Style Bloggers <3 Budgeting: Jen of Librarian for Life and Style
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m Jen, an academic librarian who loves books, movies, fashion, cats, travel, roses, Nancy Drew, Jane Austen, and chapstick.
In early 2012, I began my style blog, Librarian for Life + Style, chronicling my personal style journey as a librarian on a budget. I am an American born abroad (Dubai, UAE) who grew up in Texas — so I say “y’all” a lot!
I have also lived and worked in Wisconsin and Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. Home is now Portland, Oregon.
I love to travel, and I love to bring back either a piece of jewelry or an item of clothing from places I visit, so that my wardrobe is full of memories and different style influences!
What’s your money motto and where did you learn about budgeting?
I am quite practical about almost everything — I am a librarian, after all! — and that includes money and budgeting.
“I live within my means, and saving money is a mindset I’ve had and grown up with my entire life.”
I learned about budgeting from my mom, who is also a librarian! (She’s a school librarian for K-12.)
[Editor: I love that you took after your mother’s profession.]
Do you create a clothing/wardrobe budget and how did you come about the method?
Yes, my husband and I do budgeting together.
We separate things into a “monthly budget” (expected monthly expenses like groceries, mortgage, etc.) and a “long-term budget” (with categories that may fluctuate month to month but have an annual cap).
The clothing line is part of our long-term budget, so whatever we spend each month gets subtracted from the overall annual total.
“If there’s anything left over at the end of the year, then that goes into savings.”
We adapted our monthly budget process from a budget method I first learned from my mom; she literally sat me down before we got married and taught me her monthly budget process — something I am still grateful for!
My husband and I added the long-term budget several years ago after I attended a budget session at a professional development conference for working women.
You can see my most recent yearly clothing total here in my December budget post.
My clothing budget for 2015 was $1000, and I had spent $749 at the end of the year.
I also keep track of how much I save on clothing purchases throughout the year — savings through a combination of sales, coupons or promo codes, thrifting, and fashion-swapping — and my total savings for last year totalled over $3400!
What do you like to shop for and why?
I like shopping with a goal in mind — or with a gift card!
My husband, Sam, and I have developed a good shopping method together — he is really helpful on shopping trips!
I will give him a specific goal, like “Look for dark denim jackets,” and he will go and gather things around the store while I do the same thing, and then we come back together and go through the stack before I try things on.
[Editor: That is so sweet!! *melts*]
He is also not afraid to give his opinions on things I try on, which I highly appreciate, and he gets a big kick out of when I buy something he has picked out.
“For myself, my favorite thing to shop for is shoes.
Even if I don’t end up buying them, I just love seeing pretty shoes up close and see how they’re constructed.”
My favorite thing to shop for overall is clothing for my husband!
We don’t go shopping as often for him, but it’s always fun, especially when I get to sit and and see him try things on.
Is there anything you hate shopping for? Why?
Hmmmmm…. probably undergarments and shapewear.
It’s almost always an awkward, time-consuming, and frustrating process. I am a pear-shaped woman, so sizing for me is completely different when it comes to tops vs. bottoms.
What is the all-time best and worst item(s) you’ve purchased and what have you learned from its purchases?
This is a hard question!
The first thing that comes to mind for an “all-time best” purchase is the tall boots I purchased three falls ago, in fall 2013, seen here.
I purchased the same style of tall, flat-soled riding boots in both black and cognac leather.
I have bigger calves, so it can be difficult finding tall boots that fit.
These Marc Fisher boots that I bought at Macy’s were a major purchase for me, as I bought both pairs at the same time (but I also took advantage of a sale).
Together, they cost me $225, with each pair of boots $112.49, marked down from $169 apiece. The cost-per-wear today is very low, as I have worn one or both pairs of these boots every week for the past three falls, winters, and early springs.
One of my most disappointing purchases was the pair of cherry red jeans I bought at one of my favorite resale shops last January, as seen here.
I loved the color and loved the fit when I tried them on in the store.
But after wearing them twice, I realized the jeans had totally stretched out around the waist in a very unflattering way — except if I could wear something larger on top that could hide the waist.
Well, that wasn’t going to work for me in the long run, so I donated the jeans to a fashion swap this past fall. I am still on the hunt for red jeans.
[ Editor: If you ever find them, let me know, I want to recreate this look.]
Do you ever go off track from your budget? If so, how do you recover from it and fix the situation (if at all)?
Yes, some months I spend more, and some months I spend less. I put the monthly budget total — and savings — at the bottom of my monthly budget posts.
But that’s where having the clothing budget as part of our long-term budget helps, because I have the annual cap in mind and know that if I overspend one month, I can spend less down the road.
Your 1-3 favourite outfits and how much each item cost in each photo.
Ooooh, this is a hard one!
I do monthly retrospective posts, and I choose a monthly favorite, but it’s hard to choose overall favorites. I went through my galleries from 2012-2015, and chose 3 favorite outfits.
“I also still have every single item of clothing in these favorite outfits!”
Sept. 2012 Stripes & Florals = $81
April 2014 Retro Inspirations = $343
June 2015 Orange Floral = $71.99
Your 5 favourite places to shop (offline and online)
Currently, my 5 favorite places to shop are:
- Here We Go Again, a local resale boutique, which also has an online shop. Resale shops usually carry higher-quality items than thrift stores, so it’s worth to check out resale shops in your local area.
- ModCloth website, especially because of the customer reviews
- LOFT, good-quality clothing for working women
- Macy’s, lots of options for both professional and casual clothing — and they’re always having sales for Macy’s card holders
- Out of Print Clothing, clothing and accessories with literary themes, so it’s always fun to check out their site. They also donate a book to a community in need for every item sold, a cause this librarian definitely supports!
What is the one best piece of advice you can give to someone starting out in budgeting?
“Start out as realistic as you can given your current monthly salary and budget.”
On your phone or in a notebook, have a running list of items you’d like to purchase, as well as a list of items you’d like to replace in your closet (like a well-loved pair of black trousers) to help avoid impulse purchases.
But also allow a little bit of your monthly budget for “fun stuff” (like a piece of chocolate after lunch or a scarf in a fun and cheerful print) so you don’t feel like you are sacrificing yourself and not getting any joy out of life.
You can also save money on clothing by taking advantage of thrift/resale shops and fashion swaps with friends.
Thank you so much for participating, Jen!
Want to read more interviews?
Here’s mine and the rest of them are here.
About “Style Bloggers <3 Budgeting”:
I love shopping. I love budgeting.
I love the idea of the two marrying.
Thus, Style Bloggers <3 Budgeting was born.
I want to bring to you different viewpoints of people who love fashion & style (like myself) but also want to make it work on a budget.
We all have different budgets, shopping personalities, styles and ways of looking at things, and it is fascinating to peer into the mind of others and to maybe grab some inspiration & sneak a peek into their wardrobe.
Are you a style blogger who would like to participate?
Contact me here or leave a comment.
The only pre-requisite is you must be a style blogger of some sort, whether you post outfits on Instagram only (like me) or do it on your blog itself.
The retro outfit is too cute!
Mattie @ Northwest Native
I’ve read Jen’s blog from the budget linkup but I think I forgot she lives in Portland!! I’m super excited to know she’s a fellow Portland blogger! I love her retro inspirations look! It’s perfect with her hair and red lipstick.
Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style
Hey there, fellow Portland blogger! I just added you to my ‘Oregon Style Bloggers’ blog love roll 😀
Great and so interesting to see how other fashion lovers shopping strategies work for them!
Loved the interview and the strategies. We’re also not so preoccupied with shopping either, especially for ourselves (we do tend to sometimes overspend when it comes to our daughter). We have clothing that’s in great condition, even if 5-10 years old.As long as it fits and looks OK, we’re happy 😀
Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style
Thanks so much for contacting me for an interview! It was fun to re-read — and I love your editor’s comments! 😀
Erin @ Loop Looks
This is a great series! Thanks for featuring Jen so that I could find out about it. I love the idea of finding three outfits you love and breaking down the total cost of each.
I was really bad about budgeting in the past but this year I made a plan to only shop with gift cards or store credit and so far I’ve stuck to it!