Recent studies show that over 60% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts.
All I could think about when I saw this statistic was how many women I see on social media with $1,000 Louboutins (“red bottoms”). I’m sure many of the same women truly have enough money in their bank accounts to be able to afford expensive luxury items (distinguishing “affording” from “buying” here. Just because you have enough money in the bank to buy something doesn’t mean you actually can afford it). Sadly, though, the reality is that some really don’t.
I understand the desire to have nice things hanging in your closet but, ladies, it’s unacceptable to spend so much money on your wardrobe that you leave next to nothing in the bank for your future. Who wants to be broke with no retirement savings at 50 years old?
I have to admit, I’ve splurged on some items here and there (hello $3,000 pageant gown), but that’s certainly not the norm for me. In fact, if you’ve checked out any of the items on my “Picks” page, you’ll see that I often recommend shoes and separates that are under $100. Buying these items allows me to make sure I dump a sizeable amount of money into my savings account each month.
As Warren Buffet says, “Do not save what is left after spending; instead, spend what is left after saving.”
Okay, I’m off my soap box. Below are five tips you can use to buy clothes on a budget.
#1. BUY SEPARATES
If you buy six dresses today, you’ll have six new outfits. If you buy three shirts and three skirts today, you’ll have nine new outfits, in addition to all the outfits you can put together with the skirts, pants, and blouses you already have in your closet.
I’m not wholly against wearing dresses, but if you’re looking to quickly expand your options with a small investment, separates are the way to go. See here for more ways to quickly grow your closet.
#2. INVEST IN STAPLES
I’m guilty of buying fast fashion here and there and not always investing in high-quality staple items; however, I try to relegate that kind of spending to standout pieces. By standout pieces, I mean colorful shirts with noticeable patterns and other items I’d only wear once every now and then.
I only buy fast fashion standout pieces (read: trendy clothes from low-priced retailers) because I know these pieces have a limited amount of wears before they need to be thrown away, which is alright since I don’t like to repeat eye-catching pieces very often. Like most women, I re-wear outfits all the time, but I like to space out the wears.
For everyday wear, though, I invest in high-quality staple pieces that I can mix and match with different separates and accessories. For example, I would never spend $100 on a blouse from Forever21; however, I was happy spending $100 on a white button-down blouse from Brooks Brothers, see here, because I know the shirt from BB is going to last a while. Also, a white blouse matches with e v e r y t h i n g. Black pants, navy skirt, with a blazer, under a sweater, casual, formal, you name it. My $100 was a great investment because it expanded my closet a great deal.
#3. TAKE CARE OF YOUR CLOTHES
If the tag says “dry clean only”……. DRY CLEAN IT.
You don’t have to dry clean every garment after only one wear, but you should make sure to follow the instructions on the tag so that you aren’t limiting the lifespan of your clothes.
I’ve been guilty of washing clothes that should be dry cleaned or throwing items into the washing machine when the tag says to hand wash it. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn the hard way that not taking care of your clothes results in throwing money down the drain when a shirt that should’ve lasted a couple of years is ruined within months.
In addition to following care instructions more closely, I’d also recommend watching how you iron your clothes. I’m always in a rush, so I used to speed up the ironing process by putting the iron on high heat all the time. Who knew clothes could burn so easily? I started seeing that shiny sort of charred look on my black pants and skirts after I ironed them and I was always frustrated.
I learned to use a steamer instead. It’s actually much quicker and is less damaging on my clothes. You can find the one I bought here on Amazon for about $60. Seriously, it’s well worth it. Especially considering that the steamer comes with a standing rack and clips for your clothes.
#4. BUY CLOTHES OUT OF SEASON
Thank God it’s finally warming up down here in North Carolina. For some, this warmth means outdoor activities and flip flops. For me it means one thing:
Most people know that stores mark down clothes when they’re out of season. Few people actually take advantage of it. For example, check out the sale Macy’s is having on their outerwear right now, here. I wrote about the winter staples you need in your closet, here, and most of you know that a camel coat was one of the most important pieces you need for your winter work wardrobe. Why would you by this camel DKNY peacoat, here, for $250 in September when it’s on sale for $199 in April? Why buy this Calvin Klein trench coat, here, for $400 in August when you could buy it for $219 today?
Throughout the year, keep in mind the items you need the most and be mindful of when it’s most advantageous to buy those items.
#5. FIGURE OUT YOUR NEEDS
I have five pairs of nude/beige heels. In my mind, they’re all different. One is a regular pump, three are d’Orsay heels, one pair is a slingback, and they all vary in height. In truth, I need to stop buying nude heels for work.
Look in your closet and take note of where your needs lie. Do you have the basics (see here for the staple items you need in your closet)? Do you have nine white blouses, but no black ones? Four navy skirts but no slacks? Try doing a closet clean out to throw away all the old clothes you don’t wear so that you can easily figure out what items you need that’ll help you the most.
Try making a note in your phone of what you need to keep an eye out for when you shop. I need more blazers, so each time I’m tempted to throw another pair of nude heels in my cart, I remind myself to back away and head for the blazer section.
Start saving ladies! And use these tips to help you figure out how to save and be fashionable all at once.