Thursday, February 17

a study in cost per wear

One of the speed bumps I run into when trying to help someone shop is budget. I definitely understand, because I too have financial restrictions.
A concept that helped me though, was understanding what the cost per wear of an item was. It's about quality, not quantity when it comes to your closet.
For example, this outfit
is very inexpensive cost-per-wear wise. Originally, the skirt was $60. On average, I wear it about once a week. I've had it for six months, that's roughly 26 wears. So, let's do the math. $60 / 26 = $2.31. Not a bad price!
And the boots were $120 (on sale) and I've had them for nearly two years. The rough cost per wear on those (considering I only wear them November through February)  is $1.14. Hey, a few more times and I'll be getting PAID to wear them!

In contrast, we have this outfit. For some reason or another neither the cardigan or skirt gets worn often. In fact, I purchased this skirt for $50 (on sale) and have only worn it twice. Which makes it about $25 per wear. The cardigan was also on sale ($50 down from $150) but I've only worn it twice as well.
That doesn't mean they were poor purchases at all, but it does bring to light what things would or wouldn't be the most valuable purchases.
One of my best purchases was this JCrew dress. It was $300, which is a lot of money. But I've had it for going on four years and have worn it to church, work, date nights, and even a funeral. So not only do I wear it often, but it can take me many places.

This skirt was on clearance at a store going out of business. It was a whopping $16. I've worn it three times. Not a lot, but enough to make it worth it.
Now obviously, we can't always project how much we will wear something ahead of time.
A great example is this dress:
When I first saw it at Nordstrom I haaaaaad to have it. I even tried it on at the full price of $400 to make sure it worked. When it showed up at the Rack for $300 LESS I bit. I figured I could wear it for Easter and summer weddings.
I figured wrong. It just isn't quite right for either of those, so I ended up wearing it ONE TIME to work with a cami and jacket. So this dress is $100 per wear. Eesh.
I love the colors and the cut of the dress, so one of my goals this summer is to figure out how to wear this more often. Ideas?
So in closing, this is the formula I use for my budget. So I make a list of priorities of things I need:

1. Wide leg dark wash jeans
2. Black pumps
3. Camel trousers
4. Summer work appropriate footwear
5. Spring/summer handbag (in coral)

Then I attach a value in dollars:

1. Wide leg dark wash jeans
Since I'm still losing weight/body changing, I don't want to invest TOO much in a pair of trouser jeans. I'm planning on using a coupon for a pair from the Gap, which would be about $40. I'd probably wear them once a week for two months, which means they'd cost roughly $4 per wear. Not too bad. Especially considering I could probably consign them when I'm ready to move on.

2. Black pumps
These are something I'd splurge on because they would be worn for years. To work, church, date nights, etc. So I really don't have a budget amount set for something so practical and versatile. Comfort and appearance will be my guide. But realistically, I've never spent more than 1/4 a paycheck on a pair of shoes. ;)

...5. Spring/Summer handbag
I rarely change out my bags during a season. I purchase my last bag as a gift to myself after my second car accident settlement. It was expensive. But I've carried it every day since last July. So it's cost me about $2 a day, but I'm not done with it yet! I'll probably switch out in April. And then come August I'll bring it out yet again. 

It is certainly important to understand your style and lifestyle before you do your calculations. I'm not trendy at all, so if I do buy something trendy to wear for a short period, it'll be from Target, F21, or eBay so I can keep my cost per wear low.
I always invest in MY basics...white button downs, black pencil skirts, boots, shoes, bags, watches, etc because I know I'll get a lot of wear out of them.
Now that I'm nearing the end of my weight loss/size changes, I've been able to implement this a little more lately. I would much rather buy one thing per shopping trip (from my list of course) that would get a lot of wear, than come home with a bag of sale items that will only be worn a handful of times.

What do you think?


  1. What a thought-provoking post. I'll have to try this with some of my wardrobe items. I know what you say is true - yesterday I gave away a BCBG Generation tunic with a really bold print that I wore three times and then tired of it. It wasn't expensive - probably less than $50 - but that's an insanely high cost per wear. Lesson learned!

  2. Thanks Laura! Like I said, sometimes it's hard to plan ahead because we don't always know how much we'll wear something. But it does help me when I shop now to be more thoughtful...

  3. I totally agree with this concept. And sometimes the things you wear most really DO surprise you. Like the cropped 3/4 sleeve cashmere cardigan I picked up at a thrift store for $3 about 7 years ago. I still wear it about 3-4 times a month, year round (gotta have protection against arctic a/c in the summer), or my $40 Lucky Jeans from Costco 7 years ago, which still see regular use.

    For me, jeans, dresses that can be everyday-or-church, and sweaters that are multi-seasonal definitely are worth paying the most for.

    PS I have a pair of J. Crew dark wash trouser jeans "favorite fit" in size 6 I'd be glad to give you if you think you'd use them. They are hemmed to probably 31" (I can measure) and just don't work on me. I got them second hand, and have worn them once, but they just aren't me. FB me if you're interested. :)

  4. Also~ I LOVE the lavender dress on you. Stunning. Could you pair it with your denim jacket to wear for work or church? I think its appropriate for church, but that might depend on your church and if you're comfortable in it.

  5. Thanks Mother. :) I'd love to try the jeans and I have tried the dress with a denim jacket. The cami just looked so....chinsy, but I do think the neckline may be a bit low. But I'll try again now that I'm a bit smaller. O:)

  6. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. It really shows though examples about the cost per wear concept. And it's very true, some items the cost per wear gets whittled to nothing and other times it's barely a dent in the original price. Now if only there was a way to really predict this right? :)

  7. I really like this "cost per wear" idea. I'm not sure how I'd work it, though, with the items I wear most being the ones that I wear to work and therefore are constantly in danger of getting stained/ripped/etc. But I do think I'll start making a list of non-work-related clothes to start shopping for. I like the fact that you don't spend a lot on "trendy" items-- just the other day I was thinking I would do the same! Start getting NICE, classic stuff at good places, and things like skinny jeans at Target.

  8. Thanks Lisa! I still can't predict 100% but I generally have a pretty good idea.
    That's true, Jessica. While my style is classic, some people may have 'trendy' as their 'classic'.