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Fall is right around the corner (can you believe it?) and it’s time to start thinking about what piece(s) you’re going to add to your wardrobe.

This fall, TBFers, I really want you to focus on buying piece(s) that build your wardrobe – and what I mean by that is pieces that you will have for at least 2 years. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m going to keep saying it until you hear me. Look, I love trendy stores as much as the next Fashionista, but I also understand the harsh realities of our current economic situation.

We simply don’t have the money to be cheap.

Let me explain what I mean by this. Being cheap – meaning buying something, whether it is clothing, food, electronics, whatever, just because it is cheap (rather than creating value for you) costs you more money because cheap items are created to be disposable (meaning they’re not going to last very long). Now cheap and inexpensive are not the same thing. Cheap is low quality, disposable, poor construction. Inexpensive is good quality, long lasting, that you score at a great price. Cheap is that impulse purchase sitting at the back of your closet. Inexpensive is that designer handbag you score on sale.

Still don’t believe me?

Ok, ask yourself:

Which are you going to have longer: a pair of $2 plastic flip-flops or a pair of $25 leather thong sandals?

Which has more value: a $200 classic leather handbag from a mid-level designer that you can resell or a $75 single trend pleather handbag?

I know it is a completely different way of thinking, but it’s a shift that’s important in our current economic environment.

So how do you choose what pieces to buy, basically how do you tell the difference between cheap and inexpensive? Check my tips below.

How to Choose Which Pieces to Add to Your Wardrobe

Cost Per Wear: Yes I sound like a totally broke record, but I developed the cost per wear to address this very issue. The cost per wear forces you to focus on the utility of an item (how useful is the item to you), rather than just price.

Food for Thought: How Many Times Would you Wear These Boots Over the Next 5 Years?

Tall leather boots

Cole Haan ‘Air Jalisa’ Leather Tall Booton sale for $189.90 (regular price $298.00)

70/30 rule: Head to your closet and take a peek- do you have a ton of ultra trendy pieces? If you’re on a budget, you can’t afford to have more than 30% of your closet full of trendy pieces. Why? If you’re on a budget, you frankly may not know when you’ll be able to afford to shop next, so you need to focus your shopping dollars on pieces that will last a while. Focus on putting your closet back in balance with some updated classics.

Calvin Klein coat

This classic wool coat is a great closet equalizer: Calvin Klein Wool Wrap Coat on sale for $179.90 (regular price $258.00)

Dress for Who You Are Right Now. Who are you? And does your closet match your personality? Are you a stay at home mom with the closet of a bank executive? Do you spend a ton of time at work, but only have party clothes? Are you currently interviewing, but don’t have a suit? Seriously take a look at your life and current position and make closet purchases based on your life NOW, not the life you used to have.

For example, if you’re a SAHM you might want to focus on purchasing a great pair of jeans that can maintain its shape after several frequent washes. If you’re a workaholic, focus on buying a classic gray suit that you can wear to power meetings. If you’re interviewing, focus on a great briefcase or awesome suit that conveys that you’re the right person for the job.

Bootcut Denim

Joe’s ‘Provocateur’ Mid Rise Bootcut Stretch Denim Jeans, on sale for $99.90

Spend Money on Things that Make You Money: If you’re in the job market or trying to stand out in your current job, spend money on things that make you money- i.e. a great suit to wear to interviews, or an awesome briefcase. Like this jacket and skirt suit from Nanette Leopre ($229.90 and $149.90 on sale) – and spend some more dough getting the suit tailored – yes, tailored – to your body.

Tailored Suits
Rebecca Taylor Ruffle Blazer, on sale for $229.90

Rebecca Taylor Ruffle Skirt, on sale for $149.90

Purchase Items That Are Assets: Ok, this may sound a bit like a fatalistic approach to shopping, but hear me out. I often look at the resale value of the things I purchase, so if I was in a pinch and needed to sell my closet I would be able to make some money. This is especially true for handbags. There’s plenty of awesome lower priced handbags that I’ve passed up to spend a few dollars more (no more $50) for a designer handbag that I know I would be able to resell at a later date.

For example, this gray flap handbag from Kate Spade is on sale for $262.90, which isn’t a cheap price for a handbag at all. However, I know I would be able to consign the bag, depending on how well I take care of it, for 75-80% of the original purchase price.

Kate Spade BagThe same is true for brands like St. John Knits, Marc Jacobs, etc. This way of thinking helped me to change my closet into an asset rather than just consumed goods.

This post is sponsored by Nordstrom. Shop the Anniversary Sale: Next Season on Sale Now. Prices go up August 1.

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  • Courtney

    It really depends I have done tests to see if this is really true, and sometimes you don’t know for sure. Target clothes won’t last as long as Nordstrom, but I have Jcpenny and Express clothes that have outlasted my name brand clothes similiar to those featured in this story. If I can buy a 60 dollar skirt and it will outlast a 200 dollar one then the more inexpensive one really is the best deal, so this won’t always work. And a real investment is one that earns interest, but I do see her point for sure.

  • Great items! I love the Kate Spade bag. It is worth the money as it IS on sale and it can go with a ton of different outfits…looks pretty sturdy, too!

  • I agree in general that you need to not waste money on things that don’t work, but if I’m on a tight budget, I’m not spending $100 on any one clothing item when I can probably get a similar item at Target, Kohls, or JCPenney for much less. I do agree that no matter how cheap something is, if it doesn’t work for you, then it’s a waste, even if it was $5.

    • TBF

      The issue is whether or not the item is truly similar. Most likely it is not if it from Target (may be from JCP and Kohls). Just because it looks similar that doesn’t mean it is similar. Is the fabric Gabardine or polyester (gabardine lasts a lot longer). is the stitching single or double stitch? Is there lining? Does it has extra fabric in the hem that will allow you to alter it?

  • Jen

    I don’t agree with spending alot on Jeans. There are plenty of lower priced Jeans to rival the fit of expensive brands. I’ll take a classic pair of Levis over a $200 or even $100 pair any day.

  • LOVE the wool coat!! I am in complete agreement with your points: Investing in key good quality pieces that last works out much cheaper than hords of throw away badly made purchases. Well said! xx