Since 2003, we’ve been dishing shopping tips here on TBF. Long time TBF readers probably think we sound like a broken record (cost per wear, 70/30 rule), but that’s because these shopping tips really do work. Recently someone asked us if we had a place to review all of our shopping tips (many are in Kathryn’s book “How to Be a Budget Fashionista”), and I realized that it would nice to have all of our best shopping tips in one place, sort of like a shopping tip vault, so that they’re easy to reference.
So,we scoured our archives to find our list of 25 proven shopping tips that help you save money and look fabulous, then put them into one (albeit very long) post. While others may have been “inspired by” (some would say “stolen from” TBF), these tips come straight from The Budget Fashionista.
25 Awesome Shopping Tips
Shopping Tip #1- Use the Cost Per Wear When Shopping.
Frequent TBF readers know this is something I’ve been preaching for years and is probably my No. 1 shopping tip. Value is the key when building a great closet and The Budget Fashionista’s cost per wear formula can help you get the most bang for your buck. The cost per wear is the price of an item divided by the number of times you think you’ll wear it. So if an item costs $100, and you wear it 10 times, the cost per wear is $10. The more you wear an item, the cheaper it becomes. This tip is especially important because it forces you to focus on the utility of an item, i.e. the usefulness of an item to you, rather than just the price. Paying $5 for something you never wear is $5 wasted.
Shopping Tip #2- Know Your Shape
Can you flip through a magazine or walk through a store and automatically know what styles are going to look good on you? You should be able to do this. When you know your body shape well enough, you won’t waste time and money on unflattering trends (remember those harem pants you bought? Yeah, we thought so). First, stand in front of a full-length mirror for a few minutes. Don’t suck it in or wear your Spanx, just be honest with yourself.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do you carry most of your weight in your hips and thighs? You’re a pear shape.
2. Are your chest and shoulders wider than your hips? You’re an inverted triangle.
3. Are your hips, shoulders, and waist pretty much the same size? You probably have a “rectangle” shape.
4. Can’t figure it out? Ask a close friend for her opinion.
Shopping Tip #3- Recycle Fashion.
Pay a visit to your mother and/or grandmother. While you’re there, offer to “help” clean out their closets. You’ll be amazed at the goodies you’ll find. While visiting my grandma in Milwaukee, I discovered a vintage Coach saddlebag, dating from around 1960, in mint condition amid a box of old magazines. If you are unable to visit a relative’s closet, try having a clothing swap party with your friends. Ask everyone to bring unwanted, high-quality clothing to exchange for similar items from other party-goers.
Shopping Tip #4- Follow the 70/30 Rule.
This rule helps you prioritize your spending dollars. Seventy percent of your wardrobe should be classic pieces. We’re talking a dark pencil skirt, a black pair of pumps or a basic white button-up that can work with a wide variety of outfits. The last 30 percent of your wardrobe should encompass some fun–statement but work-appropriate jewelry, red pumps or a trendy ruffled blouse.
Shopping Tip #5- Try Things On
This rule will save you TONS of money and a great deal of time. You can’t get a real feel for how something looks on you until you’ve tried it on, period. There are really no shortcuts.
Shopping Tip #6- Get Editorial Inspiration
Don’t know what to do with those stack of Vogues sitting on top of your coffee table? Here’s an idea. Cut out the pictures with outfits, accessories, etc. that you like. Put the items into a notebook and carry it with you when you go shopping to use as inspiration.
Shopping Tip #7- Make it Fit
In this “off the rack, on my back” shopping culture, the importance of tailored clothing has been lost. Stars like Oprah look so fabulous because their clothes are tailored. However, you don’t have to be a billionaire to have your clothes tailored: just head to your local dry cleaner. Most cleaners have a tailor on staff. And stores like Banana Republic and Saks Fifth Avenue offer free tailoring on full-priced items.
Shopping Tip #8- Develop a Signature Piece
Your signature style piece is the one fashion item you’re going to be known for—sort of like your fashion calling card. It could be fabulous shoes, earrings, a blazer, a dress, etc. Focus your shopping dollars on these pieces. My signature piece is crazy necklaces, which I find at thrift stores and stores like Forever 21.
Shopping Tip #9- Learn where and when to buy.
July/August and late January/February are the best times to hit the stores for deals. Write down the names of your favorite stores, go to their Web sites, and register to receive coupons, special invitations and notifications of new products. Outlet stores are also great sources of designer goods.
Shopping Tip #10- Make A Shopping List
When shopping for yourself (or for gifts), write a detailed shopping list. When buying gifts, include all the people you need to shop for, their gift and the maximum you’re willing to pay for their gift. Keep the list out while you’re shopping, and have a pen handy to jot notes and check off items as you shop.
Shopping Tip #11- Have a Clothing Swap
This may seem like a lot of work to organize, but just take a second and image all those clothes shoved in your closet that you don’t wear just because you’re over them. Now, imagine your friends’ closets and think about all the awesome things in their closets you would love to score. Clothing swaps are a great way to get awesome new pieces into your closet WITHOUT paying, and are a fun reason to hang out with your girlfriends.
Shopping Tip #12- Limit Trips to the Dry Cleaners
This is a real money-zapper, even for yours truly, until I learned–and this may come as a shock–that you’re only supposed to dry-clean your suits two to three times per year, and even less often for items like coats. So how do you keep it fresh in the meantime? Spritz it with a bit of fabric freshener like Febreze.