Monday, 23 April 2012


Hi everyone!! Today's post is all about how to shop without breaking the bank. Because, let's be honest. I'm a student, I'm broke and my student loans aren't about to repay themselves. But the fact is, I really like to shop. Correction, I love to shop. Obviously not in the same way that I love my family (read: pretty close), but clothes make me feel happy, pretty and creative. So instead of selling my organs on the black market to feed my need, I've devised a guide to budget buying. The first three rules focus on how to save money before you leave the house, while the last seven show you how to shop smart. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present ten simple rules to shop by.
Whether or not you're on a budget, you want to cultivate an organized, cohesive wardrobe over time. Think of the 70/30 rule; about 70 percent of your wardrobe should be reserved for classic, timeless pieces. These things could include a well-fitted t-shirt, a great pair of sexy jeans, a tailored blazer or a beautiful sweater. Fill up the rest of your closet (the remaining 30 percent) with fun accessories, trendy items and statement pieces, like a studded dress, an edgy leather jacket or a pair of pink snakeskin pumps.

The trick is to keep all of this in mind while you're shopping. What do you need to complete your wardrobe? Is there something that you've had your eye on for a while? Try keeping a wishlist on your phone or in your day book. This will remind you of what you really want to spend your money on and prevent any impulse buys that you may regret later. In short, you can save money by keeping your eye on the prize.
The problem with an unplanned shopping spree is that it can lead to unplanned spending. No matter how badly you want something, you have to pay for it eventually. So ask yourself... 'Can I afford this?' If the answer is anything other than 'yes', move on. This doesn't mean that you can't have it ever, you just can't have it now. Put it on your wishlist and give yourself a couple of days to mull it over. Chances are, it won't seem that great once the fever passes.

Remember, some things are worth going into temporary debt over (houses, children, traveling overseas to de-worm orphaned babies, etc.), but other things just aren't worth it (shoes, bags, a really cute leather dress that you swear you'll wear more than once, etc.)
This rule may seem silly, but it's actually a crucial step towards shopping smarter! If you know your body, understand your proportions and accept the styles that do and don't flatter your figure, you will avoid wasting money on things that you'll never wear. If it fits your body, your style and your budget, then buy it. If it's on sale, but it hangs funny when you try it on - pass. If it looks really cute on the hanger, but it doesn't fit - pass. If it looks really cute on your friend, but doesn't fit - pass.

If you have limited funds (or even if you don't!), you want to conserve your money for the things that matter. So no matter how low the price or how big the sale, don't buy it unless you love it.
Outlets are to recessionistas what mac n' cheese is to grad students. A lifeline. Outlets are stores where manufacturers sell their products directly to the public. They usually contain a small selection of new merchandise and an extensive selection of older products, which are sold at marked-down prices. They used to contain mostly 'oops' items - like batches of clothes that were mis-dyed - but now they are more like extended sale sections.

Outlets are great for several reasons. Firstly, they tend to be grouped together in malls, which gives the frugal shopper a 'safer' place to shop. Secondly, they offer brand name items at discounted prices. For instance, I really love the Banana Republic, J Crew and Club Monaco, but I can't begin to afford their regular prices. Their outlet prices, however, are much cheaper, so I can get the clothes that I want for a price that I can afford.

For those of you who live in the Toronto area, check out these outlet malls (all less than four hours away):
Vaughn Mills, Vaughn, Ontario
Dixie Outlet Mall, Mississauga, Ontario
Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, New York
If you live in a country that has limited access to your favourite brands, ordering from their online stores can be a tempting option. But be careful - foreign shipping is usually a fortune!! I can't tell you how many times I've found a great deal online only to realize that it's actually a terrible deal once Canadian shipping is added.

So what can you do about it? If you want a certain product but your local store is out of stock or doesn't carry it, ask them to check nearby stores and give you the address of a store that does carry the item. Then just drive over and pick it up, instead of having it shipped to your door. If they don't ship to a store near you, then skip down to rule #7.
As alluring as the quilted black leather of a Chanel bag or the bright red underside of a Louboutin shoe can be, buying brand names isn't always the smartest choice for your closet or your bank account. So before you invest in a brand name piece, consider the quality, use value, fit and style of what you're looking for. Can you find a similar item that looks and feels the same, but costs less? Are you investing in the item itself, or do you really just want to buy the designer?

Take a moment and acquaint yourself with a variety of stores. Check out high street stores and department stores like Zara, Top Shop and Forever 21 before you bust the bank. Chances are that you'll find a similar style that is equally suitable to your wardrobe for a fraction of the designer price. Then, if you really can't find anything that meets your demands, you can invest in the big ticket item with a clear conscience.
When you have your heart set on a piece that you just can't afford, it can be really disappointing. But before you despair, take a gander online to see if you can find a cheaper model. Start by typing the name and make of what you want into the search bar and sift through the sites that pop up. Sometimes, you can find the exact same item second hand for a fraction of the cost. Another great option is sites like Amazon (find it here), that sell items through individual vendors. You can also check out small-scale vendors on Etsy (find it here), who might be making something similar for a more affordable price.

A fabulous resource for the budget-savvy fashionista is group discount sites, such as Zozi (find it here), Groupon (find it here) and Beyond the Rack (find it here). These sites cut deals with companies by providing them with large amounts of business. All you have to do is sign up and you can browse their wares from the comfort of your own home! Last but not least, you can always use your computer to go straight to the wholesaler and see if there is a discounted price when you buy it from the source.
If you're dying for a big ticket item but you can't scrape together the cash to buy it, try asking for it as a gift. Since most people would much rather get you a gift that they know you'll love than something that you'll never use, they'll probably be more than willing to have you pick out your own gift. When I graduated from university, my parents offered to buy me a gift of my choosing and that's how I ended up buying my favourite Tissot watch!

Keep in mind that people have different gift budgets, so if you're nervous that your item might be too expensive for someone, then ask them to give you money to put towards the purchase. People tend to be wary about giving cash because it seems impersonal, but if you show them the piece that you've got your eye on, then they'll be able to connect their cash gift to something tangible. It works out best for both parties, because you get your dream gift and they get to give it to you!
A great way to revamp your look without spending a lot of money is to DIY. Simple accessories, like bracelets, bangles and necklaces are actually quite easy to make. Try covering a cheap bangle with embroidery thread for a whole new look. Check out my "How To: String Bracelets" post for a quick and easy (and cheap!) jewelery overhaul.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can even try making clothes! Start small with a flowy skirt or a simple dress and then move on to more tailored pieces as you gain experience. Your sewing skills will also come in handy when you need to tailor your clothes - but make sure that you buy clothing that only needs a tweak here and there or else it could end up adding up.
Last but not least, there's the duty free store at the airport. While this may sound a little far fetched, you'd be surprised by how convenient it can be. Buying duty free can mean big savings if you live somewhere like Canada where sales taxes are quite high. Even if you don't travel very often, you can have a friend or relative pick up your purchase the next time that they fly. While this may not be the most common way to shop, it's definitely worth thinking about next time that you plan a trip!

Better yet, most airports carry a variety of high end brands and designer boutiques, which allow you to buy items that would normally be very expensive without paying sales taxes. For instance, when I bought my Tissot watch (which was a graduation present from my parents), I bought it in the Athens airport on the way home from my summer vacation and ended up saving a bundle.

If you want more tips and tricks about how to shop on a budget, check out these great websites:
The Budget Fashionista 
The Budget Babe
Frugal Fashionista
Broke and Beautiful
She Finds

Happy shopping!
Talk soon,

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