As much as I love a good snuggle with Poppy and Luna, I was more excited to be just down the road from the Tanger Outlets that opened in their town just a few years back. All summer long I've been receiving emails about great deals at some of my favorite stores, but since we were moving at the beginning of the summer, I've been working mainly with my summer wardrobe from last year. Of course, there is nothing wrong with my current collection of shorts and dresses, but who doesn't love that feeling of adding a few new items to their closet every once in a while?
I decided that I was giving myself $50 to do some shopping while I was there. I drug EJ along to hold hangers and bags while I looked, and got to work. $50 doesn't sound like much when a single dress can cost any where from $49.99 to over $100 at full retail price, but I was careful with the sales that I shopped and came away with two new tanks and two pairs of shorts. I even came in $5 under budget!
Until I land that dream six-figure job (and even after I do!), shopping on a budget will be a pretty constant financial decision for me. Here are some tips and tricks I try to keep in mind while shopping so that I don't end up with buyer's remorse the next day:
It took me a while to figure this one out during my Abercrombie and American Eagle high school phases. Now that I am buying my own clothes, I have realized that everything goes on sale eventually. Unless you're on a tight deadline for a special occasion, there is no reason why you need that $100 maxi dress today. Wait for coupons in the mail or the next 40% off store-wide sale. There is nothing worse than going back to a store a few weeks later and seeing the dress you just bought for half-price on the clearance rack. It's worth the wait.
Set a Budget
Everyone has those days when you just want to buy something new, but once you get to the store, any awareness of your bank account flies out the window. Between you and me, I think its the fluorescent lights. Or the patterns. Or both.
Set a budget before you even leave the house. If you have the time, stop by an ATM and take out that much in cash and tell yourself that you won't touch anything plastic that afternoon! It is easier to decide what you really want when you're staring at cold hard cash and watching it disappear in front of you.
Shop at the End of the "Season"
My favorite shorts at J. Crew are normally almost $40 full price, so when I needed new shorts back in May, I made the decision to stick it out just a few more weeks. Now as summer "comes to a close" and fall items start filling stores, I was able to get each pair for $14.99 instead - that's two pairs for less than what I would've paid for one in May. And here in North Carolina, news flash, summer doesn't end in July. I still have a solid two months of shorts weather left.
Buy in Small Quantities
You know that dreaded moment when you realize "Oh crap...I need new bras"? A trip to replenish your entire stock can be a pretty costly adventure. Instead, replace things slowly rather than all at once. Buying one a week or one every few weeks means that within a few months you will have updated your wardrobe without having to dip into your rent money.
Check for Extra Discounts
A lot of outlet malls have a "customer center" where they stock coupons. Are you a AAA member? Tanger Outlets carry a coupon booklet just for you! Other stores, like J. Crew for instance, offer student discounts of 10 or 15% with a valid student ID. All of those emails you sign up for and never read? Make sure there aren't any coupons or special offer codes in there before you hit the stores! Many places don't advertise extra coupons and discounts, so it never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is no!
Expand Your Horizons
As much as I would love to order all of my yoga clothes from Lulu Lemon, I simply can't afford to do so. Places like TJ Maxx and Ross carry brand name athletic clothes at great discounts. Old Navy even carries an athletic line now with some really cute stuff!
Places like TJ Maxx are also great for fun tanks or dresses to add variety at a low price. Stick to the basics and what you know for things like jeans or everyday bras, but for a fun purchase there is no need to break the bank!
All in all, being on a budget doesn't have to mean never updating your wardrobe or skipping out on a shopping trip with friends. As long as you are smart about your spending and don't over-do it, shopping can be fun on any paycheck!
For more budget talk, join us for this month's Paperback Pourover pick, Rich Bitch!
And just remember, clothes go in the "fun" part of the pie chart, not with the "necessary expenses" :)