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Dressing on a Budget

If you're a struggling college student, say "I!" If I'm hearing myself correctly, it sounded like a symphony of "I"s being shouted right back at me. Look, it's okay if you're not, but it's doubly okay if you are. Really, one way or another we're all stuck in this boat together. Sometimes we just don't have an expendable amount of money to dedicate to our style, no matter how much we wish we did.

I've always been terrible at saving my money. That sounds so negative. Let's rephrase it this way: I have an uncanny ability to spend all of my money. Look at that journalistic spin! I like to shop. I like to buy makeup and clothes and music and magazines and coffee and the occasional grocery splurge. This insatiable desire to constantly spend money was slightly more acceptable when I was still living at home and had absolutely no living expenses, though I'm sure my parents would kindly disagree. But now as a twenty-year-old "adult" (more like fauxdult, am I right?) who has things like rent and utilities and gas and groceries, frivolous spending had to drop down to the bottom of the totem pole...okay, or right above groceries. LOOK, I know, I know, that's a terrible thing to prioritize, but I can't help it. Or I could but I'm choosing not to...

I digress, after three years of living poor in college, I've tried to change my ways (which is really hard when you work at two clothing stores) for the better and I've picked up a few tips on how to save when you're spending. Now don't get me wrong, I have a long ways to go, but if it's possible for me, it's possible for you!

1. Fast fashion

Ugh, I can feel Anna Wintour glaring at me all the way from the Conde Nast offices. Look, fast fashion is a love/hate thing I think. Yes, copying runway designs and making cheaper alternatives before those pieces actually hits the stores because of faster production is awful. The waste that these companies create is also bad. The employment situation? Cringe. But sometimes, it's what you have to do to get by without breaking the bank. Places like H&M and Zara tend to be the two that seem to be the most "on trend" with what's going on in the fashion world, while Forever21 always seems to be six steps behind with some neon.

2. Avoid trends

I know I just mentioned how H&M and Zara are both "on trend" with what's going on in the fashion world, but that doesn't mean you need to follow. The thing about trends is that they are fleeting. Some last longer than others, but most of the time they're gone in a seasons time. Try not to fall for too many trends because then you'll just be putting your money into something that you won't be wearing in six months. That over-sized fringed poncho might not be the smartest buy. What trends you should avoid depend on your personal style, but it's best to be careful when it comes to shopping the latest trends. Really think about how long you think that you'll wear a piece before you buy it or else you'll just be giving away or donating that piece in a few months time.

3. Find your staples

Finding your staples, whether it's cuts of garments or your color scheme or fabric choices, is key. Carly Cristman only wears black, white, grey, and other neutrals. That eliminates the entire color wheel when it comes to shopping. Some people swear by a blazer, a striped shirt, a white tee, and a little black dress. Everyone's staples are different and it's best to find what works for you. Mine are a white and black t-shirt, a pair of regular and black skinny jeans, a pair of distressed mid-tone jeans, a high neckline dress, a black skater skirt and a pair of nude and black open toed booties. Results may vary, but when you find them, shopping becomes infinitely easier because you won't be buying unnecessary clothing that doesn't fit into your staple collection.

4. Shop thrifted or consignment

You can save so much money buying secondhand clothing. If you're really all that concerned about the hygiene aspect, all it takes is a quick wash or run to the dry cleaners and it's as good as new. And it would surprise you how many people bring their items in washed already, though I'm sure that depends on the establishment that you go to. My suggestion is to search "high end consignment" for your city or surrounding areas to see what pops up. These are the places you can get anything from J. Crew to Tory Burch and Kate Spade to things like Gucci and Prada and even Chanel and Louis Vuitton. I can't vouch for other establishments other than the ones I know, but they are great places to find authentic items for way, way, way less. And we all know how thrift shops work: you win some, you lose some, and you find a pair of mom jeans to make into cut-off shorts. Both of these places require time and patience, but when you find a piece, you remember it forever.

5. Hit up those sales or the outlets

This is an obvious one but seriously, take advantages of sales. Save your shopping for around holidays because you know stores and malls are going to have some sort of deal going on. I know my favorite place to shop when I go home is the outlet mall because everything is so much cheaper. The first time I went to a real mall versus the outlet mall, I was so confused. Why was everything so expensive? Everything is so much cheaper at my mall? Well, it's true. You can find the deal of a century at the outlets. Also, USE YOUR COLLEGE DISCOUNTS!!!! There are plenty of graphics on Pinterest and on the internet to let you know which stores accept a college discount. Do your research and go frequent those places. The three I know off the top of my head (because I've used them) are J. Crew, Madewell, and Kate Spade.

It really all comes down to this: You can look polished in a twenty dollar outfit just the same as a two hundred dollar outfit. It's all about styling or how you do your hair or makeup. All that truly matters is that you're comfortable and confident and feel good in what you're wearing. There's absolutely no shame in shopping cheap for clothing or anything, really. We're all living very different lives and we have to do what's best for us!

What's your favorite way to save money when you're shopping for clothes?


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