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Ways to Stay Fashionable this Summer on a Budget

Ways to Stay Fashionable this Summer on a Budget

My sister has the absolute greatest knack for unearthing the best sales in the mall, or stepping foot into a thrift store only to throw together the most amazing outfit for around $15 from top to bottom. Since I was not so lucky to have been born with the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out such steals, I’ve employed some research and some of sis’s best tips for scouting out sales and deals, and putting together a fashionable closet on a budget.

The trends this summer are pretty bold, and of course nothing like they were last summer. What’s a girl to do to keep up with the trends while sticking to a budget? Although it can be tricky to find items that both meet the budget and are trendy and wearable, it can certainly be done with some tips and tricks of the trade. Read on for the guidelines that can help steer you towards maintaining a sense of style and sticking to even the strictest of budgets.

Buy “It” Pieces at Inexpensive Stores

Trends that are very “of the moment” do not warrant spending your hard-earned cash on them, since they will probably only be here for a season. Sure, you want to keep with the times and be in style, but don’t blow your whole summer budget on a neon yellow skirt, as hot as it may be right now. Instead, buy these sorts of items at stores like Charlotte Russe and Forever 21, where you won’t feel buyer’s remorse if the item you purchased experiences a very short shelf life in its trendiness. Current trends include bold colors like bright orange, acid yellow, and neon’s. Soft pastels are big as well, by way of shorts, skinnies, and tops.

Shop Second-Hand

We are particularly lucky this summer because a lot of older trends are coming back, and that means thrift store heaven! Don’t knock thrift store shopping until you’ve tried it. It can be fun, creative, and of course inexpensive. Some tips I’ve learned from my sister are to look up zip codes of the wealthier neighborhoods in town, and find second-hand stores in these neighborhoods. You can certainly shop in Goodwill’s or other thrift stores in the trendy areas, just realize that you are probably up against some stiff competition. If you search out the more suburban stores, chances are there will be more merchandise and less people sifting through it.

This summer, look for wedge heels, which are making a huge comeback (maybe also peruse your parents’ closets or the attic for some classic wedges.) Another popular trend that’s making a comeback is sheer long sleeved blouses, worn with a bra or slip underneath. And denim button-up shirts are experiencing a revival as well, so scour a thrift shop or consignment store near you to score sweet deals on these retro comebacks.

And my last word on second-hand stores is to also look at what you can turn a shirt or old pair of pants into. I once bought a pair of high-end jeans that had stains on the knees and jagged bottoms, paid no more than $10 for them at a thrift store, and went to town on them with a pair of scissors. It now appears that I have name-brand jean shorts, and I wear them with everything. Be creative and don’t dismiss an awesome item just because it has a few buttons missing—ask for a discount and think or ways to spruce it up for cheap.

Save Up for the Staples

The best advice I’ve gotten from my fashion-savvy sister is that staple items like white button-down shirts, black slacks, and your favorite pair of skinny jeans are worth a small splurge. That’s not to say that it’s okay to drop an excessive amount on these pieces just because you need them, but think of them as the foundation for many other outfits to come.

For example, I love Gap slacks but cringe at paying the full $70 or so full-price. Instead, I weathered the post-Christmas shop rush on the counsel of my sis and low and behold scored a pair of straight-leg black slacks on the Clearance rack for a whopping $12.50. I did have to pay $13 to get the hem tailored, but a total of $25.50 for my staple black slacks that fit like a glove is still a steal. The bottom line with staple items is to constantly be on the hunt for these items, and get them if you can at a good bargain—even if it means weathering holiday weekend shopping rushes. And don’t be afraid to shell out a little more money for something you are going to wear ALL the time, as opposed to a “hot now” item.

Shop the Outlets

If you have never been an outlet shopper, it’s worth it to go once just to see what you’re missing! I’ve gotten so many good deals at outlets and swear by them. My advice is to make a list of things you need, such as a new work shirt or a fall jacket. I got one of my favorite work shirts at Banana Republic’s outlet store, although I would never buy one full price. I found a BR outlet about a half hour from my house, shopped the day after Thanksgiving, and got my “go to” white button down for 25% off the outlet price (around $30.) Even if there hadn’t been an additional sale going on, it still would have been a good deal. Stores like Coach sell clutches and wristlets for a fraction of the price you’d find in the mall stores, too. I scored a white-and-yellow summery Coach wristlet a couple of years ago for $23 that I still have and goes perfect with a little sundress.

Use Accessories

Use nail polish and an at-home manicure to add some pop to your outfit without splurging too much. Likewise, hats, jewelry and hair accessories can go a long way towards giving your look that little extra kick. I purchased a tan colored fedora last year at a swap meet for $6, and it is like my summer sidekick. It looks great with all of my outfits, and is perfect for keeping rays off my face at the beach. It made me cringe when a friend of mine purchased on from J. Crew for almost $70, when I had gotten mine for so much less. Hers did come with a colored band around the hat, which mine didn’t, but I added a ribbon from my craft kit for nothing and they look nearly identical.

If you’re using jewelry to amp up your look, try finding pieces from thrift stores or summer festivals. Often times at fairs and craft festivals you can barter for price tag, and they’re original pieces that can double as conversation pieces.

Be a Coupon Clipper

Gone are the days of getting every single coupon and deal in the Sunday paper. Instead, search for coupon codes to redeem online, or even coupons that you can print out and bring in the store. Some stores will even allow you to simply pull the coupon up on your Smart Phone, and show it to them when you check out (but call ahead to see if this method is accepted.)

If you sign up for, you can note which brands and sized are of interest to you, and the website will send you alerts when these things go on sale in your area.

Have a Closet Swap

My girlfriends and I get together every couple of months to do a closet swap, where we all rifle through our clothes and pack up what we haven’t worn in months, then meet at somebody’s house and swap pieces. What’s old becomes new again, for somebody else. I do this with one girlfriend where we don’t each keep the pieces we exchange, rather we simply borrow them, but it’s fun to do give-aways as well.

Follow Blogs like the Budget Fashionista

Just to name one, but there are many blogs out there devoted to staying up on the current fashions for a fraction of the price. The Budget Fashionista, for example, found a few summery skirts for excellent prices and posted them on her site, including a very trendy polka dot swing skirt for under $20, a breezy white skirt that can become a weekend go-to for $29, and a versatile maxi skirt for $25.

Put Together a Budget for Pieces You “Have” to Have

Last but most certainly not least, make sure that if there is an item out there that you find yourself longing for, make a budget to save up the money to purchase it. This is a good way to avoid buyer’s remorse, since you will have to think on it and save for it for awhile, and if it doesn’t end up being that important or special you just won’t buy it. It’s also a surefire way to avoid accruing shopping debt. And with the times being what they are, and living in a nation plagues with credit card debt, student loan debt, and credit scores that have seen better days, trust me, it’s worth saving up for something instead of making an impulse purchase.

If you enjoyed DK’s article, check out for more articles on personal finance.

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