- Each American household spends almost $1,500 on clothing every year.
- Women spend 40% more on clothing than men do.
- There are several ways to limit your clothes spending and still look good.
Our breakdown of American households' average expenses showed that U.S. families spend a total of $61,334 each year. That money goes on things like housing, food, transport, and healthcare, amongst others. Each household spends $1,434 a year on clothes and related services. That's about 2.3% of the total annual spending, though there's a big difference in the amount spent by men versus women.
How average American clothing spending breaks down
According to the research, women and girls spend an average of $545 per year on clothing, while men and boys spend just $326. Footwear costs the average household $314, while clothes for children under two comes in at $68. That comes to a total of $1,434 each year on clothes -- or about $120 a month.
Spending on clothing was one of the categories most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It fell by over 20% in 2020 compared with 2019, according to the most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Now that we're starting to put the pandemic behind us, apparel spending may revert to 2018/2019 levels. In 2018, households spent $1,866 on clothes, and in 2019, that figure was $1,883. But given that most people only use about 20% of the clothes in their closets, perhaps this is also a part of our lives where we could all save money going forward.
Ways to cut your clothing budget
One of the best ways to cut spending in any area of life is to make a budget. If you know what you're spending each month, you can set yourself realistic goals. It helps you to ensure you spend less than you earn, put money aside for the future, and can also build financial security.
People think budgeting is about making cuts, which is one aspect of it. But another way to think about it is that a budget gives you permission to spend money. If you know you have $50 a month to spend on clothes, you can shop without worrying you're overspending.
Here are three tips to minimize your clothing spending:
1. Buy items that last
It may seem counterintuitive, but it often makes more sense to spend $100 or more on an item you'll wear for the next five years than $20 on something you're only going to wear a few times. For example, I used to waste money on shoes and jackets that were on sale but didn't fit that well or really suit me. Now I spend time finding one or two perfect items that I'll wear for years, whether or not the price is discounted.
2. Create your own brand
Many people want to look good, but the current clothing trends can change faster than the weather in spring. Rather than trying to buy the latest outfit, aim for a timeless wardrobe that suits you. That doesn't mean you have to be stuck in the same era for the rest of your life. But finding a handful of outfits you feel confident in is much better for your image and your wallet than chasing whatever's on the catwalks this month.
3. Use thrift stores and clothing swaps
There's a whole range of thrift stores out there these days, both in terms of physical shops and online options. Buying second hand is better for the environment and your wallet. You can find boutique labels, high-end items, and all kinds of pre-loved items. Another way to switch your wardrobe without breaking the bank is to organize a clothing swap with your friends. It's fun and you'll end up with some new-to-you items that don't cost a cent.
A lot of people have returned to the office this year and started to go out to socialize again. It's tempting to splash out on new clothes to mark this new chapter of our lives. However, as we also grapple with spiraling living costs and a potential recession, spending less on clothing could leave more money in your bank account for other things. That doesn't mean you can't look good, just that there are less costly ways to go about it.