How to determine your teen's clothing allowance

How Much for a Teen Clothing Allowance?

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How Much is Enough?

My name is Robin and I'm a 15-year-old girl. Recently, my parents and I have been discussing a clothing allowance for me. We've been thinking around the amount of $1200 a year or $100 a month. Does that sound fair? Clothing is pretty expensive these days, and I wanted to know what other teens get for their clothing allowance. Also, what's the best way to reduce the amount you spend on clothes?

When Working Up a Budget…

I think it's a good idea that you have a clothing allowance to budget. The amount should depend on where you live and your family's income. Because of the cost of living, clothes in California or New York would probably be more expensive than clothes in South Dakota or Missouri.

There are several things to consider when working up a budget. Will this clothing allowance put a big dent in your family's budget? Do you wear a school uniform? Will you be expected to buy all of your clothing, including coats, gym clothes, sports or band uniforms, etc. Or is this just for the "gotta have its," baubles and accessories?

One way to save money on clothing is to hit the consignment and resale stores. There is always a much bigger selection there, not just the mass-produced look everyone else has. You might want to consider getting a job to help pay for your own clothes. That way, you'll learn the value of earning your clothing dollar as well as budgeting.

Shop for Teen Clothing Online

You may or may not know this, but Ebay is a great site to pick up clothing. You can also try looking at craigslist. They sell a lot of clothing items there for a fraction of the price. I think $100 a month for clothing is very fair. I never had that much to spend. You can get a lot of items on eBay for that amount.

Related: Should You Give Your Teen a Clothing Allowance?

Take Your Time Looking for Teen Clothing

As the mother of a budget-minded, fashion-crazy daughter, I asked her how she would handle this situation. She stated that she combs the sales pages and tries to find clothes that look like the designer brand that everyone wears. She said that you would be surprised at what you can get if you take your time in stores at the bargain racks and sale tables. I have seen her take $100 and comeback with quite a few trendy outfits with change to spare.

Stretch Your Clothing Allowance

$1200 sounds like a very generous amount to spend on clothing each year! The following are a few tips to make your clothing allowance go much farther:

  1. Check garage sales and thrift stores first. You can find many items with the tags still attached. You can also find clothes with name brand and designer labels as well. Never buy anything new that you can buy just as good second hand.
  2. Learn to sew. By learning to properly mend clothes, you can make clothes last much longer. You can also makeover your old clothes with different trims, embroidery, patches, etc. to give your current wardrobe a whole new look.
  3. Always buy quality shoes. A good quality leather shoe will last many years if properly taken care of. Learn how to polish your own shoes to keep them looking nice. If you have canvas or cloth shoes and purses, spray them with Scotchguard and it will keep them looking nicer much longer.
  4. Have a clothing swap with friends. If you have several friends that are the same size as you, swap the clothes that you no longer want for items you can use that your friends no longer want.
  5. Check the clearance racks and buy clothing out of season. Now is the time to buy next summer's wardrobe as many stores have their summer clothes marked at least 50% off.
  6. Buy classic styles and colors that do not go out of style like navy, black, tan, and gray. These colors also will match about any color of clothing you choose to go with them.
  7. Line dry your clothes instead of drying them in the dryer. This will prevent your clothes from shrinking and it will also make your clothes last longer.
  8. Don't buy more clothes than you need. If you do laundry in your home at least once a week, then you really don't need more than seven to ten outfits per season. By only buying what is needed, your clothing allowance will build up and you will be able to buy better quality clothes that will last longer. You will also greatly decrease the amount of laundry and ironing you need to do as your clothes won't be crowded in your closet.


When Looking for Teen Clothing, Start at Goodwill

As a teacher of teens, I know that there's a huge difference in clothing allowances. Some teens get as little as $10 a month, while others are given unlimited use of a parent's credit card. But you can't always tell which is which by their clothes. If you live in a town big enough to have a fair-sized Goodwill Store, you'd be amazed at what you can get there. If your friends look down on this option, shop alone or with your mom, and don't tell them. Jeans, even designer brands in great shape, are dirt cheap. Dresses for homecoming or prom are often another good buy. Check out the consignment shops, too. Ebay often has nice clothes at cheap to reasonable prices. If you can get the expensive basics at these places, then you can fill in with tops and accessories from your favorite stores. Good luck!

Related: Spending, Saving, and Earning Tips for Teens

Keep the Expense Low and Still Look Great

I am in my mid-20s and own an assortment of professional, trendy, and casual clothes. However, my yearly clothing budget is probably less than $300.

One of the ways I keep clothing expenses low is that I shop primarily at second-hand stores. It requires patience, but I almost always manage to find name-brand clothing in very good condition. While I certainly couldn't fill a closet in a day, I find pieces gradually and keep my collection of clothes up-to-date for a very reasonable cost.

Not everyone is comfortable shopping second-hand. Another way you can cut down on clothing costs is to remember that most clothing is more of a want than a need. Identify your basic "needs" in clothing. If these items are good quality and easily mixed-and-matched, once you have the basics, there will be no need to invest $100 per month in new items. Therefore, a smaller amount could be chosen for a clothing "want" each month.

Another idea is to have Clothes-Swap Parties. When I was in college, a group of friends would occasionally get together and bring clothes they no longer wanted. Usually every piece of clothing was taken by someone else. Everyone got rid of things that were taking up closet space and went home with new wardrobe items.

Related: Hosting a Clothing Swap

Figure Out What's Important

My daughter has received a clothing/entertainment allowance for several years. We pay for tuition, books, and all school-related expenses. At age 16, living in Northern California, the amount is now $130 per month.

Having a fixed amount has taught her to be frugal. She knows she has to budget for gifts, entertainment, and all clothing and accessories. She frequently shops at second-hand stores, having realized she can pay $2 to $5 per item and buy many garments for $30 or she can buy just one pair of pants for $30 at Mervyns. She's not cheap. She often buys small gifts for friends, treats others to inexpensive meals out, and also frequently attends dances, movies, etc. It has been an excellent learning experience.
Becky in San Jose, CA

Use Teen Clothing to Create Your Own Style

Your parents are wise to give you the responsibility of shopping for your own clothes. My daughter had a similar arrangement, but we only gave her $70 and that total included money spent going out with friends.

She found a lot of good deals at second-hand stores, and when her friends discovered where she got all her "cool" clothes, they became frequent shoppers of Value Village. Sometimes you may have to be a bit creative with your finds to give them a contemporary look, but more often than not, my dd was able to find clothes that uniquely expressed her style without putting any extra work into them. Fortunately, most fashion trends of the past are recycling themselves at a feverish pace, so it's not difficult to find what you are looking for at second-hand stores. My daughter ended up having money left over at the end of the month.

After awhile, it became very difficult for her to spend $40 on a t-shirt or $80 on a pair of jeans. Within a few months, she accumulated enough money to buy a good quality MP3 player.

The coolest thing about all of this is that she has impeccable taste and always dresses slightly ahead of the fashion trends (she compares fashion styles on the Internet before she shops). Had she just "gone to the mall" and mindlessly shopped, she wouldn't have had to use her creative juices to come up with a style that's definitely her own. I hope that you will see your parent's budget as a challenge and an opportunity and have fun with it.

Related: Teen Money Making Opportunities

Staying Frugal and Trendy with Teen Clothing

Here's some tips to save money on clothes and stay trendy at the same time:

  1. Learn how to mix and match your clothes. The layered look is so hot right now and you can make tons of different combinations with the same pieces. Put on your favorite music one night and just try on all your clothes in alternate matches and see what you can come up with.
  2. Shop by the seasons. I usually buy one or two outfits per season, always buying pieces that I can incorporate into my existing wardrobe. The trick is to wait until almost the end or the very end of the season when the stuff goes on sale. You can pick out the clothes you really like at the beginning of the season and keep an eye on them until the price drops. The price always drops. And remember, window shopping is always free.
  3. Keeping your look fresh is super-important, but train your eyes to look for longer lasting trends. Don't buy something just because everyone else is wearing it this week. Not only will you end up looking like a "wanna-be," but also you will be stuck with an outdated outfit next week.
  4. Check out the upscale stores and catalogs to get the style, and then go find it at a discount store.
  5. Vintage! This style has only continued to get hotter and hotter, now with the 80s back in. Part of the fun of finding your own personal style is rummaging through bins of used clothes with your friends.

This is where you can really be creative with what you wear. As you get older, you will realize that the coolest looking kids are the ones that can pull together unique styles with varied and accessible resources. If you live in a metropolitan area, there should be many different places to check out, but you might also want to head for the countryside and visit the resale shops of churches, etc. Many times, those are the untapped resources of vintage clothes.

Related: 10 Secrets of Thrift Store Shopping

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Negotiate and Budge

I am a 23-year-old senior in college and I love buying clothes. Unfortunately, I am not able to spend much in that part of my budget. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Get a part-time job at your favorite clothing store. You can earn some extra money and get great store discounts, too.
  2. Negotiate an allowance that they are likely to say yes to with the option of earning more if you do extra chores, etc.
  3. Shop around and online for the best deals when you buy. I work in a mall and have all the greatest sales of the year memorized. Also, it doesn't hurt to call and ask when the next sale is taking place.
  4. Consignment Shops! I have one that I go to that always has the tags still on the clothing. I can get a new name brand top for $3!

Remember that you are asking your parents for their hard-earned money and that they may not be as open to the idea as you are. As long as you negotiate and budget, you can still have a great wardrobe.

Reviewed February 2018

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