A beautiful wardrobe and a true-to-yourself fashion persona are both built bit by bit, accessory by accessory. They certainly aren't built in a day, contrary to what some wardrobe re-haul experts would have us believe. For anything good to come into existence and to keep evolving it takes time. And money. But not so much of the latter as that of the former.
Here is some sound advice on how to create a happy marriage between your hard-earned money and your never-ending lust for shiny, glitzy fashion thingies. Some of this advice is psychological, since our love for materialism is also psychological, but all of it is hugely practical.
Give the points a read and turn them over in your mind to let them sink in. We guarantee you that you will think twice (or more) before buying another 'must have' fashion item. And you will certainly thank us later for making your life easy (on your pocket, too!) and effortlessly fashionable.
1. To buy what you need, curb impulse buying
How often have you flipped through a magazine, proudly carrying the latest collection of your favorite designer, and convinced yourself that you must have that long wine-colored cardigan even though you already own something very similar?
And how often have you gone through the “pleasurable” process of rushing to the store, or making the purchase online, to get the fashion item you set your heart on, only to find that a few days later you don't even want to so much as look at that purchase of yours?
If you are anything like a regular woman, chances are more times than you'd care to remember.
Now that is the definition of money wasted.
It comes close, in any case.
Here's what I recommend:
· When something takes your fancy very strongly, make it a point to wait for three weeks (or months!) before making that purchase. Just as people take a few deep breaths and wait for a while before replying to a nasty email sent by a colleague, similarly you take a breather and get away from the situation – in this case that unforgettable article of clothing – and only come back to it after some days when you are mentally in a stronger position to deal with the assault on your senses. (Forget about time limits – they are just a ploy!)
· If you still feel as strongly for the item as ever, ask yourself how would it fit into in your current wardrobe.
· Make a list of all the outfit combinations it could be a part of, and also which occasions you think it would suit well.
· If you can see good use of that cardigan on your body as it is now (and NOT when you're 10 pounds lighter), and if you can easily afford it, go for it.
· If the price tag is high, look for cheaper alternatives. (A little bit of digging here and there will surely yield something more reasonable.)
And that brings us nicely to our next point.
2. Always look for alternatives
Anything which captures your imagination but is over your financial comfort zone should ideally be forgotten about. If not, look for cheaper alternatives. They almost always exist. Determine what you love the most about the dress you can't get your mind off, and proceed to find similar qualities in lower priced items. This may take a while but it is worth your time.
· Build a database of places where you can find good stuff for cheaper prices. Depending on your taste, it could be the local market or an online store. Look around yourself carefully, discounts are literally everywhere.
· Only buy items you see yourself using for years to come. Take a cue from your own wardrobe. Which items are the least used (for whatever reasons)? Stay away from buying similar things in future.
· Stay firmly rooted in the budget you have earmarked for your fashion-spend each month.
3. Decide where to spend and where to scrimp
You don't need a $40 black vest or a pair of socks priced $19.99. That is ridiculous. What you also don't need is a $5 sweater worn on $10 jeans.
Don't go to extremes. You can get away with a cheap spaghetti top as it does not require much artistry to make, but you can't get away with a cheap blazer or cardigan without looking, well, cheap!
As important as scrimping is deciding where to spend money.
As a rule, don't scrimp on big outer wear, like winter coats, trousers, jeans, skirts, work shirts and dresses, etc.
Where you can scrimp is on accessories. Many of them are ridiculously overpriced as it is and there are budding designers and small-time artisans in every city who are more than happy to sell their creations for a fraction of the cost that the established ones do. Get to know some of these designers in your area and rope in their skills to accessorize yourself.
· Create a list of items you don't need expensive versions of. (Brands are often imaginatively priced without always making up for the extra cost in terms of extra quality. Don't buy into the fallacy of if it is branded it must be good.)
· Create another list of items that you think would affect your look for the worse because of their obvious cheapness. And find better alternatives to them.
· Jeans look better when they are slightly expensive, but only if you have found a flattering fit.
· Shoes don't need to be expensive either. But that doesn't mean they should be super cheap. At the very least they should serve their purpose.
· What they call must-haves are not really must-haves. Meaning, you should create your own list of must-haves and let them be your style guide.
· Mix and match expensive and inexpensive items to strike the right balance.
4. Learn to tell the difference between a genuinely good bargain and a sly marketing tactic
No, anything that has 50% discount written on it is not necessarily a good bargain. Especially if it is still way over your budget. Marketers know certain terms have a bigger impact on shoppers than others. For instance, the words “half price.” They are music to the ears of many a shopper. BUT, what does the price tag look like now? What else could you buy with that kind of money? $50 for a scarf is still a lot of money even if it is now priced at half of its initial cost.
Buying that would not be a good bargain; it would, in fact, be foolishness. And you know what they say about a fool and her money.
· Learn a bit or two about the psychology of marketers. (Remember, they only want your money. Don't make it so easy for them.)
· Only make purchases that you actually need and which would fit your budget.
· If you don't have a plan, don't shop. (Unless you spot something that you actually have a clearly defined use for.)
5. Follow your favorite brands and retailers on Twitter
That way you will be among the first in the know of upcoming sales and offers. Retailers often run competitions via their social media accounts and give away expensive upcoming products. Participating in these competitions is never a big ask and the potential benefits are great.
Author: Millie Rainer has worked as a content strategist in industries as diverse as hospitality, fashion, and tech. These days she’s managing the community at Sandalup.com, which makes beautiful high heeled sandals.