Repost: Recession Proofing Your Closet This Fall

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The Budget Fashionista’s Annual “Being Broke Ain’t Cute” Series features tips and advice to help you improve your personal financial health. For more personal finance information, please visit our Financial Health Series.

1. Develop a Signature Piece. This is the piece you’re going to be known for—sort of like your calling card. It could be fabulous shoes, earrings, blazer, dresses, 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.

2.  Use the Cost per Wear When Shopping. Frequent TBF readers know this is something I’ve been preaching for years. 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 ten times, the cost per wear is $10. The more you wear an item, the cheaper it becomes. This tip is especially important as it forces you to focus on the utility of an item, ie the usefulness of an item to you, rather than just the price. Paying $5 for something you never where is $5 wasted.

3. 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 suppose to dry clean your suits two to three times per year and even less for items like coats. So how do you keep it fresh in the meantime? Spritz it with a bit of fabric freshener like Febreze.

4. Learn to Sew. Okay, I don’t mean learn how to create amazing pieces ala ‘Project Runway’, but learning how to hem your own pants, fix slight holes, and other minor alterations will not only save you money, but also save your garments.

5. Follow the 70/30 Rule. 70 percent of your closet should be classic pieces that never go out of style, a great white shirt from Old Navy or even a nice black suit that you can wear over and over again. The other 30 percent should be fun trendy items like a plaid skirt, funky bomber jacket, or a cool fedora.

6. Create a Shoppers Savings Account. I have a special, interest bearing savings account, that I put my shopping dollars in. I ONLY purchase items with the money in this account and it can go all the way to zero, which is fine, cause it is not connected to my REAL checking account (the one I pay bills from)

7. Swap Parties. My Friends and I have swap parties where we bring our used, but still stylish items and swap them for “new” items (which are our friends old slightly used items). It’s a great way to have fun AND get new items in your closet for free.

8. Use Giftcards. I use this tip especially during the holiday season. I put my entire Christmas budget on a visa giftcard from my bank and once the money is gone, I’m finished shopping. Also works well for back to school.

P.S. The segment isn’t confirmed, but once it is, I will let you all know when it will air.

P.S.S Please note these tips are copyrighted (we’ve noticed a lot of folks who never cared about budget shopping before all of a sudden trying to be “frugal” experts and using my tips. Not cool.)

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  • Great tips! I love the Cost Per Wear concept. I do this all the time with my groceries and other items but I never thought to do it with my clothes! That makes some of the items in my closet pretty expensive by themselves…

    • TBF

      It does totally change the way you look at your closet. Items that seemed “cheap” actually become quite expensive because you never wear them.

  • Leslie Perry

    Wow, these were some really great tips, will certainly make me rethink and reevaluate what I have been doing for way too long!!!!!!!!! I appreciate your work…………………….

  • I absolutely love these tips, especially number 6. I’m surprised that you didn’t include thrift store shopping (consignment and vintage stores are not for frugal people). Last but not least, hand me downs. Yes, I shop my Mom’s closet.

  • Thanks for the great tips.

  • alisia

    Great tips!! Just rad across your site this morning. However, I must admit that I have been using the “Cost Per Wearing” tip for over 25 years. I came across this tip in a Beauty Basics book and it has helped me to make “WISER” decisions, pass up some fads, and save tons of money. I will definitely give you mad props and refer others to your site.

  • Reggiegirl

    One other tip I have is to take care of the clothes you do have. Wash them in cold water and dry them on medium to low heat in the dryer or hang the nice work clothes to dry on your shower rack. Being gentler on your items in the wash helps them last a lot longer and look better longer. This saves a lot of money on basics like T shirts, undies and workout clothes that get washed a ton especially. Also wash your things inside out and to set color and prevent shrinking the first time you wash something you can throw a cup of white vinegar in the wash with it. This tip really works well with dark wash jeans and reds.

  • Deborah

    The 70/30 rule is key. But no one sells the 70% classics any more! Or at least you have to pick through trendo garbage to find them — most stores are 10% classics and those classics may not be the classics that work for me, or you. Even Land’s End, Talbots etc. have shirts and sweaters with weird details that might work for someone sometime but not me now.

    So (1) WTF are they thinking? This is a recession — is this really the best way for stores to make money?
    (2) meantime, where do I get my basics?
    (3) Can we start a protest?!?!?!

    • TBF

      It is hard to fine the basics (for a reason… you have to buy new trendy pieces each year). My advice is to stick with brands that are a bit more basic (Gap/BN for casual, Tahari/Ann Taylor for work). And of course, shop online

  • Great advice! Your 70/30% rule is right on the money. Most well-dressed people have a closet full of beautiful classic clothes with amazing accessories and pops of color that they use to infuse their own personal style into their daily looks.

  • A

    TBF, how do you feel about Dryel? (re: dry cleaning being a money-zapper). I imagine it’s a good investment and produces more freshness than Febreze…

  • Emma

    Your tips are copyrighted? Really?

    Your *writing* is copyrighted, yes. But these are all ideas I’ve read before – most of them dozens of times. There’s nothing new here.

    I imagine you’ll censor this comment. That’s fine. At least you’ll have to read it.

    • TBF

      Emma- of course you’ve read them because they’ve been copied by other people. My first book came out in 2006 and NO ONE and this is verified by independent sources (like WWD and NYTimes) were using these tips. TBF has close to 600K people reading it each month AND we come up first when you are searching for budget tips. It doesn’t take much to copy from other people.

    • TBF

      Also, why are reading a blog you have so much contempt for?? I mean, just don’t read us, if you don’t like us. If you just wanted some attention, you could have said something positive…. But you’re voice was heard and I hope that makes you feel better.

  • Hi, I remember reading these tips numerous times. I told one of my friends on LiveJournal about your tips, giving you credit, and she said they were great.

  • I love these tips! The only thing I don’t care for is the Febreeze because of all the chemicals in it (yup, not only am I vegan but I’m also as natural as I can be). One thing that can be done is hanging it up in the bathroom when you shower (kind of like steaming out the wrinkles, the steam helps air it out faster), hanging it out to dry in the fresh air (though I know not all can do this), or using an all natural/more planet friendly version of Febreeze (there are many out there, and they don’t cause the allergy aggravation that strong scents and the Febreeze can cause in those of us with sensitivities). Sometimes I will spray some vinegar water (something I have handy in a spray bottle for cleaning) on the clothing, and yes the vinegar smell evaporates & can take the nasty smells with it. My best tip, though, is to avoid buying anything that is dry-clean only as much as possible (dry-cleaning is super bad for the planet), but actually some of those items can be HAND washed (tags might say it, but sometimes you can tell by the material).
    Maybe this is what my next blog needs to be about, what to do instead of dry cleaning… once I get off my lazy bum & post one…lol.

    • TBF

      love the vinegar tip…

  • That was supposed to be “useFUL,” not “useLESS.” Blah! Ha.

  • The cost per wear formula really is a great idea. Useless, and could bear some interesting results!

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  • My closet definitely can use a makeover. thanks for the great tips

  • LOVE your site. I always learn here!

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  • Ria

    Your site is fabulous! I quoted one of your tips (from a previous post about using a prepaid gift card) in the local news letter I write for, along with a link to your website.

    Congratulations on all of your success!

  • Tashi

    I’m a home state fan of yours, and have been reading your blog for a few years. I enjoy it very much! Thanks a bunch for your tips and information. Lest I forget, a big congratulations on all of your achievements. 🙂

  • Congratulations on all your success! You are such an amazing woman. Ever since you donated all those amazing items and books (accessories and scarves etc.) to our organization six years ago I started following your blog. I’ve been a faithful reader ever since. We love you Budget Fashionista. Keep rocking it!

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  • The cost per wear formula has saved me from what could have been some terrible shopping mistakes! Congrats on the Oprah gig!

  • Great post! Congrats on the whole Oprah thing. Sorry to hear about peeps ripping you off, def not cool. What they should do is give you some cred ie- refer ppl to your blog. I def will be sharing this space with others!

  • Love your tips. I am new to your site. I have 2 children and I budget shop all the time. I will have a few dollars and when I see something on sale I grab a few so when time rolls around I have what we need and don’t pay full price. This includes socks, pants, leggings, whatever. The local thrift store on Sundays has .25 clothing 5 for a dollar so I will also shop there. Thanks for the extra tips.

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  • BoujeeICON

    I def will use these, Thanks!!

  • LMP1997

    Just wanted to say, you are one savvy lady! Congratulations on your spot with Oprah!  Good luck to you and keep up the excellent work!

  • alanier

    WOW!!! I have NEVER thought of a shoppers account before… That is an AMAZING IDEA!!!

  • pamphyila

    Also think vintage/used/handmedowns items…  Much better value – All my designer pieces are from thrift shops!

  • shopbop620

    Im seriously addicted to clothes and so to keep my shopping spending to a minimum I buy a few key pieces for each season- usually a bag or a great piece of jewelry. I used to go to a lot of sample sales (living in NYC has lots of perks!) But recently I discovered gilt groupe, which is an invitation only sample sale site. Its been awesome bc some of the things that they have currently at saks and bergdorfs are 70% off at gilt groupe. I got a vera wang dress that was $750 at saks for $148 at gilt groupe. I tried it on at the store and then bought it from gilt groupe instead. Its my one fancy dress purchase for the season.

    Here is the invite if anyone needs it!

  • Just_Peachy

    So exciting that we are going to see you on the Oprah show!  Your tips (& whole book!) have saved me much $$$ in my shopping adventures!  You really deserve a spot on her show and glad to see that moment is finally here!