Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016 In Review: How I Spent My Money

Previous years: 2014; 2015

Although this post is ostensibly about my sewing budget for 2016, there's a big overlap between my money management and how I manage my fabric stash. These, therefore, were my three money and fabric stash related goals for 2016:
  • Stick to my 2016 budget and reduce my spending on patterns compared to 2015:
  • Reduce garment stash to less than 150m (from ~193m at the end of 2015).
  • Use at least two thirds of 2016 fabric purchases within 2016.
Tragically, this is a post full of how I failed to realize any of these goals! /o\

In both previous years of reviewing how I spent my sewing budget I started out by patting myself on the back for being at or very near what I'd planned to spend for the year. Not so much in 2016 -- I went over budget by a pretty epic 18%! D: I gave myself the same amount of money as last year, so that's a big overspend. I should note that it's not really a problem, exactly. My budget in this case is self-imposed rather than being about hitting the limits of my resources -- I'm not over here choosing between buying food and buying buttons or anything! However, I know that when I overspend compared to the (generous) budget I set myself it often turns out I've bought things I didn't really need, which is indeed the case this year.

Here's how my spending broke down:

Major purchases: 0%

My sewing set up didn't change this year and I made no major purchases like machines or other hardware of that type. I'm not really expecting to make any in 2017 either -- all my machines are in good shape and do everything I need. The only possible big ticket item is a tailor's dummy. Flossie (my tailor's dummy that my mum bought (and named) when she started teacher training college in the late 1960s and that she has passed on to me) will need to be replaced at some point as she's ever more rickety, but I don't think her demise is quite imminent.

Fabric: 40%

I'm over budget this year because, frankly, I bought entirely too much fabric. In 2016, I bought 120m of fabric, which, to put it into context, is my second highest total ever and just over twice what I bought in 2015. (The only year I bought more was 2012, or, as I like to think of it, that year when I didn't know what I was doing and sent my credit card into melt-down buying mostly the wrong things.) In the out-going column, this year I've used 98m of fabric, just under half of which (47m) was purchased during 2016. That's probably the most I've ever used in a year, so at least I had that going for me to counterbalance my over-purchasing. I finished the year on 217.8m in stash, so absolutely nowhere near my 150m goal. :(

Some thoughts on my fabric buying this year:
1. I did a lot of stress fabric buying this year. I did a lot of stress everything this year -- stress eating, stress fabric buying, stress cleaning, you name it. 2016 was just a really stressful year. On the whole I'm not a big believer in distracting myself from stress by buying stuff, as much as anything because I don't think it works, so I'm kind of peeved that I did so this year. I apparently don't make terribly good decisions when I stress buy either, though on the whole I don't think I bought anything too outlandish in the way of fabric. What I did do was did buy some quantity of things that are not duplicates, precisely, but are certainly no more than variations on a theme. Apparently in times of stress I particularly like to buy navy/blue patterned shirting fabrics.

2. I had a goal this year to buy-to-use rather than buy-to-stash, and I legitimately did use, by my standards, a lot of fabric that I had just recently bought in the course of the year. However, because I bought so MUCH fabric, the numbers didn't really work out overall. Last year I used about 32% of the fabric I bought in 2015. This year I used about 40% of the fabric I bought in 2016. So, a small improvement, but not quite as much of one as I'd hoped.

3. On the other hand, I did do a better job this year of buying fabrics that are suitable for my current lifestyle. Almost all of the fabric 'left over' from 2016 is the sort of thing I could easily use tomorrow rather than being useful only in some fantasy life when I need a lot of work or going out clothes.

4. Obviously, I failed at my goal to reduce my overall stash, since I bought more fabric than I used. This is my third year in a row where I haven't managed any significant reduction in overall stash size. Maybe I am not made to have a small(er) stash. Every time I make a deliberate attempt to reduce the size of my stash, I seem to end up back where I started. However, I'm pretty much at the limit of my storage space and comfort level with what I have right now. I definitely need the general 2017 stash trend to be downwards, or at worst neutral.

5. I have a real 'keep this in stash because it is too nice to use' problem. This isn't a case of owning fabric that is too fancy for the easy-to-launder casual/smart-casual clothes that make up most of my wardrobe right now. I mean, I have some of that too, but it's not the main problem. The bulk of my issue is owning fabric that I have arbitrarily decided is somehow too good for me. One of the reasons I have so many navy/blue shirting fabrics is that I keep buying it, and then going oh this is so great .... I can't possibly use it! and then buying more in the hope I find one I am willing to use. This is ridiculous, so I'm going to have to get over it.
Pattern magazines: 25%

This year I had subscriptions to Burda, Knipmode and Ottobre.

I am not someone who gets great "return" from magazines, in the sense that I have a lot of magazines and most of them I've never made anything from and have no definite plans to make anything from either. However, I find the magazines to be a source of constant interest and inspiration, and, especially with Burda, it's amazing how many times I come back to an issue months/years after it was published and suddenly want to make a pattern from it. I'm therefore fine with having a large collection of magazines and continue to feel like they are a good investment. However, I did sell many of my issues of Patrones from 2013-2014 this year as I decided I wasn't ever going to use them and wanted to free up some space on my shelves.
As far as actual 2016 subscriptions are concerned, I thought Burda in particular had a GREAT year with loads of patterns that I picked out to make at some point soon as well as a good number that went on the back burner for when I am working again and need a more diverse wardrobe. On the other hand, my picks from Knipmode seem to skew heavily towards their more smart/smart-casual patterns and so very few are making it into my "make it soon" list, which is a bit disappointing.

I feel like Ottobre is probably the weakest of my subscriptions at the moment -- I wasn't wild about either of the 2016 issues. On the other hand, I wasn't wild about the 2015 issues and several of the patterns have grown on me since, so there's definitely a sleeper effect. Plus, when I look at the patterns I've used over the course of my sewing lifetime so far, Ottobre has by far the best 'return' per issue -- I come back to those magazines over and over for good quality basic patterns. Overall, for the price they charge and for a subscription of just a couple of issues per year, I still feel I get enough long-term value from Ottobre to keep it up.

Other than my three subscriptions, I also bought a handful of Burda back issues (I'm now down to just 5 back issues that I want that I don't have), as well as Burda Plus A/W 2016, which was a stand-out issue with no re-prints from the main magazine for a change. It was also, apparently the last English language Burda Plus, which is a shame. I'll have to buy the German or French edition if they release more good issues. I also bought Burda Vintage (1970s), but as much just to read/be amused by as for the patterns as I was kind of indifferent to them.

Patterns (envelope and PDF): 10%

Some of the envelope patterns I bought this year
I had very specific ideas about buying envelope and PDF patterns this year. I gave myself a very limited budget, for one thing, which I stuck to like glue (hurray for having ONE success on the budgeting front!). Mainly, however, I wanted to be very deliberate about what I bought and only get patterns that really added something new and different to my pattern collection. I also tried hard not to buy patterns for a fantasy life I don't have, so I didn't buy very many dress patterns or patterns for clothes for the career I don't have right now. I bought Big4 only in the (relatively infrequent) half prices sales to save money. I also sold (or have listed on eBay) a lot of envelope patterns I bought right back when I started garment sewing before I really had a good handle on what I want to make. My overall paper/envelope pattern stash therefore actually decreased in size, even though I did buy patterns throughout the year.

Some of the PDFs I bought this year
Overall, I am really pleased with how my pattern stash shaped up this year. I don't think there's anything left in there I don't want to make at some point. Apart from one random maxi skirt envelope pattern I bought while in the grip of fierce insomnia, I think all my purchases this year were either interesting, different, or usefully filled a gap in my pattern collection. If I can repeat this trick next year, that would be great.

Notions (14%), Knitting (5%), Books (5%), Other (2%)

The rest of my spending is split between four minor categories, and I'm pretty happy with what I bought and how much I spent in each. I did spend more on notions this year than usual because (a) I bought a huge bulk purchase of interfacing in September and (b) it seemed like I had to replace all kinds of little things (like overlocker blades) at various points in the year and over the course of 12 months all those small purchases added up. That said, there's nothing really in these numbers that concerns me or that I think I need to address next year.

In conclusion: I need to calm the hell down on the fabric buying side of things next year. I have pleeeeeenty of fabric to start sewing up as 2017 gets under way, especially if I can get myself over my mental block about the 'too nice for me' fabric. I also need to make sure I keep up the discipline on the pattern buying front, because I feel like it worked out very nicely for me this year overall. Everything else I think is ticking along nicely at about the right level of spend.


  1. I don't know why, but I absolutely adore your end of year "money spent"posts. It must be the pie charts.?! So much so, that every year I decide to keep track of every cent that I spend on sewing. Then I remember I suck at follow through.

    Maybe this year, she said with fingers crossed.

    1. Well, I'm glad you are entertained by it! :D I never think of my budgeting/planning as being particularly notable, because I've been tracking my spending for decades. The only difference is now that I have a blog I show other people my pie charts!

  2. I am impressed that you keep such good records of your purchases. You have inspired me to do the same. I think if I know I will have to account for it on paper, then I will think twice about actually purchasing it! Happy sewing in the new year!

    1. It definitely keeps my spending under control to see how things are adding up over the year (although apparently not enough to stop me going over budget this year!). Hope you enjoy your sewing in 2017! :D

  3. I am impressed at your record-keeping as well! Whilst I do not have a sewing budget, I did track how much fabric I bought this year and its cost. O_O Some things are better left as mysteries. LOL

    1. Yes, I definitely cringed mightily when I saw how much I'd bought this year! Perhaps it would have been better to draw a gently veil of obscurity over my fabric purchasing! :D

  4. First, I am in awe (and have been for forever) of your record keeping. I aspire to such organization. Second, I am desperately in love with that scarf you knit for your SIL - it is gorgeous!

    1. Thank you! :D I hasten to add though that while there are some things I am super organized about there are many others where I am a complete mess!

      (And that scarf is great isn't it? I am pretty much certain to make the second one with my leftover yarn. What a shame (!) I accidentally ordered too much! (It really was an accident, but a very happy one!))