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Cost Per Wear: The True Cost Of Your Clothes

The Cost Per Wear is a powerful concept that lets you understand the real price of your clothes. It can also help you compare two potential purchases to decide which is more cost-effective.

Because a lower price doesn’t always mean you actually spend less. And vice versa, a higher price doesn’t mean you spend more overall. That’s where the Cost Per Wear comes in place.

In order to get the most out of your wardrobe and your clothing budget, you must understand the Cost Per Wear method!

What Is Cost Per Wear

The Cost Per Wear (CPW) is a formula that tells you how much does it cost to wear an item of clothing based on the price of the item and the number of times you wore it. The more you wear something, the lower its Cost Per Wear going to be. If you wear something only once, its CPW is the full price of the item.

It gives you a clearer understanding of your clothing purchases because two items might cost the same, but the one you’ll wear more often is going to be a much better investment.

How To Calculate Cost Per Wear

To calculate the Cost Per Wear of a piece of clothing you have to divide the original cost of the item (plus maintenance and tailoring costs if there’s any) by the number of times you wore (or planning to wear) it. We want the CPW to be as low as possible for your clothes to be cost-effective.

For example, if you have a pair of jeans you bought for $100 and you wore it 100 times, the CPW of those jeans is $1. So instead of a one-time $100 purchase, you should think of it as paying $1 every time you wear those jeans.

With this in mind, if you were to wear these jeans only 50 times, the Cost Per Wear would be $2 (so paying 2 bucks every time you wear those jeans). However, if you wear them 200 times, the cost per wear becomes only $0.50.

As you can see, the price of an item doesn’t say much about whether or not it was a good investment. You also need to consider how many times you wear it!

Here are a few more examples to show you how Cost Per Wear works in different situations:

In the first example, you can see that even if you buy more expensive clothes, you’ll end up spending the same amount in the long term if you increase the number of times you wear them.

The second example shows that even if two items cost the same that doesn’t mean they ACTUALLY cost the same… A pair of jeans you can wear multiple times a week for 2-3 years is a much better investment than a trendy dress that you’ll wear once a week for a season, and maybe a couple of extra times here and there. And this was still a very generous estimation.

Avoid The Biggest CPW Mistake

There’s only one thing you should pay real attention to when estimating the Cost Per Wear of a potential purchase: don’t overestimate how many times you’re going to wear something! Be realistic!

Take a T-shirt as an example. People often estimate they’ll wear it once a week, so 52 times a year. Is that true? Yes, if you only have 7 tops, and wear one each day, of course. But we usually have way more than that.

I own 19 tops which means I will wear a new top 18-19 times per year on average. With this 18 wears instead of 52, I’ll get a much higher CPW, but the result will be more realistic!

What’s Up With The Items You Never Wore?

Since you can’t divide with 0 maybe you should take this time and reflect on why you keep buying clothes you don’t need.

No, seriously. Even though buying clothes and never wearing them is considered normal in our society, it’s still an unhealthy behavior. Not to mention, it’s very damaging for the environment… And for your bank balance as well!

Is there a hole in your life that you try to fill with clothes? They won’t help, I know, because I’ve been there. Try to work on the real issue instead!

How To Lower Cost Per Wear

Following the Cost Per Wear formula, there are two possibilities to lower the CPW of an item.

The first option is to buy cheaper clothes. And it’s basically what most people do: try to buy clothes for as cheap as possible. But here’s the thing: cheaper clothes are usually of worse quality and don’t last that long. So you might end up wearing them less which might even raise the CPW.

The second option is actually even more simple and that’s where the real magic happens: wear your clothes more! Instead of buying new clothes try to wear the ones that are already in your closet as many times as possible!

When you avoid buying something new you obviously save that amount of money. But using the Cost Per Wear formula you can see that you don’t only save money not buying new clothes, your old clothes are also getting cheaper every time you wear them! And that’s mind-blowing!

Cost Per Wear If You Resell Your Clothes

Reselling your clothes when you don’t want to wear them anymore (instead of donating) can also lower the Cost Per Wear. Here’s how reselling changes the formula:

The Benefits Of The Cost Per Wear Mindset

Save Money

CPW helps you to get the most out of your clothes. Estimating the Cost Per Wear of your potential purchases will help you make better investments and avoid unnecessary spendings.

Save Time

Whether you buy a $10 T-shirt and wear it 10 times or buy a $50 T-shirt and wear it 50 times, the Cost Per Wear is $1 in both cases. However, in the case of the $10 T-shirt, you have to make a decision and make a purchase five times, instead of only once. If it only takes 10 minutes to make each purchase, you still save 40 minutes by choosing the “more expensive” T-shirt.

Make Smarter Purchases

Shopping is fun and it’s also emotional. But how often do we end up regretting buying something later? Very often, am I right? So maybe it’s better to get real with yourself before buying something, calculate the potential Cost Per Wear and realize it isn’t worth buying that cocktail dress you’d wear only once or twice (even if it’s super cheap). But maybe you decide you’ll invest in that more expensive but gorgeous blazer you’re going to be able to wear to work (and feel amazing in) every other day.

Look Better

CPW will help you think about your clothes in the long-term instead of seasonal trends and impulse purchases. With this more slow fashion approach, you’ll evidently define your personal style and stick to that instead of buying everything you like and then not wearing 90% of it.

That doesn’t mean you can’t purchase trendy clothes. But you should aim for choosing the trends that will fit into your style and won’t look outdated even after their hype is over.

You might also choose to buy more quality clothes that are well-tailored. As opposed to cheap fast fashion clothes, these will keep looking amazing even after you’ve washed them a couple of times.

Check out these slow fashion YouTube channels to help you develop your style!

Help The Environment

Wearing your clothes more will result in less textile waste, you can also purchase high-quality, sustainable clothes that have a lower environmental impact. When purchasing something no matter how inexpensive it is, you should aim for getting at least 30 wears out of that item.

What Is An Average Cost Per Wear

An average American buys 68 items of clothing, which is 5.67 items per month. An average person spends $161 per month on clothing. If we divide $161 by 5.67 we’ll see that the average price people pay for an item is $28.40. On average, people wear each item only seven times before discarding it. So the average Cost Per Wear is $28.40 divided by 7 which is $4.06!

$4.06 is a huge CPW! Those 20-bucks purchases might seem insignificant at the moment but imagine this instead: instead of thinking of your clothes as one-time purchases think of paying for them every time you dress up in the morning. Dressing up in the morning is way less exciting than shopping. You dress up in the morning, you put on a T-shirt, jeans, a sweater, a pair of sneakers, a jacket, and you grab your purse: that’s 6 items. Each item has an average of $4.06 CPW (which is how much you pay for every wear). So altogether you pay 6 times $4.06 which equals $24.36.

An average person spends $24.36 every single morning on getting dressed!

What Cost Per Wear Should You Aim For

The optimal Cost Per Wear will be different for everyone, and it depends on two things: your clothing budget and how many items you wear a day.

Here’s a simple example: Jenny works at an entry-level job, but she loves clothes, so she decided her monthly clothing budget should be $120. She loves to wear accessories to make her outfits a little different every time, so she wears on average 8 items a day. 

With a $120 clothing budget, Jenny can spend daily $4 on her outfits. With a $4 daily wear cost and 8 items worn per day, Jenny should aim for an average Cost Per Wear of $0.50.

Here’s the formula to calculate your ideal CPW:

What does the number of items worn in a day have to do with all this? Why does it matter?

Imagine if you wear more items (usually, this means more accessories) a day, it means you actually need to have more items in your wardrobe. So evidently, you’ll have to fit more items purchased in your budget.

From now on, you can simply decide whether or not it’s worth buying a piece of clothing by simply calculating its expected Cost Per Wear. If the expected CPW is higher than your optimal CPW, don’t buy it, if it’s lower, you’re good to go!

But you’re probably tired of all the math by now, so I won’t make you calculate your optimal CPW budget! You can simply see this table to get an estimate:

Your Optimal CPW Monthly Clothing Budget
$30 $60 $90 $125 $250 $375 $500
How many items you wear a day 5 $0.20 $0.40 $0.60 $0.83 $1.66 $2.49 $3.32
6 $0.17 $0.34 $0.51 $0.69 $1.38 $2.07 $2.76
7 $0.14 $0.28 $0.42 $0.60 $1.20 $1.80 $2.40
8 $0.13 $0.26 $0.39 $0.52 $1.04 $1.56 $2.08
9 $0.11 $0.22 $0.33 $0.46 $0.92 $1.38 $1.84
10 $0.10 $0.20 $0.30 $0.42 $0.84 $1.26 $1.68

Taking a look at this table now it’s even clearer why that the average CPW of $4.06 is enormous! It means an average person already spends more on clothes than they should with a monthly budget of $500!

To Recap

  • Instead of only looking at the price of an item, consider how many times you’ll wear it, and calculate its Cost Per Wear (CPW).
  • CPW = the cost of the item (including tailoring, maintenance, dry cleaning, etc.) / number of times it’s worn
  • The lower the CPW the more money you save.
  • Sometimes higher price means lower CPW and vice versa.
  • The average CPW is $4.06 which is extremely high.
  • Use the table to calculate the CPW you should aim for based on your budget.

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