How to Shop Like a Fashionista When You’re on a Budget
It’s a rough life being fashionable…okay, not really, it’s a ton of fun! What it is ROUGH on is my bank account (poor baby)and I’m sure you feel my pain. I know I’m not going to stop buying clothing anytime soon despite running out of shoe room. That’s a future me problem. So I did some research on how to get the best deals while still kicking fashion butt (while in some adorable espadrilles of course)! Learn how to shop like a fashionista even when you’re on a budget.
*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through the links, we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. However, all my opinions are my own.
Take Advantage of Reward Cards and Credit Cards
One of my favorite ways to save money and shop like a fashionista is making sure that I have a rewards card to any and every store that offers them that I shop on the reg. Those points add up and you’re the first to know about discounts that the stores are having. I’m going to be shopping at Express, Nordstrom, American Eagle, and the like so why not be earning rewards for those purchases? Now, remember, I’m saying reward cards here and NOT credit cards. The only time I’ll ever suggest using a stores credit card is if you intend to pay off each purchase right away and if using the store’s credit card gives you any kind of benefit.
The only store credit card I have is for Nordstrom because I shop there a ton, but they also have the option of a debit card. As a Nordstrom credit card holder or debit card holder you earn 2 points for ever $1 spent there, Nordstrom.com and Nordstrom Rack. You can start using these points once they go beyond 2,000 which is equal to a $20 Nordstrom note. Most of the time when you sign up for the card you get a signing bonus as well like the day you receive the card you typically are given a $20 Nordstrom Note as long as you spend at least $100 that day.
The reason I actually signed up for the Nordstrom Credit Card wasn’t just for the rewards though. It’s one of the best ways to shop like a fashionista! Being a Nordstrom cardmember allows you to attend events and be applicable to get vacation packages that are not available to non-members. However, these tickets are not free so only suggest this to people who are going to be buying a lot of clothing anyways. At the tippy-top of the credit card tier system is access to VIP events like free spa services. Again, this is after you spend a LOT of money so it’s only worth it if you buy a lot of clothing or buy the majority of your clothing from Nordstrom. Triple point days are the days I live for. You can earn up to 3x the points that you would normally earn on in-store purchases. They aren’t held often so call your local Nordstrom to find out if they’re having one anytime soon.
Shop Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, Ross, T.J.Maxx and other discount stores right at the end of a fashion season. It usually takes them one week to gather all the inventory from their main location and get it over to Nordstrom Rack, outlet stores, and local thrift shops. Make sure to hit up the stores that are in more affluent neighborhoods. I scored a gorgeous purple cashmere sweater for $6 at Nordstrom Rack last year and an adorable wrap dress for $15 after I used points. You can shop like a fashionista without breaking your budget. I promise.
This is just one example of how you can make a store credit card work for you. Every month I pay off whatever I’ve spent, but I do that with all my credit cards. I got myself out of credit card debt after college and I don’t plan on going back if I can help it! Before I got my Nordstrom Credit card I shopped around a lot to make sure I was being smart about it. Not because I was looking for other store credit cards, but because I wanted to see how they compared. Nordstrom rose above them all like a shining star with their rewards and VIP events!
Learning to shop like a fashionista isn’t just about clothing. It’s about makeup too! A great rewards card that I just want to chat about for a minute is the Sephora Beauty Insider card. Everyone starts as an insider and you move up from there. Once you spend $350 you’re moved up to VIB status and after $1000 you’ve hit Rouge status. As I said above with clothing if you buy a ton of makeup each year you may want to try and buy it all at one place…Sephora. Not hard to do with their amazing selections. Also, if you reach Rouge level you can score those coveted invites to their exclusive events. If you want to see all the benefits they lay it all out for you here.
Lastly, let’s talk coffee. I know it’s not fashion, but what fun is it to shop like a fashionista if you aren’t properly caffeinated? There are many other cute, little cafes that I’d much prefer to go to, but the convenience of Starbucks just can’t be beaten. I pass three of them (maybe 4?) just driving to work and hello drive-thru! One of the first things I do each January is make sure that I make enough purchases that I remain in gold card status with their reward card. I’m going to be spending the money there anyways so I want to make sure I’m earning those precious stars so I can cash in on my free lattes. I’m a pretty basic sugar-free vanilla latte girl with some dairy alternative “milk”. You get 2 stars for every $1 spent, a birthday award, you can pay by phone, order ahead and get special member events and offers like discounted coffee grounds. Like what….!?
With gold status, you get monthly double-star day and rewards every 125 stars, but, let’s be real, y’all only do it for that glorious and shining personalized gold card.
These are just a highlight of my favorite ways to score while buying what you would already be buying with credit cards and reward cards. There are so many more out there ready to be taken advantage of!
Spend on Staples and Save on Trends
Spend money on staple pieces and be frugal with trends. I have zero problems laying down cold, hard cash for a leather jacket I know I’m going to wear a ton, but I’ll go to Target to shop for trendy items like this seasons tassel earrings that I got in my FabFitFun box. I won’t wear these pieces beyond one season so spending a lot on them is just a waste of money. So you want an amazing bamboo purse for this spring? Go get it! But don’t get that uber expensive one. This one right here from Amazon is amazing. I can vouch for it because I have it! It’s sturdy and looks ah-mazing.
So what items should you splurge on and which ones should you save on?
T-shirts are a definite save. You may get a ton of use out of them, but they also get torn and faded really easily because of that. I’d much rather save up for a nice dress and buy some t-shirts from H&M that get the job done like this one here. Gym clothes are another area you can save. The budget-friendly brands have FINALLY started to pay attention to customer complaints and made their leggings not see-through. SO rejoice because you don’t have to spend $90 at Lululemon anymore to get some quality workout leggings. I’ll still spend some cash on adorable fitness gear once in awhile, but I’m much more likely to get a pair of 90 degree leggings from Amazon. They have lasted just as long as my more expensive ones and I can have more colors to mix and match with. Can I hear a “woo-hoo”?
I hate to say it, but dressy clothes is another place where it’s better to save than splurge. Trust me, I love a gorgeous dress that makes me feel like a princess, but there’s no point in spending a paycheck on a dress you’re only going to wear once. If you want a trendy dress for New Year’s? Check out Zara, Nordstrom Rack, Forever 21, consignment and thrift stores and the sale or clearance sections of department stores. Or you could just dress to the nines every day and make that $500 dollar floor-length silver dress worth it.
So we’ve gone over what items are good to save on, but what about the splurges? Anything you are going to regularly wear to work is good to splurge on. I have a staple pair of black heels that I wear to work regularly and I NEED them to be comfy if you want the most productivity out of me. I’m particularly fond of these black pumps by Sam Edelman because they’re stylish, comfortable and still at a great price point. I also love this Prada Pump in nude. Notice that both the colors I’m going with work well with a multitude of outfits. Splurge on shoes that are neutral and you will get so much use out of them!
Another work wear splurge is suiting. I have wider shoulders and most blazers that fit my shoulders are way too boxy around my midsection. You better bet your britches that I’m going to grab a well-fitting blazer. A suit from Theory has been on my wishlist forever! If you have to regularly wear suits for work pick a great basic color and change it up each day with different shoes, accessories, and blouse. No one pays as much attention to what you wear as you do.
While I believe saving on most athletic wear is a must the one concession I will make is on my gym shoes. Foot health is so much more important than you know so it’s important to take care of your tootsies. If you’re a runner I highly advise going to a running store and having them fit you with a pair. Then go online and purchase those shoes to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Is circuit training more your deal? Pick up some shoes that are made for cross-training. Weightlifting? Depending on your style you may want an awesome pair of chucks or some lifters that give your heels a boost like these Reebok Speed Sneakers!
Take a page from Audrey H. and rock the little, black dress. A black dress is timeless and you will get a lot of wear out of it so pick a good one. I have one for the casual events and one for more formal events and have never regretted purchasing them. Even 6 years later! When buying a staple dress make sure that it isn’t trendy because you want it to last for many years to come. You can make it fit whatever trend is in at the time with your accessories. So skip the statement sleeves and opt for short-sleeves or straps and a nice v-neck. This little number is super close to one of the ones I own and it’s been with me from engagement parties to charity events to work parties! Also, if you only want to wear a dress once borrow it from a friend!
Coats! Coats! Coats! These babies last forever if you treat them well. Also, if you live in a cold climate you want to put your money where your mouth is so that you can stay warm and toasty. Higher-quality materials make a huge difference in your warmth and you can avoid having to look like a snowball because nicer materials means not as much bulk! I live in Chicago so this is a must for moi! You’ll never see me snub my nose at a quality wool coat. I have a black one that I got on sale at Nordstrom Rack that was marked down from $1020 to $600 that I’ve had for almost 5 years. I have to get it cleaned regularly because of my Husky, but it is gorgeous and I get a little thrill everytime I wear it. Here’s a super similar one.
Make Your Clothes Work for You
Find a good tailor and let them work their magic. Shop the clearance section, consignment store or thrift shop without fear. Check out this post so you can see what a tailor can and can’t do and the next time you find a Prada skirt on clearance that’s a size too big you’ll know whether or not they can fix it up for ya. My tailor has saved me so much money because I know they can hem the 20% trousers I pick up to fit my short, lil’ legs.
Anyone who knows how to shop like a fashionista has their tailor on speed dial!
You Can Shop Like a Fashionista AND Clip Coupons!
Take a page out of your momma’s book. I remember when I was younger my mom would go through the Sunday advertisements each week to make sure that we were getting the best deals on groceries or whatever else we were buying. With the convenience, technology has provided you have no excuse not to be getting the best price. Before you purchase make sure that you’re taking a note from my first point above and getting/using all your points. Then use a website like RetailMeNot to make sure you are taking advantage of all discount codes, promo codes, cash back offers and sales that are out there. Another great site is Honey. Before I buy anything I make sure that I’m getting the best price. Thanks, Mom!
I have a specific email that I use to sign up for store sale notices since I don’t want it filling up my regular email because it can really add up. I also use Shop it to me so that I know when my favorite brands are on sale. Having this set up for some people can be rough because it makes them want to spend more. Since I only shop off my list of what I need to buy for my wardrobe I’m pretty good about not impulse buying. If you are an impulse buyer then I would figure out a way to work with your impulses so that you don’t buy something you don’t need just because it’s on sale. Part of learning to shop like a fashionista on a budget is knowing when to say no.
Sell Your Stuff!
There’s no point in taking up your precious closet space with items you aren’t wearing anymore. Especially when you can sell them and get something you’ll actually wear. You can use The RealReal, Ebay, Poshmark or a consignment store depending on what you’re selling. Your unused clothing is basically just money sitting in your closet so get to selling!
Transition Your Clothing From Season to Season
You can use a ton of the items in your closet from season to season. Go shopping in your own closet! That black dress can be a springtime hit when you throw a pink suede jacket over it. That white summer dress? It can easily be transitioned into the fall with a rockin’ jean jacket. You can make a brand spankin’ new outfit out of what you already own by just changing up a few things.
Pay Attention to When You’re Buying
Buy out of season. A black wool peacoat is always going to be in style, fashionistas. So why not scoop one up at a deep discount when spring comes and all the winter wear goes on sale. This is when I try and get any luxury staple pieces. Sure, it’s rough not being able to wear my stellar purchase right away and flaunt how much I saved, but it’s so exciting when you get to wear it come next Winter. It’s even better than finding a $20 in your pocket! I promise. A fashionista knows that in order to shop like a fashionista sometimes means delayed gratification.
Wait for holiday discounts or until after the holidays. President’s Day sale can be a great day to buy furniture, but January is the best time to buy clothing because they’re trying to get rid of all their after Christmas stock! To shop like a fashionista means knowing what the right time is to make big purchases.
You don’t have to wait until out of season either. You can buy in the same season but wait longer. Instead of buying spring clothing in February when it first debuts wait until it’s better priced around Memorial Day. Summer clothing? Price is high in May, but dips down around the beginning of July. If you want a stellar deal on a swimsuit though wait until September! If you want the deets on what to buy when checking out this awesome post by Who What Wear.
Another hot tip is to shop during the week because retailers mark up prices for the weekend rushes!
If you’re buying from an outlet store buy smart! Not everything there is overstock or sent over because it’s out of season. Some clothing is designed specifically for the outlet store so check the tag and avoid anything that says factory on it because it is made with cheaper material. If you want a piece that is labeled factory make sure you’re getting a great discount. Speaking of discount, some of these items are also marked down using their suggested retail price. Make sure to look online for what you’re buying and see what the price should actually be.
Another hot tip? You can still use a lot of coupons at outlet malls so make sure to read the fine print and use it if it lets you!
Also, ask for what you want. If the store doesn’t have the jeans in your size in a Tall then ask if they can order them for you and ship to them to your house for free. Most stores already offer this so you aren’t asking for anything they don’t offer.
Keep Track of What You Already Own
I love going out to shop in person, but I wish I could take my wardrobe with me sometimes just so I can see if what I’m looking at will go with anything else. I use the app YourCloset that I put photos of everything I own in. That way when I’m looking at a piece I can see how many items it’ll go with that I already have in my wardrobe or if I already own something close to it. It also helps me see gaps in my wardrobe and make a list of pieces I actually need versus what I just want.
Another great way to keep track of what you own is my organizing your closet in a way that works for you. Some possibilities are to organize it by color or by type. I do a mix of both. You can also put away winter coats and sweaters when you aren’t wearing them so you aren’t distracted. Find a way that works for you and stick with it!
Treat Yo Self
You don’t have to just buy gift cards for others. Try looking for a discounted gift card to your favorite store and save on that tan raincoat straight out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Shop like a fashionista by looking for deals anywhere and everywhere.
Do it Yourself!
After I stopped biting my nails I was spending a ton of money getting no-chip manicures every couple weeks. With this LED Nail Dryer , these LED nail polishes, and these bottom and top coats. I can get a long-lasting no-chip manicure right at home! Just make sure you have a nail basin and a good soak off so that you can take off the no-chip without hurting your nails.
Things to Keep in Mind
How much money you spend on an item may not be how much you actually end up spending. Make sure to check out the label before you buy because a dry-clean only sweater can quickly rack up charges. Also, when washing make sure you’re following the label’s directions if it needs to be washed cold or hand washed. Washing your clothing inside out will make it last longer too!
I hope you liked my hot tips on ways to shop like a fashionista on a budget. I know they’ve saved me a ton of moolah. Please share with your friends and family and definitely let me know below all the ways that you save so I’m not missing out on anything!
Now get out there and confidently shop like a fashionista without blowing your budget!