The Three Handbags Every Woman Should Own

Dear Budget Fashionista,

I’m the brokest 35 year old, recent college grad you’ve ever met, but I’m in desperate need of new handbags (right now, I’m carrying around my college backpack as a “purse”.) I know that I can’t use the same handbag for everything, but I would like to know what are the three handbags I should definitely own. I have a budget of $150.


A: Here’s the three basic handbags you should own and, get this, you can purchase them all for around $100- leaving a little extra money to send to those student loans.

The Black Everyday Handbag

This is your everyday bag that can go from day to casual evening to shopping during the weekend. Focus on purchasing a quality (for tips on finding a quality hand bags, head here), leather handbag and make sure you weatherproof the bag to extend the wear. (The Black Handbag shown above: Tianni Leather Fringe Hobo, $37.80 at

The Tote Handbag

nyc perlina tote
A truly versatile bag, this bag can serve as your briefcase/attache during the week and your shopping tote during the week. Make sure to look for a tote with reinforced handles (usually indicated by double stitching), so be able to carry heavy loads and stay away from light colored bags that can easily attract dirt. Also do the “Carry Test”, put the necessary contents of your current tote into the bag to test to see if you can carry all the items you need in the bag. (Tote shown above: NYC Perlina Tote, on sale for $22.49 at

The Clutch Handbag

iman clutch
This bag can pull double duty as both a dressy day bag (for church and weddings) as well as a great evening bag. Stick with basic colors like black, brown, and, depending on the items in your closet, red. Also make sure the bag has metal hardware, which makes it look higher end.
(Clutch shown above: IMAN Global Chic Hollywood Envelope Clutch, $44.95 at

The runners up
The Designer Bag No one needs a designer bag, but if you have the basics and a few extra dollars int he bank, you might want to splurge on a designer bag. Make sure you choose a bag that is in a classic shape, size, and color so you get the most wear out of the bag and head to outlets like Off Fifth, the Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet and online sites like to get them on sale.
The Laptop Bag – of course this is only important if you carry a laptop. A stylish laptop bag is a conversation starter and you can find great bags online at Target for well under $40.
Wrislet– A cross between a wallet and a clutch- great for carrying the basics
Evening bag-Don’t spend more than $30 bucks on this. Try Sears, TJ Maxx, or Marshalls
Weekend carrier– for weekend trips, which need to carry bulky stuff
Suitcase– just in case you need to be out. Target has reasonable priced suitcases for under well under $50. For better quality suticases check out Macys during a sale.

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  1. MizHalsegan says

    Here’s another thought. I would spend a little more on either the tote (probably the tote, since it will get more wear and tear) or the everyday black handbag, and try to find a nice clutch either in Marshall’s etc, as advised, or in a consignment shop or Goodwill. Like special-occasion dresses, these kinds of purses seem to get minimal wear. Or try to find a sharp makeup case/bag. Some of them are actually pretty nice and can double as an evening purse.

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