As a self-proclaimed fashion enthusiast, I love developing my personal style. Of course, a natural follow for a love of style is love for shopping. But as a student, I am also on a tight budget. What happens when an interest in the sartorial clashes with the need for economic sensibility?
Ok. Maybe not really. But it can certainly feel like it sometimes (#firstworldproblems). Over the years, I have come up with a few strategies that help me navigate this conflict. These tricks allow me to feel fly and sassy while still having money left over for what really matters--namely, food. And rent. But mostly food. Among other things.
My 8 "tricks" for style on a budget:
1. I make sure to know my own style as it relates to the contents of my closet
This process is twofold: first, I find that it helps to (as cheesy as it sounds) make an inspiration board on Pinterest where I can get a visual sense of the look I like.
Secondly, knowing what I already have allows me to both compare pieces on the inspiration board to items I already own, along with to envision how I can use these items in new ways.
This approach helps me save both time and money, as it:
1. Helps me get dressed in a more efficient manner and
2. Keeps me from buying things that don't fit the aesthetic I am trying to achieve or repurchasing items I already own.
2. Take advantage of end of season sales
Many retailers hold huge sales at the end of each season. This is particularly so during the winter and summer.
The key here is to think strategically when purchasing sale items. For example: if I purchase a sweater at half price at the end of January/beginning of February, I will probably wear that sweater regularly for at least another three months before I need to put it away for the summer (and it will still be in close-to-new condition in the fall). Similarly, if I purchase a dress or light top at the end of July/beginning of August, I will likely use it for another month or so before needing to put it away.
I found these flats for 50% off at an end of season sale at Zara a few falls ago. Oddly enough, I always bring them out in the spring!
Which segues nicely into number 3:
3. Have both an open mind and a strategy when shopping sales
Many sale items are from the last season, or maybe even the end of the previous year. This doesn't have to mean that they are out of style or not worth having a look at. I try to go for along with items with a classic style and color (so for me, black) when shopping the sales, as trendy pieces will become outdated in a few months time.
I also like to strategize my shopping based on my lifestyle. As I currently live in a colder climate, this means prioritizing warm coats over say, summer dresses. The best time to shop for coats? The summer sales. I found two of the coats I wear the most at summer sales for 50 and 70% off online. Was it weird to order a down coat in the middle of July? Absolutely. Did I regret when I pulled it out in November and wasn't freezing my butt off? No way!
...which coincides with...
4. Shop smart at the sales
This one has been trotted out many times before, and that is because it is true: don't buy something simply because it is on sale--regardless of price point.
I used to be the worst about seeing an amazing markdown on something I only kind of liked, only to buy it and never use it. When shopping sales, I apply the same rules I apply to full price items, namely, I ask The Three Questions.
Which brings us to number 5:
5. Ask yourself these three questions before buying an item
When I try on a new piece of clothing, I ask myself The Three Questions:
1. Do I love it?
2. Will I use it?
3. Can I put together at least three outfits in my head using pieces I already own?
If the answer isn't YES! to all three, back on the rack it goes!
6. Pay closer attention to material quality than label
Quality over quantity! Fashion lovers tend to get hung up on the notion that a higher price tag or exclusive name brand are indicators of higher quality (raises hand: guilty!). But this does not have to be the case if one has a good eye when scoping the racks on the high street. Natural fibers like wool, cotton, etc. are always a safe bet. If you can find a budget piece in a nice, natural material that has a great fit, I say go for it! One of my favorite bags is a leather purse I found at Lindex for 250 kr. The findings give away that it is a budget item, but the overall look of it is more high end.
Lindex doesn't carry my exact purse anymore, but us mere mortals can find a similar budget version here (adlink) or here (not an adlink).
Conversely, even an expensive piece in a chintzy fabric will look start to look cheap after it is worn more than a few times, so I avoid paying top dollar for those pieces.
7. Pick and choose what to splurge and what to save on
I'm of the opinion that stylish, well-made leather shoes and bags can make an outfit look chic and expensive if properly put together. So I tend to spend a bit more on shoes and bags, and save on actual pieces of clothing. (With the exception of a good pair of jeans. If I find jeans that fit the right way, I have to get them!). When buying from stores in a lower price range, I always stick to neutral colors like gray, black, or white. For some reason, these colors tend to look less "cheap," especially when styled in a nice, clean way.
8. Don't spend money on trends, but instead on classic basics that can be worn for many years
Another tried-and-true tip. But it is good advice! I generally don't follow trends religiously, but if there is a particular one that I am interested in, I will find a low-cost alternative or wait until the item is on sale (and if it is no longer on trend by the time it goes on sale, I probably do not want it anyway).
So that's it! Eight tricks I use to help keep myself on budget when developing my style. Most have been around for a while, but I find that it helps to refer to them and add my own twist where needed. Because personal style is just that--personal!
What are your favorite tricks for shopping on a budget?