How To Shop Without Spending A Lot Of Money (But Still Get Everything You Want)

BAD MUENSTEREIFEL, GERMANY - AUGUST 07: Giovanni Zarrella and Jana Ina Zarrella seen shopping during the first anniversary celebrations of the City Outlet Bad Muenstereifel on August 7, 2015 in Bad Muenstereifel, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for City Outlet Bad Muenstereifel)
Source: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

It’s not always necessary to hand over half of your paycheck to look like a fashion person. You can still have a savings account and dabble in this season’s newest trends if you keep a few tips on how to save money while shopping in your back pocket. It’s easy to be stylish if you throw a lot of money down on the first few on-trend items you see, but true style and savviness comes when you take the time to explore all your options and try to take the road less traveled. After all, do you want to go to the department store and end up in the same gladiator sandals as all the other women in the tri-state area (no matter how fabulous they look!), or do you want to put a little more effort into the hunt and come up with a pair half the price and quite possibly a little more interesting?

By combining patience and a few clever moves, you can have a stylish wardrobe on a budget and have the satisfaction of having a few extra dollars cushioned in your bank account. Below are five tips that will help your dress well and on-trend, for much, much less.  

1. Explore Your Trend Options

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The nice thing about trends is that they’re everywhere and they come in a ton of different varieties. Meaning, if you’re contemplating a mermaid midi or a pair of overalls at Bloomingdales, chances are you can find a pretty similar one down over at Nordstrom Rack or — even cheaper — at a fast-fashion store like H&M or Forever 21. If you’re buying a piece that you don’t see becoming a staple in your wardrobe (like a sweater you’ll wear every other day, or a pair of pants you have plans running into the ground with use) then go with the cheaper option. Quality is completely necessary when you plan to use something over and over so it can last you longer than a handful of months, but if you’re dabbling in a trend for the fun of it, you don’t need the crème de la crème. 

Take the time to bargain hunt, pop into different stores to see the differences in prices over the same trend, and weigh which option gives you the most bang for your buck. It'll be worth it once you realize how much money you saved yourself with the extra effort. 

2. Buy Off-Season

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At the end of every season stores have huge wipe-inventory sales that try to get the last of the season’s styles out their door. This is a huge advantage for you because you’ll get to nab pieces at some pretty serious price cuts.  But when you’re looking ahead for fall and its soft knits and dark, wonderfully moody colors, it can be hard to find any interest for that floral midi dress or those high waist shorts.

Don’t overlook them though, because you might regret it once next year rolls around. If you know a particular style or trend will stay a part of your style, snap it up while you have the chance to buy it half price. You might not be able to wear it for a whole other year, but you’ll be glad you were savvy once  those warm months do come back.

3. Know Which Stores Are Serious About Their Sales

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Never buy retail. While sometimes it’s too risky to wait for a certain piece to go on sale, other times you know it’s worth the two month wait for when its tag gets marked red. It’s also good to bear in mind which stores eventually see most of their merchandise filter through their sales racks. For example, Gap, Topshop, Macy's, Urban Outfitters, and Zara have a habit of having intense, store-wide sales where most of their trends will be marked down at one point or other. Then, on the flip side, places like Forever 21 have sales, but a majority of their stock stays full-price and sells out. Seasonal sale calendars based on specific types of products are also an amazing thing to pay attention to so you never have to buy anything full price.

Keep an eye open and observe which of these two categories your favorite stores fall into — is it worth waiting another month to buy the dress and get it half-off, or is it too risky and you should just get it now? Is the place prone to deals that boast signs like “Buy $75 and get $25 off," or do they usually shave off 15 percent and call it a day. This takes a little recon work on your part beforehand to know which places are liberal with their deals and which aren’t, but once you have that info gathered you can make more economically sound decisions. 

4. Buy Key Layering Pieces

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You might already be a wizard at this or you might just have begun to explore the rules, but one way to dress really well for a lot less is to know how to stretch your closet and stretch it creatively. The way to do that is to know how to layer and mix and match.

For example, say you have a white button down shirt in your arsenal. Well, that shirt can be paired with a boldly printed skirt, popped underneath a pinafore dress or pair of overalls for an Alexa-Chung-look, layered underneath a sleeveless dress to make it fall appropriate, matched with palazzos to make them feel more classic and less bohemian, or layered underneath a shift dress to give it a prim collar. And these are just a few basic options — with a little bit of research, you can come across even more creative options.

But the important thing to take away from here is that this basic layering piece either changed the mood of a piece or helped elevate it to more stylish heights. If you invest in more layering pieces like this you have the potential to not only play more within your wardrobe, but double its size with options. 

5. Focus On Updating Your Accessories

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Want to give your wardrobe an update but don’t want to spend an uncomfortable amount of money? Instead of looking to buy new outfits, shift your focus to updating your accessories. Buying a shoe that’s very in-season, a pair of sunglasses with a modern shape, or a style of hat that became popular over the past few months could help add a breath of fresh air to older pieces and make them feel new and stylish again. Just think about it: How different does a dress look when you pair chunky sandals with it and then match them with strappy stilettos? It's a whole other piece. Sometimes you don’t need a whole wardrobe overhaul; all you need is a dash of something new.

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