Paid Twice’s post this morning that there’s no shame in not being able to afford things really struck a chord. One of those “little” things that aren’t so little.

You see, this morning I was feeling a little bit blue as I got ready for work. Sometimes I get sick of my clothes. I only have a few business-like outfits–5 shirts and two pairs of pants. Now there’s ways to combine them (one is a twin-set, so the sweater and sweater-vest can change things up with the other shirts) but after a certain point it’s just the same 5 shirts and two pairs of pants.

In particular I feel annoyed that I don’t have something slightly more casual for the library. Maybe two pairs of slacks and a few more shirts.

Of course, I could buy them. We do have the money. But since there’s nothing wrong with the clothes I have and I have enough clothes for over a week (mostly because I only wear them at work, never more than a 4-hour shift, so if they don’t get sweaty I can wear them again) I don’t need to buy anything new. And since we don’t have any real extra income at this point because of the job change, it’s not like I could just say “Oh, I’ll put our $200 extra towards clothes this month.”

My clothes are in great condition and I’ve periodically received comments on how good they look on me and how they’re definitely my colors. I have no reason to be ashamed.

At the same time, it can feel like school–when I was wearing hand-me-downs and pretty badly teased sometimes. I wonder if people have noticed my dearth of clothes and what they think of that. If they’d tease me if we weren’t adults. If they talk about me behind my back. If I shouldn’t care if they do because it doesn’t matter.

I could see investing in a wardrobe if I were looking for career advancement. But it’s quite appropriate for now.

Once I do start making more money, I’ll look into adding a little money back into the budget for expanding my wardrobe.

And maybe I’ll get creative: I’m also considering selling two items I’ve never worn and using the money for buying a couple new shirts. And I may use some of my birthday Joann’s money to buy pants fabric since I have a really good pattern. Joanns has the advantage of 40% off coupons and then free fabric anyway since it’s a gift card.

But for now, I will be dressed and I will (do my best to) not be ashamed.

{ 12 trackbacks }

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Early Retirement Extreme January 21, 2008 at 8:22 pm

No shame. Personally I like a small wardrobe. It takes up less space, but more importantly, things wear out faster. I have this idea that things have to be worn to a given level before I replace them – not terminal failure, but definitely to a certain level. If I have a lot of clothes and wear them evenly, it takes a long time to wear them down (and out). And that’s the problem, because we probably all like the idea/feel of new clothes.

paidtwice January 21, 2008 at 8:28 pm

Goodwill, chica, goodwill. Seriously I am a goodwill convert. lol Go buy another pair of pants, you don’t have to get a whole wardrobe, just a single pair of pants might make your whole outlook seem better. 🙂

But no shame, regardless. Power to the broke peeps!

Hilda January 21, 2008 at 9:00 pm

I second the motion. Goodwill is the place.

Catherine Lawson January 21, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Mrs M- don’t feel ashamed. The ones who should be ashamed are the people who buy clothes every week; even though they’re made by a child in a sweatshop. Then they only wind up wearing them a couple of times.

If you would feel more comfortable looking casual, do buy a couple of things. There’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable at work.

RacerX January 21, 2008 at 10:20 pm

One thing that I see alot though with peoples budgets is a lack of clothes planning (me as well) it is an expense that is easy to say that it can wait, and normally it can.

However i do agree with Dave Ramsey here a bit that he rarely councils naked people!

Instead of $200 or noting, take an envelope and put $10 in every week or two for clothes. when you need something (I remember a boot issue!)it is their w/o tapping the Emergency Fund.

We learned the hard way with a recent Ninja Bill and the kids coats!

Mary Frances January 21, 2008 at 10:23 pm

Oh, I’ve been there so many times and I hate it. Last time I was feeling this way, I decided to try an “abundance” approach to the problem instead of a “scarcity” approach. So even though it was tough, I went ahead and donated the clothes that I just hated putting on. There wasn’t much left, but I liked it all. I worked repeatedly on having the attitude that God could provide more, and would now that I was mentally and physically making room for it. A week later a coworker started bringing me nice clothes that she couldn’t wear anymore. Over a period of about 6 months she gave me several, several hundreds of dollars worth of clothes that I have really enjoyed wearing.

David January 21, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Great post – clothes (and other things) don’t define who we are. Thanks for the reminder!

Frugal Babe January 21, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Every once in a while I feel tired of my clothes too. It doesn’t happen much anymore, because I really do have enough, but sometimes that’s just how we girls feel. We live near a little thrift store where all clothing is $2. And another ‘big box’ thrift store where clothes are usually between $3 and $6. So if I’m feeling tired of my closet, I bundle up some stuff that I don’t wear anymore and donate it, then I spend $10 to get a whole new outfit. I only buy stuff that looks brand new, fits great, and that I love (I stopped buying stuff that I just liked, because it keeps me from having too much stuff). We really can have it both ways with secondhand clothes – no need to spend $200 to spruce up the wardrobe, and you don’t have to feel bored with your clothes either 🙂

sfordinarygirl January 22, 2008 at 3:36 am

I’m not afraid to admit I’m proud making do with the bare minimum work clothes. I have two pairs of black slacks, one dress shirt, a few tops and a few skirts which I mix and match.

And for me money is tight at the moment. Sure I could afford a top for $20, but why bother if what I have now works. If it ain’t broke, then it aint worth fixing. So if the clothes aren’t broken, I’m not shopping!

Pennygather January 22, 2008 at 8:13 am

Wow! Nice website! I really like it! Neat and clean and attractive to read. And I love the subject…dear to my heart! I popped in from link on “blogosphere”.

LJ January 22, 2008 at 8:47 am

Definitely don’t feel ashamed!
I have had those same feelings too because I have been struggling with my weight and literally only had a few articles of clothing that fit me properly.
I had really gotten down on myself and my husband told me just to go buy clothes, but I couldn’t do it. Why go buy clothes that hopefully won’t fit me in a few months when I have lost 20 lbs?
So, what I did is a clothing swap with a few of my friends. I just explained the situation, shamelessly and asked if any of them had clothing in my larger size in exchange for my old smaller size clothing.
It was a big hit and we all ended up swapping out clothes and each ended up with new articles of clothing without spending a dime. We have planned on doing this periodically to freshen up our wardrobes for free!
So, there are things you can do, just be creative, enlist help from good friends or relatives, and never be ashamed!

Take Care


Allison January 22, 2008 at 9:46 am

What pants pattern are you using to make pants? I have heard great things about Burda and the McCalls jean pattern but I am always looking for something better.

mrsmicah January 22, 2008 at 10:54 am

Allison, I wish I could remember the name of the pattern. I’ll dig around for it. I believe its out of print, but one can periodically find copies of those patterns online. I think it’s Butterick or McCalls.

deepali January 22, 2008 at 11:57 am

Ah, I have the same problem. I grew up with zero sense of style, and finally picked some up after college (losing weight helped too). So now I have this insecurity about looking stylish, which naturally equates to needing more clothes. But, not in the budget (I have more than enough) and not a priority. If you won’t feel shame, I won’t either… 🙂

Anitra January 22, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Totally understand your feeling. If it helps you, realize that other people probably aren’t noticing the lack of variety in your clothes – really!

I haven’t pared my clothing spending to the bone yet, but I have been more careful the past year or so to only buy clothes I really love. I’d rather spend more money on a really great pair of pants than spend the same amount and get three or four pairs of pants that don’t fit right, feel cheap, or are otherwise un-loved by me. I will wear that one awesome pair of pants with pride, three or four days a week 🙂

plonkee January 22, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Other people aren’t noticing your clothes. Unless they’re me – I notice other people’s clothes, but only to consider whether they suit the person or not.

mrsmicah January 22, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Well, plonkee, I think my clothes suit me at least. So I get points for that.

wealthy_1 January 22, 2008 at 5:29 pm

I like having a small wardrobe. The last couple of weeks I wore the same black pants in the same week to work. I just wore a different top.

Whenever I wonder if people notice whether I’m wearing the same thing over and over I just remind myself of this: What other people think of me is none of my business.

Adfecto January 22, 2008 at 5:49 pm

I get regularly kidded by my wife and a few of my close friends that I only ever wear one outfit: jeans and a striped polo shirt. I have a couple pairs of jeans and about a dozen polos and that’s all I really need. It meets the casual dress code and work and is comfortable around the house. It isn’t the most stylish and isn’t the most creative but it beats being naked. I have a mix and match set of business clothes with one pair of slacks in each major color and a few button up shirts and one classic black suit. I only wear them for special occasions so no one ever sees me dressed up. Items get replaced when they get a hole or stain that would make me look like a slob (so once every 3+ years). Yes I get teased but I’d rather save the cash. I’m happy and my biggest clothing expense is a new pair of running shoes every 9-12 months.

JB January 23, 2008 at 2:54 am

Have you thought about scoping out the local thrift store. Or mention to your friends/family that are your size that you’d like some new pieces to your wardrobe. I’m sure there would be people willing to give away things they aren’t wearing, sometimes it’s easier to get rid of things I’ve never worn if I know they are going to someone who needs, wants, likes them.

Definitely don’t be ashamed. I used to shop all the time, when I was bored or wanted something new. I’ve since stopped clothes shopping for the most part until I can control my clothes spending. It’s surprising how much extra money I’ve been able to save by doing this.

Do you have a Ross in your area? Ross is really awesome for nice clothes on a budget.

m January 23, 2008 at 5:13 am

By the way, Mrs. Micah, I have always been the same way with work clothes. Maybe our reasons are different, I’m not sure, but same end result.

I’ve never been able to spend any money I had on clothes for work. I’d much rather spend what little I have extra on things I care much more about so my work wardrobe has always been bare bones, and not only that but not very attractive, high quality, etc.

A small wardrobe is one thing, but the unattractive clothing is something I don’t like simply because I can’t feel good or comf. in it. Yet I haven’t been able to bring myself to use my money to buy more work clothes when there are so many others things clamoring for my spending money and also when money is tight, which it always seems to be anyway.

Someday, I will go on “What Not to Wear” and get a $5000 dream work wardrobe! Well at least I like to fantasize that I will, prob won’t really happen.

Anyhow you can tell I like this post, my 2nd comment on it not to mention my own response post too!

Wendy January 23, 2008 at 9:45 pm

A scarf or some other accessory that can be acquired cheaply can completely change the look of an outfit. I love looking through fashion photos online and brainstorming for a way to change things up with no temptation to buy anything.

James M January 23, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Having little money is not something you should feel shamed about.

My friend is going to lose everything she and her children have, because she was to ashamed at not having stuff and so got into credit debit. That is something to be ashamed about.

Learning to live within or below your means is an important lesson in life. When I was very poor I felt like you, a bit sad and a bit jelious of people who could be frivolous with money. After a couple of years I got over it. (It is worse when others have much more than you and spend it like it grew on trees.)

BUT when I started earning good money I had already learned how to live cheep and how not to purchase stuff. SO I was able to save, a lot.

One tip. If you have a car go yardsaleing early on Saturday mornings but only in good neighborhoods. Poor people sell stuff to make money, rich people give away stuff to make room. Most weeks you will find crap or stuff that just is not quite right, but now and again you will hit gold and that makes it all worth while.

I still go to yardsales early on Saturday mornings, early before the good stuff goes, even though I live in a house worth the best part of a million.

Most of my cloths, no make that 90% of my cloths come from yardsales because some people just about give away clothes that have never been used. Some even had the price tags on them. (I think a lot were probably presents)

Being cheep is honorable and not buying shit you really don’t need and can’t really afford or justify, is the most humble and honorable way to live. Look at a monk, no un-necessary stuff.

I am sitting here in a set of cloths that look quite new, but only cost me $1.25. The Speedo jacket cost me $1, the shorts 25c. The t-shirt was free from the running club for helping at the club’s running race. You don’t need to spend a fortune on cloths to be admired, and as you age you will find that working on your body inside the cloths pays better dividends than getting more cloths to put on it.

A friend of mine who races bicycles says it’s cheaper for him to lose one pound of fat by exercise than to purchase titanium parts for his bike to save a few ounces.

The key to life is personal health and financial health. Exercise, eat well but eat the right stuff, and be very careful what you spend.

Just last week the TV had a bit on a man who donated a million dollars to a school for a swimming pool. The story from CBS follows. For some reason it seems strange to Americans that you might be frugal and save your money instead of spending it on bling, clothes and cars.

At a ceremonial dinner at New Jersey’s St. Augustine College Preparatory School, everyone complied with the dress request for coat and tie.

Everyone but Paul Navone.

Navone, 78, showed up in a sweater he’d bought at the Salvation Army for $3.

“Everything I had on was from a thrift shop. As it is where I’m sitting right here now,” Navone says.

Fact is, this frugal retired factory worker would never spend money on new clothes, vacation or swanky meals. Really. The only reason he came to this dinner honoring the school’s rich new benefactor — is because he is the school’s rich new benefactor.

So begins the story of the unlikely philanthropist.

Navone was born dirt poor and never made more than $11 an hour. He put in 50 years at the glass factories in Millville, New Jersey, working all the overtime he could get. “I saved. Why would I go home?” Navone asked CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman.

He didn’t have a wife or children or a phone or a television. All of which are reasons he was able to save most of his paycheck and let it grow.

“Different people have asked me, ‘What were you saving for?’ Really, never in my life did I save for a specific purpose,” says Navone.

Until, at 78, he finally gave it some thought. He drove over to the local Catholic high school where they were trying to raise money for a swimming pool – and made a huge splash.

The reaction, says Navone, was total amazement.

As a result of all the compounding interest, Navone was able to donate a million dollars for what is now the Navone Pool.

He also gave another million dollars to Cumberland County College for their new nursing education program.

Paul says that it feels good to be rid of those savings — perhaps because after all these years he figured out what he’d been saving for.

“What I invested in is enriching people’s lives,” says Navone.

Canadian January 24, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Until recently, it was almost a year since I had bought any new clothes. I had bought 2 or 3 things at Goodwill in the fall. I am so unstylish compared to my colleagues. I can’t help wondering what they think. A week or two ago there was a sale at the plus-size store where I buy almost all my new clothes (when I buy new clothes). Everything already reduced was an additional 50% off. I spent $138 and got two pairs of pants and 5 tops (2 blouses, 1 blazer, 1 cardigan, 1 long-sleeved tee). This should last me for a while! I am actually very pleased with my purchases. I was feeling very dowdy and boring. I was wearing turtlenecks and corduroy pants almost every day. It wasn’t very professional looking. So I don’t feel bad about this expenditure at all. I could afford it, I got good deals, I got clothes that fit my body (always hard finding nice plus-size clothes at Goodwill), I think I needed them too. Actually one of the reasons I waited so long was because I hate clothes shopping. (It is hard to find things that fit me because I am short and fat. Also I have no sense of style and don’t really know what looks on me. Also because I don’t necessarily like the things that happen to be in style.) But generally I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a smaller wardrobe than one’s colleagues. As long as one always looks presentable.

Jennifer January 28, 2008 at 10:03 am

I am coming to realize more and more that clothes are a real problem for me. I have 3 sisters and they (really “we”) are all “into” clothes. Dressing stylishly is important to us. Now that I am trying to be more responsible with my money it is making me really question the importance of “stylish” clothes. In my head I know that it doesn’t matter, but I find that I can still be in a bad mood if I don’t like the clothes I am wearing. The temptation to buy new clothes is always there for me. I need to work on this. Thanks for posting. 🙂

Livingalmostlarge January 28, 2008 at 10:28 am

Why not shop Goodwill/Salvation Army or thrift shops? I also exchange clothes with girlfriends who are about the same size. No shame in that. Gives you an excuse to chat and try on stuff and exchange for free.

Rob Madrid February 2, 2008 at 5:04 am

Over the years I’ve learned to trust my Wife’s judgement (new) clothes, she has really good eye and rarely pays retail, recently she picked up 2 suits for less than 30€ a piece.

A few people I know can shop used and look great but most people I know (usually young families with no money) buy used clothing and it looks that way. Ratty. Not for me.

calgirlfinance February 5, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Mrs. Micah, Great post! While I’m not in the same position as you, I actually appreciate it when I have less clothes. It’s much easier to get ready in the morning when you only have a few outfits. I almost always wear the same clothes to the gym – I’m thinking about donating the rest so I only have 1 outfit that I’ll wear 3+ times/week. Also a lot of people don’t really notice your appearance – especially men. Once I got my haircut 10+ inches and my male co-worker that I work with in the same small room never even noticed!

steve July 17, 2008 at 1:02 am

women seem to worry about this “wardrobe” issue a lot, i’ve noticed.
On thought that might help:
Considering some of the incredibly poor choices I’m sure you’ve noticed some people around you making with their money, I would hesitate to worry about their opinion about how you prioritize your life and cash and how you spend or don’t spend on clothes.

Cassandra June 11, 2010 at 11:55 am

school is going to start on monday. I am worried that i wont have confidence to make friends because i bet everybody at school will be using new clothes,shoes and everything but i wont be. My family is actually poor and most of my clothes are also “hand me-downs”. I am worried that i wont make friends again.

guriya April 8, 2011 at 12:17 am

i dnt have money to buy outfits for my family i am worried nd i dnt have even my on 2 dresses . i am ashamed of my self

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