Frugal Living Tips: Looking Sassy On A Budget

I believe that every woman should feel good about the way she looks. I also believe that it is entirely possible to look good on a budget – to look awesome without spending 5 figures on a dress or 4 figures on shoes.

“How? How is it possible to look like a movie star when I don’t command a $20 million per picture salary?”

I’ll tell you how to go about looking good on a budget. I’ll also tell you that it takes a little work. (It’s worth it, I promise.) It takes time to pore through websites looking for that “I-gotta-have-it” top at that “I-can’t-pass-it-up” price. It takes time to pick through clearance racks to find that once-in-a-lifetime-deal for a beautiful pair of trousers. It takes time to try on lots and lots of clothes to see what works, what fits, and what flatters.

No matter how good a deal it is, if it doesn’t fit and flatter, it is a waste of money. And wasting money does NOT mean looking good on a budget.

Ultimately, the results are worth the effort. I haven’t stood in front of my closet wailing “I have nothing to wear!” in YEARS because I have learned to take the time to search, I have learned to try on tons and tons of clothes, and I have learned where to find clothes that my broke-ass can afford.

There are plenty of ways to find designer clothes without spending designer dollars. One of my favorite places to shop on the Internet is Yoox. They carry high-end clothing like Ferragamo, Armani, Rachel Roy, Escada, and more at prices that compare to major department store’s prices for their mass-retail-brand (or even their house-brand) clothes. There are other sites, like Bluefly and Shopbop that also offer designer clothes at a discount.

There are flash-sale sites that offer brand name and designer clothing at deeply discounted prices.

The difference between these sites and regular shopping sites are the time limits. Flash sales are offered for a limited time, usually only a few days (or until the items sell out, which usually happens quickly). Haute Look and Beyond the Rack are two that I have personally bought from before. There are many others, including Daily Candy, RueLaLa, Ideeli, Gilt, and My Habit.

One bit of advice about shopping these sites: go to Banana Republic or H&M and try on their clothes, because their sizes usually run pretty close to designer sizes. A Banana Republic 6 is roughly equivalent to a designer 6. When in doubt about what size to order, order the larger size – you can always tailor the waist down a little bit if they’re a smidge too big. If these sites say that a particular designer’s sizes run small, they ain’t lying and you should order a size larger than your usual size. Do NOT get hung up on the number in the tag; one brand’s 4 is another brand’s 6, and both of those are somebody else’s 8. There is no method to sizing in women’s clothes – it’s madness, plain and simple.

There are sites that specialize in shoes (of course I’d know this, I DO love shoes, after all). These sites will have you complete a style-profile and then select shoes for you based on your responses in the style-profile. These sites offer trendy shoes at reasonable prices. Haute Look has their shoe site, Sole SocietyJust Fab is also worth a peek.

Many of the famous department stores have their discount sister stores. Nordstrom has The Rack (find a location here). Saks Fifth Avenue has Off Fifth (you can find a store here). Neiman Marcus has Last Call. All of these sister-stores offer high-quality merchandise at discounted prices.

If these ideas are a bit rich for your blood (hey, I know they are for me sometimes, have you seen the price of a gallon of gas lately?), there are still options. Good options.

TJMaxx (find a store), Marshall’s (find a store), and Ross (find a store) all offer brand name merchandise at budget-fashionista prices. Some TJMaxx locations have a section known as “The Runway” that carries upscale and designer clothes and accessories for less than designer prices. I have also gotten great deals on really spendy shoes at TJMaxx.

I often shop end-of-season clearance sales. It is entirely possible to get well-known-brand-name cashmere sweaters for under $15 (tax included) if you wait until stores are desperate to clear out their winter merchandise to make room for their spring merchandise. Now, this probably isn’t a good idea for uber-trendy items; it doesn’t matter how good a deal it was if nobody’s wearing it when the season comes back around. This is, however, a great time to invest in timeless classics (or maybe even a trend that WILL come around again, like nautical-inspired items or new-England-preppy), as they can be stored until they’re “cool” again.

(For trends on a budget, check out fast-fashion chains like H&M and Zara, where you won’t spend a fortune on an item you won’t wear for more than a few months.)

If there are certain stores that you know you love, sign up for their email and/or rewards programs. New York & Company (one of my favorite places for pants and on-trend tops at reasonable prices) send out email alerts when sales are coming up, as well as sending out coupon offers that can save you as much as 50% on your total purchase. Check with your favorite stores and get signed up for their email/loyalty program and save money on your favorite brands.

Last but not least, I have a love for consignment shops (and sometimes even Goodwill). Don’t act all grossed-out at the idea of wearing a blouse that has touched someone else’s body – I promise you that somebody has been in a dressing room and put those pants you’re looking at on her body before. And shoes, too. What, you think that nobody has tried on shoes in a shoe store before you buy them? If the thought of a blouse having touched somebody’s body before yours bothers you, have it cleaned. If you are bothered by the thought of somebody’s foot cooties in a pair of consignment shoes, hit those babies with some anti-fungal spray. Often, items in consignment shops have been worn rarely, if at all. Consignment shops are a great way to:

  1.  Get a good deal on a really expensive blouse
  2. Get you some Manolo Blahniks for under $90
  3.  Wear four figure shoes without a $20 million a picture salary
  4. Save the planet by reducing-reusing-repurposing.

So now you have some ideas to help you kick off your hunt for great clothes (and shoes) that don’t break the bank. I say SOME ideas as (here comes the disclaimer) my ideas are by no means the be-all-end-all of looking good on a budget. My lists of shops and websites is most decidedly not a conclusive list.

If you know of any other ways to look good on a budget, for the love of all that is holy, please share them with me  – I’m underemployed and love to shop.


Cindy Walker-White is a fabulous fashionista - probably the most stylish person I know – and won’t steer you wrong when it comes to clothes or anything else.
She’s on Twitter and With The Band.
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6 thoughts on “Frugal Living Tips: Looking Sassy On A Budget

  1. Pingback: How Do You Feel About Princess Diana Jokes? - Mommy Wants Vodka

  2. Although I am not always thinking about shopping for clothes I did enjoy your blog and am sure lots of gals will benefit from your helps. Also enjoyed your guest post’s efforts today on my email.

  3. I am a member of all those sale sites! Love em!

    The best advice I can give is to look for the blowout sales and stuff – those have the best deals! And ALWAYS do a sanity price check at amazon or something because sometimes it’s not actually a deal that you can’t get anywhere else – and their shipping fees can be high sometimes. There are definitely good deals to be had, you just have to do a bit of research.

  4. This is a great article! So comprehensive. I am definitely bookmarking this page for when my diet finally starts paying off(read: when I start my diet)
    I had no idea about New York and Company. I haven’t shopped there in years, but will def check it out.

  5. I love thrift shops, garage sales, consignment shops, but I just can’t buy used shoes. Once someone wears a pair of shoes, they start to conform to their feet and they just never feel right to me. But everything else, you bet. I once bought a full-length black velvet formal “opera” coat for $5. I didn’t need it, but I felt so elegant every time I wore it. It eventually got ruined in an unexpected rainstorm, but I definately got my money’s worth.

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