Frugal ’13: Fashion on a Shoestring

When it comes to fashion, I bat a ‘0’ every time. My ‘style’ is anything that I think goes with jeans 😉 I used to be a WalMart clearance rack shopper until 2003 when I met Jamie. She and I experienced Seminary life together, but I was always amazed at how well she dressed on those minimal budgets. She began to educate me on thrift shopping and spending my money on clothes that would actually hand down to the younger kids because they could stand up to a little boy’s wear and tear. She agreed to guest post for me on this subject of Frugal Fashion. The title of the post is a pun, of course, since we both love shopping for shoes 😉

Hey y’all, I’m Kay’s friend Jamie. I’m a wife, mom to 3, and I sporadically blog over on Him,Me, and Our Three. Kay asked me to do a guest post for her on fashion and finance. Then she called me a dork when I asked if I could talk about my new shoes. Can y’all believe that? I’m going to do it anyway, but that comes later. 

I love clothing, shoes, and accessories. I always have. I often joke that I have Dom Perignon taste on a Pabst Blue Ribbon budget. I don’t let that stop me from enjoying myself though! Kay asked me to share a few tips/tricks for dressing well on a budget. It is absolutely possible to dress well on a budget. I am a firm believer in first impressions. I know there are many that disagree with me, but I believe in presenting yourself well. Coco Chanel has a lot of great quotes on the subject, but one of my favorites is:
First of all, do NOT go in debt for clothing. It is not worth it. No matter what sort of special financing, bonus points, extra percentage off, etc they offer you, if you can not pay for your purchase, don’t make it. Now for those of you that do your accounting by using a credit card for expenses and pay it off in full at the end of the month, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking about the one that says “But look, if I buy it with my card I get 15% off!!” In all likelihood, that store credit card has an APR of between 15-20%, so if you can’t pay the balance in full at the end of the statement period, it ends up costing you more than you saved. Along those same lines, never whine to someone you are bargaining with about your finances. If you are in the process of making a deal with someone for a formal gown, do not ask them to knock a few bucks off because you are a “broke college student” or what ever your excuse is. We all fall on hard times now and then, it is best to be straightforward. Sellers get annoyed when you whine.
Okay, back down off the soapbox and on to buying without going broke. Here are some of the things I do to get designer clothing:
  • Thrifting/Consignment Sales: If you have never shopped in a thrift or consignment store, TRY IT. Those places are gold mines! Now I’m not saying every time is a good trip, there have been plenty of times I’ve walked out empty handed. Other times have been amazing. I once walked out of a Goodwill store with a stack of great books, a Lilly Pulitzer dress, a Lilly Pulitzer skirt, a Vineyard Vines dress, a Vineyard Vines belt, a gorgeous leather handbag, and a smocked dress for my daughter. The thing about them is you need to understand a few things. First, it is always hit or miss. It helps to know what days they put out merchandise. For some, that is daily, for others, it might be one day a week. Second, know what days they do specials/discounts. Third, know what they are there for. I am more likely to spend more on an item if I know the money goes for a good cause. Some “thrift” stores are non-profit, and all money made goes to support a certain cause. Other “thrift” stores ARE for profit (even those you would think are not) and they do make money, as well as support causes. Consignment stores usually sell for people, and they keep a portion of the profits (Usually 60/40 or 70/30).
  • Consignment Sales are one of my favorite ways for dressing my kids. I love those twice yearly BIG sales. I am in the process of preparing for one now. We have several in my neck of the woods, and I always consign in at least one of them. For the big sales, you need to know when and where they are. Then you need to know what form of payment they take—some are cash/check only, some are cash/credit only. Be sure to check, because some require a minimum purchase or charge a $1 fee for credit/debit card purchases. Know when they open and when the half-price sale will be. What I typically do is try to hit the sale early. For the big one I am consigning in this Spring, I will be in line when the doors open for the pre-sale (usually open to volunteers/consigners). I am volunteering in this one as well. It is always fun to pitch in, and I chose one of the most hated shifts—break down. I love it! I will go in and scour my kids’ sizes. Things I really want, I will buy that night. If it is something I can’t decide on, I’ll check the tag to see if it will be included in the half price sale (sellers usually have the right to choose and it will be signified somehow on the tag). If I’m just not sure, I’ll wait and come back during the half-price sale to get it.
  • Social Media: I know what you are thinking. Seriously, this is a GREAT way to score some deals. Have a particular brand or store you absolutely love? Follow them, friend them, sign up for emails! Most companies now are all over social media. 
    • You can get emails, you can follow them on Twitter, you can Like or Friend them on Facebook, you can follow them on Instagram. This is a GREAT way to get on preferred/advance sale notice
    • Often they announce sales/discount codes this way. Also, if you are on Facebook, “search” for the brand you like, or even the style. 
    • There are a TON of selling pages on Facebook dedicated to the re-selling of a certain brand or style of clothing. Most allow you to both buy and sell on their page. I am a fan of an embarrassing amount of companies and pages. I buy and sell on Facebook often. Remember the shoes I mentioned Kay calling me a dork about? Yep, Facebook. I bought them from a Facebook selling page. They are nearly new (seriously, NO wear at all ) Kate Spade suede driving moccasins with adorable gold colored horsebit style accents. I paid $25 for them. My feet are very happy. Be sure to check the “rules/guidelines” for Facebook selling pages before jumping in. Most require the use of Paypal to protect buyers/sellers (My own note here, always send Paypal payments as goods. If you send funds “personal” you have no back up if the sale goes bad. Paypal buyer protection only applies to purchases). Another great way to use social media for shopping is you can find out about other locations you may not have known existed. For example, let’s say you have a particular brand you adore, but your local store never has sales. If you poke around, you are likely to find other stores in other places that do run sales, and most of them are happy to ship to you!
  • eBay: This kind of goes along with Social Media, but eBay is its own thing. Ebay is the perfect example of a free market in action, use it! You can search by brand, by size, by color even! A few things tips for eBay shopping: 
    • Check your seller’s feedback before you place a bid. Make sure they are a reputable seller. 
    • Also, check their location. If that Longchamp bag’s price seems too good to be true and your seller is in China, it is quite likely a fake. 
    • What I do on eBay is “watch” items I’m interested in, and then go back in and bid at the last minute. 
    • Remember eBay is an open market, it is only yours if you are willing to pay the highest bid for it. I also search by variables. 
    • Try searching for the item with the name misspelled. I also search first by “items ending soonest” and then again by “lowest price plus shipping”. You can find some great buy it now options as well!
  • Retail Stores: If you have a particular store or brand you love, get to know them. Find out their sale or markdown schedule. Laugh if you like, but I have Target’s markdown schedule saved. I love Target, and shop there often. I know what day they do markdowns. I also check endcaps for random clearance when I’m in the store. Many stores also give out coupons, or participate in other neat savings devices. For example, there is an app for smartphones called “ShopKick”. You get “kicks” for walking into stores, or for scanning items in those stores. You then trade the kicks for gift cards. My kids remind me every time I walk in Target to get my kicks, and they enjoy helping me find the items to scan. Some stores also offer a similar program for online shoppers. Check out eBates,where you get a % back on what you spend if you go through their site to find the retail store’s website. For example, right now, you can get 2% of whatever you spend back at Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy/Piperlime. Another fun one is MyPoints.  With My Points, you get “points” for shopping online, reading emails, filling out surveys, etc. You can then trade those points for gift cards.
  • Flash Sale Sites: I have a love/hate relationship with flash sale sites. I’ve gotten some GREAT deals with some of them. I’ve also had times when the items I want has disappeared before I could get checked out, or when a sale is advertised and then has NOTHING I wanted/expected to be in it. There are many sites. I am sure they all have their good and bad qualities. Two that I use are RueLaLaand Zulily
    • RueLaLa charges $9.95 for shipping via UPS. They also have a policy where you pay one time for 30 days. You pay shipping on your first order, and any after that ship free. This is great for flash sales, because you want to buy it as soon as you see it. Don’t add it to your cart thinking it will wait for you there. Have your info ready (or prefilled) and hit “quick buy it” as soon as you can.
    • RueLaLa also offers another program in which you pay $100, and get free shipping for an entire calendar year. You also get 2 $50 gift cards when you sign up, so it “basically” pays for itself, IF those gift cards are some you will use. Right now, the stores are not stores I would shop it often. If I ever see them pop up from stores I’d use, I’d consider it, assuming I had the money available. After all, for $100 you get 2 $50 gift cards plus free UPS shipping for a year. Not a bad deal, again, IF you can use those gift cards. I have gotten some great deals on RueLaLa. They sometimes have kids, but every day there are new mens and women’s “boutiques”. These are always higher end designers. I’ve seen Resort style brands like Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines, High end names like Louis Vutton, cookware from Calaphon, you name it. They also have a HUGE shoe sale called ShoeLaLa a couple times a year with everything from the dressiest of heels to running shoes. 
    • Zulily tends to have more kids’ things—I’ve seen Lego, Melissa & Doug, and kids’ clothing lines. They are also likely to have adults and maternity wear. They recently had a Toms sale, and I was so mad at myself because they had some great prices, but I did not know what size to order for my daughter. I meant to take her to try some on and did not make it. Both sites usually have on the site what boutiques are coming up over the next week. Boutiques usually open in the morning and run for 1-3 days. They send out emails daily with what boutiques are about to open and you can request to get “alerts” to remind you if there is one coming up you don’t want to miss.

A couple of final notes:

  • CARE for your purchases. Even if you bought that designer blouse for $2.50, if you throw it in the washer with towels it will soon LOOK the part of a $2.50 blouse. Clothing that is made of higher quality will hold up well IF TAKEN CARE OF. Follow the washing instructions printed on the tag. I have taught my daughter to put her “good” clothes in the drawer under my washer, so that there is never a danger of them getting thrown in when someone “helps” me with laundry. Once a week or so, I wash a load on the hand wash cycle and hang/lay flat to dry.

  • Also, assess what you really need. You don’t need designer everything. You also don’t need a huge wardrobe. I would much rather have a few higher quality pieces that are great wardrobe builders than an overstuffed closet of cheaply made items. Classic, timeless pieces that you can build an outfit around are the best. A classic black dress can be topped with costume pearls and strappy sandals you found at a cheaper shoe store. A good quality white oxford shirt looks great with discount jeans. I tend to get my good basics in timeless styles. I love a good v-neck sweater or a button down shirt, and then for the color or style trends I’ll add a belt or scarf I picked up cheap somewhere. Pinterest and Polyvore are great websites for helping you put together cute outfits!
I hope this helps! I’m happy to answer questions about anything I’ve mentioned. Happy shopping!

To locate a thrift shop near you, click on this link for The Thrift Shopper. I search here for thrift shops in my area as we move around the country to hunt down the best deals.

Frugal Family 2013
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4 thoughts on “Frugal ’13: Fashion on a Shoestring

    1. You are most welcome! You are my ‘go to’ for these things and it is only fitting to have the teacher post this info ;-)I am just sad that we haven’t lived near each other since Jack was born 😦

  1. I’m a huge believer in sales and the clearance rack! I love Banana Republic and there’s a factory store where I live (bonus!) and by signing up for their emails, I get awesome coupons; like the one I got today for 30% off my entire purchase. It’s very important to try on everything – how many times have we bought it cause it was $5, got home and it didn’t fit? (I know I have!) I only buy things on sale, and I (try) to set my limit for whatever I’m looking for, like only buying jeans that are under $50 and even then that’s pushing it.I also buy quality pieces that I’ll pay more for, like jeans at $65, because I wear jeans every single day in winter fall and spring. So it’s worth spending more for great quality that will last through years of washing.I also like to do some ebay, but mostly for my daughter on certain brands (like Matilda Jane), because the quality is great and she can wear them for a couple years (she’s tiny and they run big/are styled to be not form fitting).I’ve tried consignment store (both selling and buying) and I just having found things for myself because I’m petite and I need a small size. Hence why I’m so loyal to BR, I know what fits the moment I hit the door and I don’t have to search and try on 3 different sizes, styles.Some of my favorite places to shop online are at Pepperlime, Landsend and Zappos. They have great clearance sections, especially if you buy out of season (I needed a new winter coat and got one last week for about 30% off retail, and I also had a coupon for an additional percentage off. A $140 coat for $65, I love it!)Be smart when you shop, and always ask yourself, Do I REALLY need it?

    1. That is definitely the key phrase: do I really need it? Go out with a list, know exactly what you are hunting for and that’s all you buy! Thanks for sharing those tips!!

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