How a Cost-Per-Wear Clothing Budget Can Help You Save

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

Cost-Per-Wear Clothing Budget photo

Hopefully, you already have a clothing budget. But do you have a cost-per-wear budget? This simple calculation can help you make smarter clothing purchases.

Have you ever thought about whether you’ll wear an item of clothing enough to justify the cost?

A simple tool that can help you answer that question and make savvier clothing purchases is a calculation that determines the cost-per-wear of a garment.

So how do you calculate the cost-per-wear of clothing, and how can it help you save?

Read on to start saving more on your clothing purchases.

The Meaning of Cost-Per-Wear

The meaning of cost-per-wear is simply the number of times you will have to wear a clothing item to make it worth the cost. It is calculated using the following formula:

The garment price / The number of “wears” = The cost-of-wear

Obviously, the more wear you get from a garment, the better deal the purchase will be.

However, knowing that a fancy outfit will cost you more than $50 per wear might make you rethink the purchase and search for a cheaper option.

Conversely, you might worry that those cheap shoes may not last long enough for you to wear them enough times to make the purchase a wise one.

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How Do You Calculate the Cost-Per-Wear of Clothing?

It is very simple to calculate the cost-per-wear of clothing. You only need to gather a few key pieces of information and take the following steps:

1. Determine the cost of the garment.

Is the garment on sale? Will you earn cash back on the purchase with an app or your credit card? Account for all sales and discounts to determine the garment price.

2. Guesstimate how often you will wear the garment.

This is not always easy to determine because it depends on the type of garment.

You might only wear a special occasion dress once or twice. However, you might wear work clothing a few times or more per month and an athletic outfit once a week. A new pair of shoes might get worn a few times per week or more.

3. Divide the cost of the garment by the number of times you expect to wear it.

This will provide you with the cost of the garment on a per-wear basis.

For instance, if you purchase a pair of shoes for $100 and plan on wearing them 50 times, the cost per wear for those shoes would be $2. However, if you spend $100 on a dress you need for two weddings this year, the cost per wear would be $50.

4. If applicable, add the cost of cleaning the garment.

If the item needs dry cleaning after each wear, you want to estimate that cost and add it to the cost per wear of the garment. For the above dress example, if you pay $8 to $10 to have the dress cleaned after each wedding, the cost per wear increases to $58 to $60 per wear.

How To Use the Cost-Per-Wear Calculation To Save Money

Based on your monthly clothing budget, you should have a general idea of the cost-per-wear you’re willing and able to pay for the different types of clothing you buy.
For instance, you may decide your maximum cost-per-wear is as follows:

Work $2.00
Special occasion $20.00
Workout wear $0.50
Casual wear $0.25
Dress shoes $5.00
Athletic shoes $2.00

Now suppose want to buy a new pair of dress shoes for $100. If you divide the price of the shoes by your cost-of-wear for dress shoes, in this case $5, you would have to wear those shoes at least 20 times to get a $5 cost-per-wear on a $100 pair of shoes.

If you wear dress shoes to work each day or to church every Sunday, then you will likely wear them 20 times. However, if the shoes are for an occasional evening out, it could take you a long time to wear those shoes 20 times. And if you like to be trendy, those shoes could be out of style before you wear them 20 times.

A less expensive pair of shoes will serve your budget better if they are just for occasional use.

How To Reduce Cost-Per-Wear of Clothing: 4 Tips

Here are some additional tips that can help you reduce your cost-per-wear of clothing:

1. Don’t Overlook Quality

Comparison shopping for clothing isn’t as cut-and-dried as other types of items. Two shirts may cost the same, but the quality of the two can be drastically different. (See: Why Cheap Shoes Are a Bad Buy)

If you need to get 50 “wears” from a shirt to make it a good deal for your budget, you want to choose a quality garment that will last that long with normal wear and tear. If you need a dress that you will only wear a few times, buying a lesser quality garment at a great price will give you a much lower cost-per-wear.

2. Consider Whether You Can Sell the Garment

While there may be times it makes financial sense to buy cheap clothing, there is one good reason always to purchase quality clothing: resale value. It is so easy to sell used clothing online.

If you do pay more for that dress you only plan to wear once or twice, you could potentially get 30%, 50% or more of your original investment back if you sell the dress. That could drastically cut the dress’ cost-per-wear significantly.

3. Only Buy Clothing You Love

Another essential thing to consider when determining the cost-of-wear of clothing is how well you like the garment.

If an item requires you to wear it 50 times to be worth the purchase, will you want to wear it 50 times? If you don’t love the item, there is a chance you could let it languish in your closet and eventually get rid of it long before 50 “wears.”

4. Buy Secondhand

You can find some amazing deals on secondhand clothing shopping sites such as Poshmark and ThreadUp. Whether you need a new dress or pair of jeans, you can find high-quality, in-excellent-condition, deeply-discounted used finds on clothing resale sites.

What Is Cost-Per-Wear Clothing Budget?

If every item of clothing you buy fits within your monthly clothing budget and your cost-per-wear budget, you shouldn’t have to worry much about overspending on clothes.

The next time you plan to shop for clothing, sit down with your budget and figure out your cost-per-wear, whether for yourself or your kids’ clothing. You’ll find it can take the guesswork out of determining if a clothing purchase is a smart buy.

Reviewed April 2024

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