Money & Career

10 ways to look great on a budget

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

10 ways to look great on a budget

It was essential to each of us that we not sacrifice our style for our savings or vice versa, and we've spent a lot of time brainstorming strategies to keep both our wardrobes and our wallets well stocked. We've outlined our top ten tips below to help you stay fashionable and financially savvy:

1. Take inventory of your closet quarterly
The change in seasons is the perfect time to take stock of what you have in your wardrobe. You're going to be rearranging your closet anyway, so why not assess each item as you do? Is it in good condition? Are you still excited to wear it? Is it still stylish or is it out of date? Does it feel fashionable or frumpy? Your responses will help you decide what to do with it.

2. Clear out the clutter
As you're going through your clothes, shoes, and accessories, organize them into five piles: Save (split into two: As Is and Needs Work), Sell, Dump, or Donate. Hold on to only those items that still make you feel fashionable when you wear them. Some may need mending or updating; those go in the Needs Work pile. (Maybe a button came loose from a favorite blouse, or a heel needs to be replaced on one of your boots. These are easy fixes that don't require a lot of money.)

Sell items that are expensive or well made but don't get you excited about wearing them anymore. You can post them on eBay or Craigslist or bring them to a consignment or secondhand shop. Dump those that have large holes or have been worn so much that they're not worth salvaging. If an item of clothing really has sentimental value – like an old concert T-shirt or a sweater that your grandmother made for you – consider saving a patch of it in a jewelry box or scrapbook instead of letting it clutter up your closet. And donate clothing that’s out of date but in good condition or doesn't fit you anymore. There are plenty of worthy organizations that accept gently used clothing, shoes, and small household furnishings, like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and some Big Brother Big Sister facilities.

You can also donate gently used business attire to Dress for Success, a non-profit that helps low-income women re-entering the workforce. Or go online and look for other charities in your area, some will even come to pick up your donations. You won't get money back, but your donation can help to lower your taxes. Clothing donations are tax deductible. Just don't forget to document your donations carefully. Ask for a receipt from the charity estimating the monetary value of your donation.

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Excerpted from The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough, copyright 2008 by The Smart Cookies with Jennifer Barrett. Used by permission of Random House Canada.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. 3. Evaluate the essentials
There are certain items that every woman needs in her closet, no matter where you live. These include:

a little black dress (simple and stylish)
• a classic button-up white shirt
a pair of good jeans
a rainproof coat (trench coats never go out of style)
• a pair of dress pants (black is best)
• a suit (either pants or a skirt and a matching blazer)
a basic everyday bag (in a neutral color)
• a classic sweater (a V-neck, scoop neck, or cardigan that you can throw over your shirt when the temperature dips)
a pair of black pumps
a pair of boots (flat or heeled, dressy or casual, depending on your lifestyle)

If you're missing any of these, put them at the top of your shopping list.

4. Build around the basics
Spend your money first on the essential building blocks of your wardrobe, like those listed above. These items should last for years, so it’s worth spending a bit more on them. In addition to the fashion fundamentals, there may be some pieces that you decide to buy or replace each season or every few seasons – from a winter coat (unless you live someplace warm) to a pair of boots to a swimsuit. As you shop to expand your inventory, think about additions that will pair well with your essential items (a top to wear under the suit, for example, or a wrap to wear over your black dress).

5. Mix & match
Each new item of clothing or accessory that you purchase should enhance your existing wardrobe. Before you buy anything new, ask yourself how many different outfits you could make by combining this new item with the clothes that are currently in your closet. Unless you're buying something for a special occasion, like a wedding, you should be able to come up with at least four fabulous outfit combinations you could put together immediately after buying this item.

6. Know what's trendy versus timeless
Once you've got lots of basic items that you can mix and match in your closet and hold on to for a while, you can start adding flair: fun clothes, shoes, and accessories that look cool now but may be past their prime by next year. Set aside a little money to spend on those trendier items that can freshen up your closet for the season. There's nothing wrong with following fads. Just remember that they don't last long; that's why they're called fads. So spend accordingly.

7. Don't knock knockoffs
Within weeks of the major fashion shows, stores like H&M and Zara are already selling copies of the latest designer trends for discount prices. Since these styles probably won't last more than a season or two anyway, it’s smarter to spend less on them and save more for those classic pieces that you can keep in your closet for years. These stores do a great job of capturing the look of the moment for less. They're also great places to pick up simple T-shirts and trousers and accessories to mix and match with your better-quality basics.

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Excerpted from The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough, copyright 2008 by The Smart Cookies with Jennifer Barrett. Used by permission of Random House Canada.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. 8. Get luxury for less
You don't need to drop a lot of money to own designer brands. Look for discounted merchandise at sample sales or used on eBay. Or see if your favorite designer is offering a less expensive line. Superstore and H&M have both paired with well-known designers, from Joseph Mimrar and Marimekko to Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney. Many upscale retailers also have discount outlets (think Holt Renfrew's Last Call in Toronto) that are often clustered together in outlet shopping centers. You can get some great bargains on luxury brands.

9. Share & swap
If you're sick of your clothes, or you want a new look for a special occasion but don't want to spend a lot, ask your similar-sized friends if you can "shop" in their closets. Or organize a swap. Each person brings a few good items of clothing that they're ready to replace, and then you swap items with one another. Your friends often have a different sense of style, so it's fun to try on the clothes that they brought. You might not have picked them out yourself in a store, but they may look great on you. Plus, this way you know your clothes are in good hands (should you ever decide you miss them), and you've got new clothes to spruce up your style without spending a cent. Sharing clothes with your friends is also an easy way to give your wardrobe a boost without spending money. We do it all the time. In just one year, we saved about $5,000 by swapping outfits instead of shopping for new clothes for dates, weddings, and work functions.

10. Avoid deadline or emotional shopping
If you wait until the night before a big trip to buy last-minute outfits, you're sure to overspend. You've likely convinced yourself you need certain items, and as the clock ticks, you'll become more desperate to have them regardless of the cost. Same goes for dates, weddings, or any special occasion. If you're short on time, consider borrowing a few items from a friend instead. Or wear something you already have in your closet but buy a new wrap or a necklace to update it. Always have a backup plan so you don't get stuck spending too much.

Emotional shopping is just as dangerous. How many times have you "treated" yourself to a shopping trip to try to lift your spirits? Though you may feel some elation right after you buy a new outfit, the trip often ends up having the opposite effect once you realize how much money you spent. Plus, you may find when you get home that the great new shirt goes with nothing in your closet. But you weren't thinking about that when you bought it – in fact, you weren't thinking at all. You were fueled by pure emotion. When you have moments like these, it's time to enlist the help of your friends and money-group members.

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Read more:
The Smart Cookies: Easy ways to save money
6 ways to stretch your shopping dollars
10 things you're wasting your money on



Excerpted from The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough, copyright 2008 by The Smart Cookies with Jennifer Barrett. Used by permission of Random House Canada.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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10 ways to look great on a budget

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