I used to publish a regular blog feature about my shopping budget and how I decided what to buy and what not to buy. The problem was that I was frequently going over my budget and then soon got to the point in which I was just buying pretty much whatever I wanted without much regard for budget at all. I was embarrassed to publish posts about budgeting when I clearly wasn’t holding myself accountable!
I have five kids and a husband, and we have a lot of responsibilities. Our oldest will be starting college next year, and my husband and I haven’t even come close to paying off our own student loans. I can’t afford to shop without a budget. We clearly NEED help!
Living in the Midwest, I am not used to my neck of the woods being at the forefront of the newest technological or banking trends, or any trends for that matter. So, imagine my surprise to learn that Chase recently launched a new mobile bank, starting in St. Louis, called Finn!
Finn is a completely digital banking system. It has all the capabilities of the brick-and-mortar banks you know, but with the convenience of having all your banking needs met right at your fingertips. It was created for the Instagram generation and is millennial-focused. Now, I’m in that lonely little zone between Gen X and millennials, but I’m definitely a big fan of using my phone or computer for just about everything! You can still get cash on-the-spot as users will receive a debit card that is compatible with more than 29,000 ATMs.
Finn helps customers save money, visualize spending habits with the use of emoticons, and transfer or receive money with friends while on-the-go. What interested me the most about Finn are the tools to help consumers see where their money is going and to help them reduce their expenditures by making smarter buying decisions and saving money. The tools are especially helpful for someone like me who is not very good at budgeting, especially when it comes to budgeting for fashion.
Lately, my husband and I have been discussing our budget a lot, and we have been trying to figure out areas to shave down our spending so that we can reduce our bills and save for a new house and the kids’ college expenses. Since fashion shopping is definitely my largest personal “entertainment” expenditure, I have been thinking of ways to reduce my spending habits while still keeping my look fresh. As my husband and I hone down on our budget, these are some of the things that I’m going to be doing, and Finn would definitely come in handy for this!
- Assess Current Spending: Before planning a budget, it’s really important to know what you’re spending and why! In fact, my husband and I have a “date” to sit down and figure this out ourselves this weekend. Finn allows you to review your purchases and to really reflect on that spending. You can mark your expenses with smile, frown, and angry emoticons to help you get more in touch with how your spending makes you feel. In reviewing your spending, you can mark all of expenses as needs or wants which will be particularly helpful in deciding where you can cut corners and where you can’t.
- Make a Budget: Once we determine where our money is going, what bills we can reduce or get rid of, then it’s time to make a budget. While definitely a want, I will be lobbying hard for a sizeable fashion budget. LOL Realistically, most financial planners say about 5% of your take-home income should be spent on clothing. Obviously, individual factors like other bills, number of dependents, etc. will affect how much you can spend, but 5% is a good ballpark goal.
- Take Inventory & Purge Closet: Once a budget is made, you might be tempted to go shopping and blow through that budget quickly….or maybe that’s just me. Before spending any part of your monthly clothing budget, it’s important to take inventory of what you already own and to purge your closet of items you’re no longer using. Sometimes I buy things because I actually forget that I already own something similar. By taking inventory of your wardrobe, you can determine what you already have and then figure out what you need and what you don’t, which will help eliminate excess spending. It’s also a great time to assess whether you really need all eight of those bomber jackets you own. If you haven’t worn something in over a year, and it’s not a special occasion piece, then it probably needs to go. More on that in a bit. I recommend taking inventory at least twice a year, right before the fall and spring seasons.
- Assess Need v. Want for YOUR life: I am at the point where I definitely don’t NEED clothes. I have plenty. That said, I do have gaps in my wardrobe. For example, I am routinely looking for a cropped black jacket to wear with dresses or certain tops. I don’t have one. A cropped black blazer would make my wardrobe more complete and give me a lot more flexibility in my wardrobe. It is a NEED purchase because it adds a lot of use value to my already existing wardrobe. Conversely, I currently have six pairs of jeans. I am rarely able to wear jeans to work and don’t tend to wear them a lot on the weekends either. Jeans really aren’t a need in my life, and six pairs is probably about four or five pairs too many for my lifestyle. With Finn, you may be able to reflect on your past clothing purchases to better assess whether the items you bought were needs or wants. Hint: Impulse buys are almost always wants!
- Make a Shopping Wish List: Once you have inventoried your wardrobe and determined the gaps, make a list of what’s missing from your wardrobe. What pieces do you need to truly complete your wardrobe for your current lifestyle needs? These are the items that you should plan to use at least half your clothing budget on every month. The other half of your budget can be used for seasonal trends, statement pieces, and yes, even the occasional impulse buy – these are the items that make getting dressed fun!
- Shop Smarter: Because I am have such a hard-to-fit body type (petite plus), I pretty much always assume nothing is going to fit my body off-the-rack. I don’t let my size hold me back from exploring fashion and having fun with my wardrobe, but sometimes, I try too hard to make something work. If the fit is just really off with a garment, especially when it is something that isn’t truly unique, then it’s probably better just to put it back on the rack. There will be another pair of green pants or mustard blazer that fits better. By getting the best fit possible from the start, you can reduce alterations costs, which for me is a big portion of my clothing expenditures. The fewer alterations, the more that I can spend on clothes. Hold out for the shape, fabric, cut, button color, overall feel, etc. of each of the items on your shopping wish list. These are items that you’re going to want to wear a lot, and they should be as perfect for you as possible. I have a bad habit (though I’m getting MUCH better about this!) of buying a piece that I need, but that just isn’t quite right. I will try to make it work, but inevitably, it ends up in the back of the closet never getting worn. Then I end up with one or two more pieces trying to replace this one! It’s a waste of money, and it can be frustrating. It’s better to be patient and hold out for exactly what you want.
- Save for Investment Pieces: If you’re like me, you’re at the stage of your life where you’re starting to see the allure in investment pieces, pieces that are more expensive than what your budget typically allows but out of which you will get a ton of use value. These are pieces like a designer handbag, a fancy new pair of boots, maybe a classic moto jacket. Some of these pieces may have a high re-sale value or are possibly even the types of pieces that could be passed down as heirlooms. To save for these pieces, you’ll need to reduce how much of your monthly budget you’re actually spending. If your monthly clothing budget is $100 and you spend an average of $75 each month over the course of the year, you will have saved $300 by the end of the year, which may be just enough for that special statement necklace or perfect LBD you’ve been dying to have! I personally recommend a savings account to help with savings, even for something as seemingly silly as a clothing nest egg! If all of your money is in one checking account, it can be difficult not to see a cushion in your account as an excuse to spend more somewhere else. If you’re serious about saving, whether it’s for those new boots, a new house, or your retirement, a separate account helps keep the extra money more “out of sight, out of mind.” You can even make your savings automatic. Finn allows users to set their own autosave rules to build savings depending on their purchases. Using the budget above as example, you can set a rule that every time you spend $75 on clothing, you automatically save $25.
- Increase Your Budget: Remember when I talked above about getting rid of closet clutter by purging items from your wardrobe that you no longer need or want? Now, it’s time for your wardrobe to give back a little. Sell your unwanted clothes on eBay or on a plus size resale site like CurvyCo to pad your budget with a little extra cash. Or use these profits to pay down a bill or two (you know, be more responsible and stuff; i.e. don’t be like me).
- Find Tools to Help You Stay On Track: Because I’m not very good at budgeting, I know that I need all the help that I can get!! For example, the savings account mentioned above is an easy way to help keep your eyes on the prize of saving for investments, large or small. Finn has so many useful features, and there are no monthly fees. They even give you $50 for free just for signing up!
Are you good at budgeting? What are some of your budgeting tools, and how do you stay on track?
How would you feel about a completely digital banking system?
For more shopping and budgeting tips, take a look here.
Skirt: Who What Wear x Target (Available here); Shirt: Who What Wear x Target (Available here); Trench: Who What Wear x Target; Boots: Target (Available here); Necklace: LOFT; Purse: Who What Wear x Target; Glasses: Tory Burch
**This is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions and content are 100% my own.