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THOUGHTS AND MUSINGS: How To Shop With $40 A Month

The dilemma of every college-aged Fashionista is classic: how do you invest in fashion without going broke? There are so many expenses that demand your limited income that it can be hard to balance it evenly. Some may say you’ll need to make sacrifices to make sure you can afford the basic necessities of food and shelter. For many, the first sacrifice is shopping.

While financial-based sacrifices are certainly necessary at this point in our lives, I would argue that you don’t need to stop shopping to make ends meet. If you are smart about your shopping and spending habits, you can keep your wardrobe updated without dropping out of school or going into debt. Here’s how you can truly have it all, including a sense of style, with a limited income.

1. Set a budget and stick to it. Setting a budget can be hard, but it’s necessary to ensure that you cover all your expenses without sacrificing anything. Take into consideration all of your absolutely necessary expenses: food, tuition, housing, travel, etc.. Then, take a portion of what money you have left in your budget and let yourself spend that much money on clothes. I, for instance, have a $40 a month shopping budget. Yours might be more or less, but it is important that you stick to this budget.

2. Only buy things full-price if you have to have it. Otherwise, browse the sale section (every store has one!) or wait until the item goes on sale. If you still like it by the time it’s thirty or even fifty percent off, it deserves a spot in your wardrobe. If it’s a totally forgettable piece and doesn’t cross your mind once you leave the store, it wasn’t meant to be.

3. Don’t let “big sales” fool you. Most “store-wide sales” actually only see a small part of the store on sale, while the rest of the clothing is full-priced. This is a very clever marketing trick used to lure you into the store on the premise of saving money when actually you’ll probably end up buying a bunch of stuff at full-price. If you do want to shop a sale, make sure you check the price tags and eligibility of every item for the “store-wide” discount.

4. Don’t try on things you can’t afford. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress” knows that letting yourself fall in love with something you can’t afford only leads to tears, heartbreak and/or some major debt. An easy way to avoid one (or all three) of these outcomes is by avoiding falling in love with items you simply can’t afford.

5. Don’t buy things just because they’re a designer brand. Modern fashion practically orbits around designer labels, which simply isn’t an affordable mindset for those of us who aren’t, like, Kim Kardashian. This is one of those financial sacrifices you have to make, though hopefully not for forever.

6. Consign! This is not only one of the most important ways to save money shopping, but also one of my personal favorites. Trade the pieces in your wardrobe you no longer wear for store credit, which can then be used to buy new clothing. Not only are you saving money by essentially trading one item of clothing for another, but most consignment stores or used clothing stores sell clothing at a percentage of its original retail value.