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13 tips to look stylish on a budget

#Fashionover50 all gray winter work outfit at the Top of the World Style linkup party @

Who would not love to pay a billion dollar in taxes if one had the income to pay them? I would, but I contribute much, much less to Uncle Sam’s budget as my income even over my entire live will never reach that number.

Don’t get me wrong! When one is not born as a heiress, married rich or won the lottery, one most likely is on a budget all life long. The budgets may look different depending on income, but the normal woman – even when she is a fashionista – does not buy a Hermes bag, Valentino skirt, Chanel jacket, Celine T-shirt and Burberry coat plus a Juste un clou de Cartier bangle out of their wallet on a day shopping with her girlfriend. On the contrary, the credit cards of most of us would be maxed out just by the Hermes bag, and would be immediately locked for any of the “low” price-tag items on the above list. At least, mine would.

Here are couple of tips to stay on budget – whatever the number is – and look effortlessly stylish. The three most important things in staying on a budget in fashion is knowing your style, discipline and being prepared.

  1. Take stock to know what you have, and identify what you need to replace and/or what is missing. Create a list with these items on your cell phone. Doing so ensures that you always have the list with you when you browse sales.
  2. Know the fit of the various brands. If a more expensive brand has great pieces you would like to have try them on and check them for fit. Take notes on your cell phone which size it is and the type of cut, name of the item and brand and the uppermost price you would be willing to pay for what you saw. Thus, when you see the item is on sale online with the right price tag for your budget you can order it as you already know it will fit.
  3. Try on the high-end brands’ blazers. Look how they fit. Of course, these items – even on sale – will not have an acceptable price tag, ever. However, these items teach you how a perfect fit should look like. Then you will recognize when you try out an affordable item that (by accident or luck?) has this great fit. So to speak you train yourself being a better shopper by just being able to identify a great deal even when it is not on sale.
  4. Accept that white T-shirts, white blouses and/or button-down shirts last a season, not more. After a season, they look yellowish and shabby. Thus, buy white T-shirts in the boys’ or men’s department. They are much cheaper than in the women’s department. Buy white button-down shirts or blouses only on sale. Since you know they are short-lived, you can buy a new one on sale as a spare when it is a classic cut. But don’t overdo it. You have a closet, not a warehouse. 😉
  5. The short-lived items is were you can go for trends. The item and trend most likely have the same lifetime. 😉
  6. Identify all other short-lived items that you need, e.g. socks, tights or hosiery. Stock up on them at the end of their season. Living in Alaska I go thru a lot of black, gray and brown tights. I stock up on them at the end of the winter when stores sell them for half or less.
  7. Spurge on sunglasses (UV protection and polarization are a must), bags, shoes, belts. Buy the highest quality item you can afford. Think quality is better than quantity. Go for classic with a twist in your style.
  8. Only buy a new item when you can come up with at least three new outfits with items you already own in the store (without thinking too hard!). Tip: It helps when you build your wardrobe around one or two neutrals and two or three colors in various shades. This way you can combine them easily and you have many possibilities and outfits. Never buy complete outfits! They may only work that one way!
  9. Focus on getting items that you can wear at least in two seasons. This way you can spend a little more on them (read higher quality meaning a more polished look) as you get more wear out of them. In other words, before you pull your credit card always think about how many wear you expect to get out of the item. If the price of the item divided by your guestimate of wear is less than a latte or coffee at your fav coffee shop, go for it. A trendy item is too expensive if it exceeds this value, even when it would fit in your budget. Have a price-per-wear value that fits your budget for all items on your list. If a non-spurge item exceeds that number it is too expensive for your budget.
  10. Always pair cheap and more expensive items. You want to strive for effortlessly stylish, not unaffordably rich or cheap.
  11. For lust items that are outside of your budget range, learn to shop on eBay.
  12. Make it a habit to browse thrift and consignment stores and to sell your good clothes that no longer work for you. You can find brands there that would otherwise be outside of your budget range. Furthermore, you get some extra money to spend on fashion from the clothes you sold. Here are links with tips on thrifting successfully and not wasting time when thrifting.
  13. When you are new to thrifting, start out with scarves. A nice scarf can always up your style.

Below are example outfits for inspiration. The clothes I wear in each of these looks are below $150 per outfit.

#fashionover40 woman in an office outfit conisting of second hand items Ruby Belle plaid sheath dress (thrifted for $12) with cashmere sweater (bought on eBay for $20), and Harley Davidson booties (auctioned on eBay for $70)
#fashionover40 low budget outfit for going out with thrifted and sales items Outfit for dancing/date night with thrifted sequin tunic ($12) with London Jean boyfriend jeans (bought on sale), and Tucker for Target bomber jacket (all own)

#fashionover50 woman in work outfit with consigned items and shoes from eBay This low budget work look is made of a GNW cardigan bought on sale, L.K. Bennett pumps auctioned on eBay for $50. The Michael Kors jacket and Ralph Lauren pleated skirt were consignment finds of which I do not remember the exact price

#styleover50 woman in budget friendly pants, sweater and scarf found on sales The GNW Luxe sweater was 50% off, the Oscar de la Rente scarf was a thrift find for $5 (!) and the pants were auctioned off-season on eBay new for less than a fourth of the retail price

#maturefashion women looking chic in suede skirt with mock turtleneck sweater on a budget The G-III skirt and Ann Taylor blazer are consignment finds, the pink mock turtleneck cashmere sweater and Harley Davidson booties were auctioned on eBay

#maturestyle woman in evening gown from a yard sale This tea-length evening-gown was $10 at my neighbor’s yard sale. Since I am a ballroom dancer, it is now at less than $1.50 per wear

If you liked these tips share with your friends how to look stylish on a budget. Then they owe you! 😉

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Photos: G. Kramm

© 2013-2018 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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