This is a guest post by Mr Credit Card from www.askmrcreditcard.com. Mr Credit Card writes about credit card reviews, debt and other money stuff. His site has lots of credit card offers and he has even compiled a best credit card offers section. Recently he interviewed me about my debt reduction effort (I’m almost there now), and today shares his thoughts on budgeting a male wardrobe for graduating guys.
As a prelude, one of the things that gets the most heated debates and arguments is whether credit cards are good or bad! Write a post like this and you will have tons of comments from folks who either love or hate them. The folks who love them say it is just a tool. If you pay it off every month and earn rewards, that is a good thing and a great deal. The folks who hate them say carrying a credit card makes you spend more and that their teaser offers suck you into the debt game. They advocate that you should live a debt free life by steering clear of credit card debt.
Despite their arguments, both camps agree that one should not have credit card debt. I belong to the camp that loves my credit cards for the rewards that they give me. I feel that the main reason why people get into credit card debt is because they succumb to impulse spending. That is almost a result of not budgeting or asking yourself if you really need what you intended to buy. When I graduated from college, one of the things I “had” to buy was some working clothes. Now, being married with kids, myself and Mrs Credit Card occasionally succumb to sales and “nice clothes” which we do not really need. Since we are ok financially, I guess it is OK to splurge once in a while. But for new graduates, I thought I’d compile a list of “must have” guy clothes so that you can use as a check list.
For anyone who has just graduated or are about to graduate, it’s probably time to take inventory of your life, goals, and yes, your wardrobe. One aspect not to neglect before you hustle off to conquer the world is budgeting for a career clothing overhaul. Odds are, you’ve been living in the same college uniform for a while. My guess is, (being a guy) your daily collegiate wardrobe consisted of a couple dozen t-shirts, several sweatshirts with frayed sleeves and odd unexplainable stains and a few pairs of jeans.
What universal items should stock a working man’s wardrobe?
For those who need a traditional suit
- Classic Suit- Start with navy or gray. For those occasions when it comes in handy, a suit is a classic and should be a staple of every man’s wardrobe. Don’t skimp on quality, but do look for bargains. My best advice would be to get a reputable “local” tailor. A reasonable price might be about $450. Forget about designer for now as the going price starts at $800 and you will probably need alterations anyway. My suggestion (if you need working suits) is to get two. Either the classic 2 button or 3 button should work.
- Crisp White or Blue Dress Shirt- One of the most useful, adaptable items you can pick up. I suggest getting at least five (more if you are lazy about the laundry). Cotton polyester mix should be good. Places like LandsEnd selling decent working dress shirts. I would stick to the basic colors white and blue. You might get away with a yellow or pink you know how to color match. One word of advice, keep your shirt crisp and immaculately white. Nothing looks worse than an off white shirt masquerading as a white shirt.
- Ties- Try to pick up a minimum of three. A solid, a diagonal stripe and a basic pattern that incorporates several colors. You probably do not want to spend $150 on a Ferragamo tie. But you do not want one that is 100% polyester and looks cheap.
- Standard Shoes and Belt- Black or Brown, but keep it coordinating. Most guys find black is more universal in their wardrobe. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and try to buy reputable quality shoes. You do not have to break the bank but there are many poor quality brands that simply wear out very fast.
- A High Quality Overcoat- Like a suit, this is an investment. Buy as good a quality as you can afford. I personally bought my first winter coat at Century 21 in New York 15 years ago and I still use it!
- Underwear – need I say more. Consider your laundry cycle and get enough so that there is always one in the drawer!
Smart Casual Attire Wardrobe
If you end up with a tech firm or a start up and does not require formal wear, then here are some suggestions.
Khaki’s – The essence of casual classic. Again, buy smart, but quality. Pick up a few pairs; you’ll be glad you did. Suggested colors would be Navy Blue and Khaki Brown
Jeans – Go with clean, modern lines. Same with Khakis, at least a couple serviceable pairs.
Polo Type Collar Shirts – Get a minimum of five (once again more if you are not good at the laundry). Basic dark colors like Blue and White will do.
Dress Shirts – You should still get dress shirts as they go very well with Khaki’s.
Shoes – Casual shoes are a little trickier. But a pair of mocs should do.
Other non essential stuff which you probably already have
- Sunglasses – Alright, unless you are a lifeguard, this is not essential. But I think it makes sense to make a mental note of how many you should have so that you do not buy a new one every month just because “it looks cool”.
- Tuxedo – You will wear it a few times in your life – wedding, friends wedding, family’s wedding, funeral, the occasional black tie party. You can decide to rent or to buy. If you buy, then get it tailor made and have the most conservative design so that if you ever get invited to the white house for a formal dinner, you can wear it. (no fancy Versace’s).
I’ll stop here but the point that I want to get across is that I think that planning what you want in your wardrobe is very important. The reason is that, aside from budgeting, it helps prevent you from impulse purchases. For example, if I know you already have 7 dress shirts and they are all in good condition, then mentally, I will not be tempted to get a new shirt even if I see a really nice one. Same goes with Khaki pants and polo collared shirts. I find myself tempted when I hang at Factory Outlets with Mrs Credit Card! But when I remind myself that I already have all the T-shirts or dress shirts, then I’ll just move on and not be tempted.
Paying for your wardrobe
Suze Orman actually did say that it was OK to put your working clothes wardrobe on a credit card and carry the balance if you cannot pay it off because it is an investment in your future. My personal advice would be to disregard what she says and save up for your wardrobe way in advance. You do not have to buy them all at once. Chances are that you have half of the items I listed. In fact, I always recommend that on major purchases, you save up for it, and when you buy them, put them on either you student credit card. Better still, charge them to a cash back credit card or gas credit card or any type of reward card to earn reward points or cash rebates! Then make sure you pay it off at the end of the month.
For guys, I suggest you forget about cutting your own bangs just to save a few bucks!
Final thoughts: So here are some tips to stay on budget track and look your career best:
Before you go out on a huge shopping spree, I suggest you:
1. Evaluate what you have – T-shirts, sweaters, underwear, jackets, jeans, take a gander at all of it and determine what has any more life or can be resurrected in another form, (as in a T under a sweater, or anything still serviceable). Do not buy what you cannot afford, which is a basic rule of shopping (and budgeting). Therefore, try to salvage what you can within reason.
2. Determine your career field-to-be – is it polished and totally professional in attire? Completely casual? Something in between? Spend a few minutes pondering that one. It will help you determine if you need trousers vs. casual pants, and/or how many of each.
3. Prepare – No matter how casual the job, odds are you are going to need a few pulled together staples for occasions such as client meetings, company events or even interviewing for a job.