Shopping Cheaply (without looking it), part I

One of the biggest challenges of living on a budget is dressing well and having well-crafted clothing/style options without overspending. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that it’s more challenging than simply shopping sales, and simpler than cutting coupons. In other words, it can be done with a little work and know-how, and you can look like you stepped out of Neiman Marcus without ever actually stepping foot in the store. Over the years I’ve developed and honed my philosophy and methods for keeping my wardrobe up to date, with styles that mix affordable brands and expensive designers, inexpensively.

It is important first to differentiate between buying cheap and looking cheap. It is critical to know how to shop within your budget without it showing in your clothing choices. Just because you can’t afford nice doesn’t mean you can’t find and wear it. You just have to be more patient and vigilant than people who have the means to buy what they want when they want it.

1. Know what’s out there. Shop a variety of stores when you have time. Look, try it on, but don’t buy. Just keep a mental note of certain things you like and then bide your time until they hit the sale/clearance rack.

2. If you practice the above then you can approach a sale or the clearance section without feeling overwhelmed. If you’ve had your eye on a certain item, go for that item. Browse if other things catch your eye, but be careful not to overbuy just because it’s a deal. Purposeful shopping is essential to money saving!

3. To keep your clothing fresh and up to date, know what’s coming next in fashion. It doesn’t take much to observe what’s coming down the runways. You have the advantage that what will be popular isn’t popular yet and now is your chance to capitalize on that. For example, a couple of years ago I noticed ankle boots beginning to show up here and there. I bought a pair of gray suede boots on clearance from Target for about $11. Not only was I ready for the trend, but by being aware and looking for it early I was even able to extend the amount of wear I got from them by starting on it sooner than everyone else. They look very similar to these from Madewell, which retail for quite a bit more than what I paid.

4. Know what looks good. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth the money. You want to buy items that look expensive and belie their real value. This is why I shop higher-end stores and haunt their sale sections. It’s always good to have something that’s well-crafted to pull a style together, whether it’s a piece of jewelry, a scarf, a statement shoe or just a nice pair of pants to off-set that Target t-shirt. That said, expensive clothing is not essential if you have an eye and can pick pieces elsewhere that are similar to designer clothing. It is also easy to duplicate a certain look if you have a clear idea of what styles and cuts are promoted in high-end clothing. Look for similar styles when shopping elsewhere.

to be continued…

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