The Raisin Girl asked this question ages ago:
I’d love to see more on budget style. I see a lot about budget style all over the internet, but the women writing these articles seem to have much larger budgets than me. I was raised to shop clearance, to buy cheaply even if you didn’t like what you bought as much. I’ve been talked out of many items of clothing that I LOVED and would have worn endlessly, simply because they were pricier. And the weird thing is, we weren’t badly off. I could have afforded those items, but I didn’t. Now that I’m working part-time and going to school, I don’t have much extra income, so it sucks that NOW is when I learn it’s not a crime to pay more than $20 for a good pair of jeans. So basically, how do gals budget-shop, when they’re REALLY on a tight budget?
It’s true that “budget style” means one thing to the average college student and something quite different to an InStyle editor. I’ve been alarmed to find that as my income creeps slowly upward, my idea of a “bargain” shifts and morphs. There was a time when I couldn’t fathom paying more than $40 for a pair of shoes. That time is long past.
But what about the women who can’t fathom paying more than $40 for a pair of shoes, right now, today? What about the ones who can’t afford any more than that? What’s a girl on a truly strict budget to do?
- Read the Budget Babe: Love the looks you see in the mags but choke when you see the pricetags? The Budget Babe specializes in re-creating celeb looks for pennies on the dollar. And even if you don’t want to steal those outfits whole-cloth, seeing them rebuilt with affordable pieces is a great reminder that you needn’t spend big to look great.
- Invest in basics, skimp on accessories: It’s an old adage for a reason. If you love jeans and live in ‘em, fork over for a pair that fits perfectly and will last multiple years. Get a gorgeous cashmere sweater in a timeless style, and a crisp black work skirt that makes you feel amazing. But don’t fork over big bucks for accessories. You can purchase or make them for cheap, and if the foundation of your outfit is comprised of quality pieces, no one will be the wiser.
- Brave the crowds at outlet sales: Although outlet malls are great, outlet malls in the middle of a sale can be nightmarish. Totally worth it, though. Outlet products are more cheaply made than their mall counterparts, but most are still of decent quality. Find out when the sales start, arrive before the doors open, and learn to navigate the throngs.
- Visit Etsy: You’ll find vintage duds at rock-bottom prices and handmade goodies for a song. If you’ve got something specific in mind, hit Etsy first and see what a quick search yields.
- Search eBay: Although eBay is touted as a great place to find past season goods, you’d be amazed how many current season items can be bought for a fraction of retail. As always, check seller feedback … but consider eBay anytime you’re buying something online. ANYTIME.
In addition to changing your shopping and researching behavior, you can employ creative methods for procuring, altering, or creating stylish duds. A few tips can be found in my virtually free wardrobe makeover, but here are a few more:
- Thrift: In my opinion, the ultimate way to stay stylish when you’ve got limited funds is to thrift. Hit charity shops, garage sales, estate sales, and consignment shops. Are you a thrifting newbie? Here are my various thrifting how-to’s.
- Refashion: Need new shorts? Can you hack off a pair of pants you’ve already got? Want a new dress? What about hemming that maxi you never wear to knee length? Learn to see potential in the garments you already own, and make them work anew.
- Overdye: Spend $15 for four colors of dye, spend an afternoon pretending you’re a mad scientist, and voila. Dingy tees and boring skirts have new life.
- Create: Learn to knit your own infinity scarves. Learn to sew your own skirts. Learn to make your own statement necklaces from what you have in the junk drawer. Materials and labor are at a premium, I know, but investing in a clothing- or accessory-making skill is well worth it.
- Style: The catalogs that land in your mailbox can provide endless inspiration, if you let them. Don’t focus on buying what they’re hawking, focus on re-creating the outfits they’ve so thoughtfully assembled for you. Learning to be a better and more creative stylist will help make dressing fun, even if you’re working with a limited wardrobe and a limited budget.
Image courtesy SomeDriftwood.