An Odd Lesson From Swimwear

While on vacation last week with my wife we had a discussion on if I would be interested in buying one of those ‘classic’ pattern Hawaiian shirts.  I flatly refused since I knew I would never wear the shirt off that island.  Yet we did come up with an alternative idea that I should perhaps look for some swimwear if I could find a pattern that I wouldn’t mind owning.

So in the end I did find a new pair of swimming shorts and while trying those new shorts out on the beach my wife and I tried to puzzle out exactly how old my ‘old swimwear’ was.  Best we can figure is I’ve had the same pair of navy swim shorts since  about 2001.  Which would mean I got about 10 years of use from those shorts.  Ironically I didn’t even need to replace them as they were still in great shape, but I still recall I bought those shorts for about $20.  The new shorts came in slightly lower at $15.

Therefore my old swim shorts have managed an average cost of about $2/year, which is a fairly good given the fact while I don’t swim daily in the shorts I do use them a fair bit over the summer.  In order to keep up that average cost my new shorts will need to last about 7.5 years which may in fact be entirely possible.

So this got me thinking why don’t we do this for every piece of clothing we own?  What would happen if you honestly wore a piece of clothing until it developed a hole or rip that could not be fixed.  How long do you think your daily clothes would last for? Perhaps five years for higher use items and then up to a decade for less commonly used items.  So overall if you buy a pair of jeans for $20 and they last for five years that would be a cost of $4/year.  Then perhaps dress pants would last five years and cost about $30 to $40, which would run you $6 to $8/year. You get the idea.

If then you did that for each item you could likely build a basic set of clothes (not including outer wear or footwear which the cost will vary on where you live) for about $150 to $300/year.  Which would mean you could be financially independent with respect to your clothes for the bargain price of  $3500 to $7500 (based roughly on the 4% rule).

This isn’t to say everyone would like to do this, but it certainly give you something to think about the next time you go clothing shopping doesn’t it?  So how often due you buy new clothes?

7 thoughts on “An Odd Lesson From Swimwear”

  1. Tim, I wish I could say the same – and probably could if I wasn’t bouncing around with the weight from size 6 to 10 like a freaking yoyo.

  2. I buy almost all my clothes at the Goodwill, Sally Ann, and dress/office clothes at higher end consignment shops. You can often find brand new, never-been-worn items still with store hangtags (see above weight yo-yo-ing rationale: “It’s only 2 sizes too small but I’m going to lose the weight, so I can buy this on sale”, and a year later off it goes to the Goodwill. Big bargain, right… for me!

    I’ve been figuring out the pro-rated cost of higher-priced items on a per wear basis for 20 or 30 years. Sure helps when confronted with something super-expensive that you just have to have. Also necessary to develop is the discipline of walking away for 10 or 15 minutes, or a day, when confronted with a must-have item and money burning a hole in my pocket, and then usually what happens is I’ve forgotten all about it. So, yeah, it was REALLY important to own, eh?

    The only thing I will pay good money for are really good-quality, comfortable shoes to protect my knees and back, but I’ll first check out consignment stores. If my feet are happy, then I’m happy.

  3. Re weight yo-yo-ing: Gary Taubes has a new book out “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” and a new blog — referencing all the science on nutrition and weight for the last 200 years — the result is that we (humans and animals) are not evolved to eat high carbs — sugar and starch — and weight gain is the result. It certainly works for me — on low carb I lose the excess easily and gain a pound if I eat a piece of bread or a bar of chocolate.

  4. DLM, although I agree with a lot of Taubes’ work, I’m not so much in agreement with the “carbs are the devil” argument.
    I’ve read research on his research that shows he has his own selective bias.
    Having said that, I follow a fairly low carb diet myself but don’t get too anal about it.
    LOL on the buying stuff thinking you’ll fit into it someday. BTDT – no more. Same with hobbies you think you’ll do someday.

  5. I find being anal about carbs is necessary for me to keep that area from expanding so I need larger clothes. Gary Taubes 1000 pages of references and the other physicians who agree with him as well as his well presented books, lectures, etc. and my own experience are enough to convince me.

  6. I think to get fair numbers you need to give a cost / wear of an item vs cost / year. A suit you may only wear 5-10 times a year but pay $400 for, however that $40 pair of jeans get worn every week.

    The geek in me is considering a clip board in the closet to track this. You could say you will wear a piece of clothing till it’s ‘cpw'(cost per wear) is 50c or something before it’s written off. IE you wear those jeans 80 times.

  7. I am all for saving money and reducing debt but do have to draw the line somewhere. If I see clothes I like and need it I would get it – if it was on sale. Especially if it was for work – image is important too.


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