Dress for success, not excess

Last updated 05:00 02/02/2014
mannequins
Reuters

MODEL BEHAVIOUR: Don’t give in to the allure of expensive clothes just for the sake of it – and make sure you get your money’s worth of wear out of them.

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Take a look in your wardrobe. Be honest. How many of the clothes crammed along the hanger have you actually worn in the last month? What about in the last year?

How many abandoned pairs of shoes are stacked on top of each other, forlornly growing mildew after that initial burst of must-have-it enthusiasm?

Clothes and shoes are a big drain on the household budget; usually for those of the female persuasion, but some of us blokes are just as bad.

Statistics New Zealand figures tell us that of every $100 a household spends, about $2.80 goes towards clothing and footwear.

That's more than $1600 a year, based on the total average household spend of $58,000.

I reckon we can easily slash that figure in half, saving your household as much as $800 every single year.

All you have to do is pause and run some rough mental arithmetic next time your finger's hovering over the "Buy" button.

Here's the new rule: Each $1 you spend equals one wear. If a shirt costs you $50, you have to wear it and wash it at least 50 times to justify the cost.

And that's for the higher-end, nice clothes. Bare basics like socks, undies and T-shirts should work out to more like 10c or 20c a wear.

This simple rule has served me well, and means my wardrobe is no longer fit to burst with discarded garments.

My favourite pair of boat shoes cost me $5 from a Salvation Army shop out in the boonies somewhere.

They're still going strong after about three years and maybe 100 wears.

That's a utility of about 5c per wear, with no sign of the leather giving out any time soon.

Now let's look at a flashy designer-label jacket, on sale for $300.

Using the $1 rule, you'd have to be confident you'd wear it 300 times to justify the big spend.

But it probably only looks good with a few outfits, and perhaps only suits certain occasions.

Maybe you bust it out three or four times a year.

But after a few years, the dictates of fashion, your own personal taste, or - heaven forbid - your waistline, are all likely to have changed.

You better look drop-dead gorgeous in that jacket, because it's costing you $30 every time you shove your arms through the sleeves.

Following the $1 rule doesn't mean you have to wear filthy threadbare rags, and get thrown spare change by passerbys.

Paying extra cash for some quality clobber is fine, as long as it meets the rule.

In the Unites States recently, I splashed out about $120 on some brogues. I calculated that I'll wear them maybe 25 times each year, and hopefully get at least five years' usage.

Just remember that "high-quality" is not the same thing as "brand name". Half the time they're made in the same overseas sweatshops.

One of the keys to becoming financially independent is resisting the constant urge to spend. Use the $1 per wear rule to declutter your wardrobe now, and give you the strength to walk away next time you see that pair of killer heels.

Stay tuned for next week, when we'll slash the clothing budget in half yet again.

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