clothing without having to spend a fortune to be able to do so.

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:34 pm

      Good luck! My mom was just commenting that young folks don’t mend their clothes anymore. It’s much easier to just buy something new. Who even know how to mend anymore?

      • Mike January 7, 2013, 3:58 pm

        That’s something I am planning on learning how to do, even it is weird for a guy to know how to do that. I can always cite that I am trying to save some money.

        • sin camisa January 8, 2013, 1:40 pm

          If I like it, I mend it.

  • Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle January 7, 2013, 12:50 pm

    While I spent less than $50.00 on clothes in 2012 I did buy 2 pair of shoes for about $125.00. I stand all day at work and replacing my shoes frequently will help me to stay healthy and to work longer. I see too many coworkers wearing fashionable footwear (tall boots are in this season) and listen to them comment on my boring, sensible shoes.

    No matter how tight the budget there will always be room for shoes that are good for my feet.

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:33 pm

      You did great in 2012. If you’re on your feet all day, you really need a good pair of shoes. Great decision.

  • Kathleen, Frugal Portland January 7, 2013, 2:05 pm

    This is why I buy my clothes at Goodwill!

    • retirebyforty January 7, 2013, 3:35 pm

      Have you even looked in the men’s section at Goodwill? It’s pretty sad.

  • Gen Y Finance Journey January 7, 2013, 2:21 pm

    I love this idea! I admit I have no idea what I spent on clothing in 2012, but I know I don’t go shopping terribly often – I only buy clothes when I need them. I don’t think I’ll avoid buying anything in 2013 just for the sake of being able to say I did it, but I will keep track of how long I go without buying anything. I just bought a new coat and a couple sweaters in December, so it’s a perfect time to start keeping track now. Of course, if I continue to lose weight, buying some new clothes might be a necessity, but we’ll see how well I can fare with what I’ve got.

  • Lance @ Money Life and More January 7, 2013, 3:00 pm

    I don’t keep a super stocked closet in terms of pants/undergarments but I could make it a year without buying any shirts. I took wear undershirts/socks till the disintegrate… why buy new stuff when no one ever sees them.

  • My Financial Independence Journey January 7, 2013, 3:03 pm

    I might be able to go the whole year without buying clothes. I lost a bunch of weight some time ago, which necessitated purchasing new clothes. But I’ve only bought the minimum, so my closet is pretty thin. In part because I’m cheap, and in part because I’m superstitious that the minute I buy new clothes, 20-30 pounds will appear on me overnight. There are some articles of clothing that I still need, like a suit coat that fits better, but I rarely have the occasion to use them and thus procrastinate in buying them. So long as none of these urgent needs pop up, I’ll probably have minimal clothing expenditures this year.

  • krantcents January 7, 2013, 4:19 pm

    I don’t know if you can go an entire year, but you can go a long time. My wardrobe requirements as a teacher is even a step down from an engineer, if that is possible. I find that I am replacing items such as socks, Polartec jacket, Tee shirts and athletic shoes. They last much longer than a year, but this year I needed socks.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:32 pm

      I’m pretty sure engineers are worse dresser than teachers. It’s very casual around the office and people wear shorts and sandals all the time.

  • Sandy January 7, 2013, 5:49 pm

    This is entirely doable. I pretty much did that for 2012…except that my mom bought me a couple of suits for my birthday because they coincided with a massive sale. And my BF bought me rain boots because I refused to buy myself a pair. All in all, I think that many people have more than enough clothes and just don’t know what to do with them.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:33 pm

      Great job in 2012. I think I spent around $200 last year. I have plenty of clothes.

  • [email protected] Credit Report Chick January 7, 2013, 8:49 pm

    I haven’t calculated my clothing total for last year but I can tell you that its not close to $8,676! I don’t think I can go the entire year with spending money on clothes but I know I need to cut back. In fact, maybe this could be a 2013 challenge for me too!

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:33 pm

      Good luck!

  • papadad January 7, 2013, 10:59 pm

    This is a bit off topic, but got me thinking….. It’s ok to be frugal when it comes to clothes…and i guess even underwear…. but I have learned that there are a few things worth spending money on, and those things if bought right will improve your quality of living and also will last a long time before needing to be replaced. Being frugal does not mean being cheap.

    1. Good quality shoes. Your wheels are your mode of mobility. Do yourself a favor and buy good quality shoes. If you buy the good ones, they should last several years…and they will make your feet happy, your posture better, and your overall musculo-skeletal condition will be better meaning less fatigue and better health.

    2. a good quality bed. Yes, it seems natural that we would spend some good earned cash in a place where we spend 40% of our lives. Upgrading to a really good quality and long lasting bed significantly improved my ability to get a good night rest. And a good night rest means more energy and stamina to approach the “awake” things in my life…what ever they may be. Dont forget to flip the mattress every 3 to 4 months to avoid that bed turning into a night time taco….

    3. Tools. Buy them once, they last a lifetime. Dont buy cheap tools. You will definitely spend more in the long run. I like to be a Do It Yourself-er and handy man and with the right tools the job gets done the right time, the first time, in half the time. Really makes a huge difference. Go with the better quality tool…hand tool, power tool, etc. They can be passed down to future generation as they truly last “more than a life time”.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:35 pm

      I agree with the good quality shoes. It’s a waste of money to buy uncomfortable shoes.
      I don’t know about bed though. I still haven’t found a really comfortable bed.

  • Little House January 8, 2013, 6:38 am

    I don’t spend a whole lot on clothes, but I usually have to replace pants or shirts throughout the year. I have a bad habit of wearing three or four “favorite” things and wearing them out before the school year ends. As with engineers, teachers aren’t too much into fashion either. 😉

  • Manette @ Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance January 8, 2013, 7:12 am

    I am sure you can live through the year without buying new clothes. My husband and I were able to do it, then why can’t you? When we get invites for formal occassions, we simply use our old suits and gowns.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:37 pm

      I don’t foresee any formal occasion this year. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to finish this challenge. Great job last year.

  • Sarah Park January 8, 2013, 7:33 am

    I absolutely believe you can make it through the year without spending for clothes. Men are not that conscious with clothes compared with women. And with the fact that you are working at home, no doubt you won’t be needing new clothes for formality’s sake unlike when working in an office.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:38 pm

      I hope this doesn’t come off sexist, but men are so much easier than women when it comes to clothes.

  • Ornella @ Moneylicious January 8, 2013, 9:42 am

    I’ve gone months without buying any clothes. I buy clothes that I can mix and match to create 2 or more outfits. I do the same thing with shoes. I try to buy work shoes that I can match with several if not most of my clothes. But I do take advantage on Black Fridays. There’s a certain store where I buy my work pants from that have better quality than others. Otherwise, I don’t hold a lot of clothing items in my closet. If I haven’t worn an item within the last two years I donate it.

  • Brick by Brick Investing January 8, 2013, 11:58 am

    I like the challenge and believe it’s a very valid one. Even if someone does work in an office environment where a shirt and tie is required there is no need to have more than 6-7 days worth of clothes in your closet.

  • Suzanne January 8, 2013, 12:17 pm

    I felt compelled to answer this one. My husband goes typically 5 years without buying clothes which means a trip to the apparel store, once needed, is very costly. I think the last time we went clothes shopping for him was when Mervyn’s was still around and we spent $700. Divided by 5 years, that is still not a lot of money. This year we are on a mission – to not spend anything beyond paying off our mortgage (5 years left). That means no vacations, no big purchases, nothing. I love challenges, so I will be checking back 🙂

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:39 pm

      Thanks for your input. Good luck with your challenges too.

  • sin camisa January 8, 2013, 1:25 pm

    I can’t. I discovered Value Village here in Redmond, WA. And the barely used Columbia, REI, and Eddie Bauer shirts for $12 or under are too tempting. Combine that to their 50% off everything day they have every 3-4 months, and it’s hard not to shop. I already recycled 80% of my worn shirts for these trendy, in better shape shirts.

    Other than that, I am done. I have my waterproof snow boots, waterproof Merrells (hiking), and waterproof Timberlands for everyday use. Only one pair of tennis shoes (7 year old adidas in pretty sorry shape).

    Challenge accepted!! NO (new) clothing items for 2013!!!

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:42 pm

      Nooo… Don’t tell me about this. I’ll have to avoid going that direction until 2014. 🙂

  • Mr. 1500 January 8, 2013, 2:57 pm

    I always liked the Steve Jobs/Dean Kamen mentality: Get a couple good outfits and let that be it. We are all so busy with everything else going on in life, it’s one less thing to worry about.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina January 8, 2013, 3:16 pm

    I have a lot of old clothes too. I have had my workout stuff since I was 14… yeah…I’m 22 now, so that’s 8 years 🙁

    My hubby made me buy new workout clothes this Christmas. I say made me because he bought me pair of workout pants, and then encouraged me to go spend money on new workout clothes.
    I really cannot go by a year without purchasing clothes..Idk maybe because I’m a girl?
    My husband has underwear from when he was 14. I tell him to get rid of it and he says no it’s comfy.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2013, 11:43 pm

      That mean you guys are the same size as when you’re 14 right? That’s pretty awesome.
      8 years old work out clothes on the other hand means you don’t work out much. Is that true? 🙂

  • My Multiple Incomes January 9, 2013, 2:36 am

    Wow! Imagine spending thousands of money on clothes. It is still necessary to buy clothes every now and then especially if you need to, but we should make it a point to set limits and just stuff we could really wear and not just buy on impulse the things we probably will leave inside the closet instead of wearing.

  • David January 9, 2013, 6:03 pm

    Spending too much on clothes and fashion accessories is not practical. We have to avoid unwise expenditures and focus on necessities. People do not get young. They grow old so being frugal is more if an advantage.

  • [email protected] January 9, 2013, 6:44 pm

    I think I’ll try this challenge. I did buy a few things last week when we were at my parent’s and had babysitting while we shopped. It was all returned Christmas gifts or with gift cards, so I don’t think that counts. I still have some Old Navy gift cards that I have to use this year. Other than that, I’ll try to buy nothing for myself. I’m working part time now, so should need less.

  • Rob @FinancialSprout January 10, 2013, 9:08 pm

    Well the answer is definitely Birkenstock clogs, I just hate those things! I’m not sure if i’d be able to go a whole year without clothes. I go through jeans pretty fast, plus i’m still growing like a beanstalk. Although, I could probably go without shoes for a year.

    • Russell January 12, 2013, 11:42 am

      I have a colleague whose Birkenstocks aren’t so much an affront to fashion as they are to basic hygiene.

      • retirebyforty January 13, 2013, 9:47 am

        Hahaha, yukkk.

  • Karen @MSEnthusiast January 13, 2013, 9:56 am

    Wow! I don’t think I can go without new clothes. Maybe I’ll just scale back. That is very smart though. Why spend the money on clothes when you don’t have to. Your baby will still love you.;0)

  • David W January 15, 2013, 11:14 am

    Bare feet, followed closely by flip-flops and socks. I worked with a guy for a while who earned the nickname “pee socks” for going everywhere in just his socks, even the bathroom. To my knowledge he never knew about the nick name. (I work at a small engineering company where the dress code is basically just nothing offensive.)

    • retirebyforty January 15, 2013, 2:29 pm

      That’s pretty nasty. One guy at my old work, walked around in barefoot all the time. This isn’t New Zealand, you know.

  • Christopher February 9, 2013, 9:18 am

    I basically did this is 2012, but I started with a LOT of clothes, so it wasn’t difficult for me. I have to dress on the high end of business casual so I spend WAY too much on drycleaning. My resolution is to actually hang up my pants and fold my sweaters and put them away after wearing them once to reduce the absurd amount of my income my drycleaner gets. FYI, I read somewhere that one of the very first decisions President Obama made when he took office was to get rid of all of his suits that weren’t either navy or grey so he didn’t have to expend any mental energy on what he wears every day. Clever.

  • Dan April 4, 2013, 11:26 pm

    Wearing out my boxers until they split would really bug me. When the fabric starts to get super thin, then I pitch them. I buy cheap ones at Target, so its not a big deal to get another 5-pack. I think I could go a year without buying new clothes without minding it a bit. I think feet should be able to breathe. So I let my feet breath as much as possible when the weather is warm enough, but this is just at home, not at work. I like buying those thick wool socks they have a Costco. Those things last literally for years. I don’t see what the problem is either if you notice that the socks have a hole in the heel, but the rest of them is completely intact. As long as you are wearing a shoe, no one will know. For the past several years, I have worn the same pair of brown leather shoes. The label and tag has completely worn off of them, which annoys me because I would like to figure out what brand they are. I still have those shoes, and they are still wearable, but I have been letting them rest while I wear my super-cool tan Adidas that I have had for 9 years.

    • retirebyforty April 5, 2013, 8:49 am

      The thin fabric doesn’t bother me. If the elastic doesn’t work well anymore, then I get rid of them.

  • Faye February 21, 2014, 11:10 am

    Some clothing picks up an sweat odor that can’t be washed out even if it isn’t worn out. This is why there isn’t a big selection for men in the thrift shops. So make sure whatever you wear passes the “smell” test.

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