I always love those fashion blogs that claim they are written for the ‘budget conscious’ girl. Sure, if your budget is about $1000/month for clothes! My budget is NOT $1000/month. Hell, it’s probably more like $150/month (if that). I’m a startup co-founder. Which means I’m lucky if I make $20,000 a year working 100 hour weeks right now (I’m banking on a big exit someday that will pay off… ).
But I also like to be on top of fashion trends. And I don’t have time to sift through Goodwill and second hand stores. I do subscribe to A LOT of flash sales and daily deals, but sometimes I have something specific in mind and when I do, I never seem to get the flash sales to satisfy the urge.
With this in mind, I just posted my Top 5 Must-Haves for this season. And guess what? I can probably get every one of them with my shopping sense. What the heck? Fur? Leather? Capes? Hats? Red boots? How?! Let me tell you how:
I never spend on a trend.
Which means that I will never spend over a certain amount of money on something that is a must-have for a season that I won’t wear past a season. I also don’t want to buy crap that is made in a country that exploits women’s labor. So how do I do this?
#1. Go to ETSY!!!
I heart Etsy.com with every fibre of my being. Sure, there is a lot of stuff on there that is way expensive. It should be. People are making a living and putting a LOT of work into their creations. But there are also quite a few newer designers that are trying to get themselves established. Those are the Etsy stores I go to. I bought this amazing Cowl Neck Pocket Tunic Dress from Emily Ryan‘s store last year for $30 less than she is selling it for now. With a designer label on it, she could sell it for 5x this price. It’s an amazing dress. Flattering. comfortable. Versatile. Great to pack. I’ll have this one for a while.
$124 is not chump change, but it is better than department store prices and you get to support a small business in North America.
#2. Shop Last Season Stores
In Canada, we have Winners. In the US, it’s TJ Maxx. In Europe, it’s TK Maxx. There are other chains and stores that do something similar. There are 10 fashion ‘drops’ per year where the designers try to sell out their lines into retailers/distributors. Winners, TJ Maxx, TK Maxx and all of those awesome flash sale sites you subscribe to get the leftovers! That means it isn’t really last season’s clothes. It’s just a few months or even weeks behind what the department stores would get.
The only caveat here is that going through a Winners is a LOT like having to go through a second hand store. It takes serious time. And you don’t get the planetary benefits of buying used. However, you DO get the fashion benefits of potentially finding that amazing faux fur handbag for $40 instead of $400 when the faux fur handbags are still hot to wear.
#3. Be Patient
This is my hardest lesson. I’ll find that perfect something that is WAY out of my price range and feel that I need it right now, so I spend my entire year’s budget on it only to find it’s exact replica popping up at H&M a month later for $20. Many of these stores: H&M, Forever 21, Zara, BEDO, etc. are in the business of knocking off really great fashion quickly. Now…I don’t want to spend all of my money at these stores because I’m afraid the way they are able to sell stuff to me so cheaply is because they use bad labor practices, but the occasional Leather Dress or other piece that would otherwise break my bank can’t hurt…right?
#4. Spend More on Staples That Last
So no matter what we say about ‘classic’ clothing, nothing really looks good forever. We either wear it out, or it looks outdated (even jeans or blazers) after about 5 years. But think about pieces you can mix and match as something you can stretch out quite far. A black v-neck sweater, a turtle neck, skinny jeans (even if they go out of style, good ones can be worn under long sweaters), a good pair of winter boots, leather gloves, scarves, strappy sandals, shift dress…all of these pieces can last for a decade. And my tailor is my best bud. Hemline too long? Baggy? Waistline too high? Take it to your tailor. He or she will update it for $20-30.
#5. Make a List
What ‘MUST YOU HAVE’ versus, “OMG…that is SO cute!”?
That’s why I make a list of the season’s staples. I don’t buy anything else unless it is a killer deal. I think about what I already have and how I want to put together my wardrobe for the next 4 months and I whittle it down to 5-8 items that I feel will present me as up-to-date fashionable while fitting in with last year’s pieces as much as possible. And then I set a budget for each that I stick within.
Then I take my time, use my patience and shop around to find the best deal for the best quality on each item. So far, I’ve found my leather leggings (Club Monaco $129 – my budget was $125), my fedora (street vendor $5 – my budget was $25) and my cape/sweater (Winners – big, floppy sweater $29.99 – my budget was $75). I am combining 3 months of clothing budget into 1 because I’m buying for the season.
Overall budget: $450
1. Colorful boots – $150
2. Fun handbag – $50
3. Leather leggings – $125 – actual – $130
4. Fedora – $25 – actual – $5
5. Cape – $100 – actual – $30
…because I bought myself a bonus (the leather dress at Bedo) for $120, but I’ve saved $85 on the other items, I may want to skip the fun handbag or look harder for a better deal on the colorful boots (though I really love the Tsubo’s that are a bit out of my budget). Or, I could give myself a break and, because I had NO money last season to do any shopping, I could let that leather dress slip and say I can spring for the Tsubo’s. But in my case, as well as many others right now, it’s not as light hearted as ‘oh well’. Going over budget means I take it out of basic living. Which means a pair of red boots can signify I don’t go to any restaurants, movies or events all month. :/
So I remind myself that the world won’t end without getting everything on my list. Nor will anyone notice but me.
At the end of the day, even though I love fashion, it is a luxury not a necessity. And though I love shopping, sometimes the pursuit is more satisfying than the purchase. Or at least that is what I’m telling myself while I’m on a budget.
So…how do you keep yourself reigned in? Do you stick to a budget? Or go wild until your credit cards are declined?