Maintain Your Professional Clothing Yourself

 

Professional expenses are only one aspect of cash outflow, but should not be ignored in your budget. Some clothing articles like lab coats that are worn only at the workplace can be deducted from your taxes. Unfortunately it would be difficult to deduct other professional attire like shoes, skirts, suits, and shirts that could be worn in other formal settings. These expenses do add up. I know a physician who spends over $2000 a year on professional outfits and shoes! Mind you, that’s $2000 in post-tax dollars.

The only way to reduce expenses on clothing is to reduce the number of purchases you make. Obviously not spending is the simple solution, but you can also make strategic purchases that allow you to match your existing wardrobe. Each time you are at the department store or are ordering clothing online, pay attention to what you already have. Can you match the new shirt with your blouse? Would this new shirt be compatible with any of your existing ties or shoes?

The second method of cost controlling your clothing is to maintain your wardrobe as much as possible to prolong their utility. The following are tips that I have implemented over the year:

Shoes

Shoe maintenance is relatively simple yet can be costly if you have it performed by someone else. Shoe polishers at the airport typically charge at least $6 per shoeshine—add tip and it could easily be $10 each time.  It takes me approximately 5 minutes or less to polish my shoes. At a working rate of $100 an hour, you’d save $8.34 for 5 minutes of polishing your own shoes. Post-tax dollars.  Consider polishing your own shoes as discipline. Marines do it. It is low risk even if you don’t want to crack your shellac polished nails or endanger your neurosurgical hands. You also don’t need much equipment to polish your shoes:

  • Wire brush to dust off dirt and grime—I actually use a tough paper towel to wipe through any dirt build-up. Wet the towel if you have tough stains that don’t come off easily.
  • Cotton cloth to apply shoe polish—I have plenty of clean and unusable athletic socks (read: holes/torn) to use.
  • low-lint cloth to polish off the wax—again I have old dress socks and other fabric that won’t scratch leather shoes.

 

Dress shirts and collars

Professional clothing becomes unusable if it becomes faded (looks old), torn, dirty, or simply out of fashion. The simple solution is to take your clothing to dry cleaning and have them deal with it. I’ve had great experiences with my dry cleaner, but the costs add up quickly especially if you are hitting up your dry cleaner every week or two. Unless you are wading in mud, your clothing should not be “dirty”. Many “dry clean only” clothing can still be immersed in water to clean out sweat or stains. Target areas in shirts include the collar (sweat accumulated from marathoning through 60 patients a day in your dermatology clinic) or the occasional coffee stain and armpit sweat. Here’s what I do to clean my dress shirts:

  • Gentle immersion in water (as soon as possible after a rough clinic day) with some laundry soap to clean off targeted sweat areas.
  • Resoak in clean water to rinse off any detergent
  • Targeted stain remover in the collar—let it soak for a few minutes.
  • Scrub collar gently. I use an old brushhead from my Clarisonic brush. The bristles are gentle enough not to cause piling but effective in stain removal.
  • Rinse stain remover from collar (should be pretty clean!)
  • Hang dry. If you are concerned that the fabric will stretch, hang horizontally on a drying rack.

Most of my dress shirts have a component of polyester in the fabric and do not require ironing.

Wrinkle removal – Ironing tips

Sometimes your clothes do become wrinkled after washing, and requiring ironing. Water and steam do wonders in straightening out cotton articles. I usually simply keep water in an atomizer, spray onto the clothing, and iron on medium heat, making sure that whatever I am ironing can tolerate the level of heat. Full cotton clothing can tolerate high settings and require it to straighten out.

Any tips to offer on clothing maintenance and smart money tips? Sound out below!

Do you want to get the latest Smart Money MD posts in you inbox?
Get the FREE Smart Money MD Financial Cheatsheet for signing up!
Tags: