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Dressing Well on a Dime

Updated on September 23, 2011

In recent years, the decline in the economy has caused nearly everyone to take a second look at their finances and how they spend money. Many have had to cut back on the extra things that used to be commonplace, and even necessities are often weighed more carefully. Food, clothing, and other basic needs have to be considered more carefully.

However, living on less doesn't have to equate living poorly, and here are a few simple ways to keep up a professional, attractive appearance without ruining the budget. Even if you're one of those fortunate people who haven't had to tightened the purse strings too much, everyone loves the satisfaction of a good bargain. With a little creativity, you can look like a fashionista for pennies on the dollar of buying full-price retail. And every one of your friends will be amazed and wonder how you did it.

This is the Outlet at Castle Rock, Colorado, one of the largest in the nation.  Some of the best name brands are sold here.
This is the Outlet at Castle Rock, Colorado, one of the largest in the nation. Some of the best name brands are sold here.

Outlet Malls

This is what happens to all those things that didn't sell in last year's retail. Items can be pricier, but you are always buying new and the styles are definitely less outdated than what you may find second-hand.

  • First, you should know your prices. You might get it for a better price elsewhere, so look at the original price tag on an item and do your math.
  • Keep an eye out for clearance and holiday sales-- sign up for mailing lists to get coupons and sale notices. Sometimes, you can get something for pennies on the dollar.
  • Remember that you'll be buying for next season, so think ahead to what you'll need and be ready to put it in storage.


You may love it or hate it, but it's undeniable that Ebay is a place to find incredible deals. So if you're the adventurous type who love the auction, or you prefer the security of a buy it now sale, there are ways to find whatever you want for a fraction of what you would pay on the store racks.

  • You may be buying new items, but more likely they have been used. Check descriptions thoroughly, and look at the seller's ratings and feedback. Most seller's don't offer a return, so you could be stuck with a bad buy.
  • Don't get caught in a bidding war. Know your prices, and if an item's price is getting close or higher than retail, bow out and let the other bidders do battle without you.

Mailing Lists

Get on the email or mail lists for Kohl's, JC Penney's, or whichever department store you like to frequent. These places are always mailing out coupons and having sales, not to mention constant clearance racks. I recently walked out of one of these kinds of stores with a $50.00 pair of Levi jeans that was on the clearance racks, and after coupons, I paid a grand total of $00.00. The deals are out there, you just have to do a little bit of footwork for them!

Thrift/Consignment Stores

This is one of the most obvious places to start. There are incredible finds in some of these places, such as name-brand items with the tags still on, or clothing that is near. Usually the prices are incomparable, but you still want to keep an eye on them. Thrift stores have become increasingly busy, and as a result some have upped their prices. Here are a few other things to keep in mind when thrift shopping:

  • These are mostly second-hand clothes. As you shop, look over what you find thoroughly, examining for minor tears, seams that have a pulled look, and worn spots on the garments. Also, check for stains, especially under the arms and on hems. It's incredibly frustrating to think you have an incredible find, only to take it home and find out that it's irreparably worn in some way.
  • Most chain stores have a color-coded tag discount system-- for example, every Wednesday, all the blue tags are 50% off, Thursday is pink, etc. If you're the risk-loving type and find something that you want and it goes on sale in the next couple of days, tuck it back on some insignificant corner of a rack and come back first thing on the sale day! You should realize that there's no guarantee that it will be there, but I have tried this little trick before with great success.
  • Some places will occasionally have 50% off sales store wide, and these can be a great opportunity find lots of great bargains. However, they are also a busy day at the store, so be ready to not shop in solitude.
  • Make sure you wash everything before wearing it. You don't know where that article of clothing has been, or how long it has been sitting in a box or on the rack. For shoes, clean them thoroughly inside with rubbing alcohol or something that disinfects.
  • Don't just stay in the clothing section. Most thrift stores have departments for books, DVDS, china, household/decorating items, and even furniture! A lot of it is out-dated and worn, but if you keep your eyes open you may find a treasure. Also, if you find small appliances that don't end up working, most stores have a one-week return policy, so take advantage of that.


This is an old one, but a good one. If you buy basic, classic pieces of a good quality, you won't have to buy as many, and can make what you have go further. Once you have your basic wardrobe pieces, find ways to dress it up, down, or just give an outfit a little bit of flair.

  • Jewelry: Statement pieces (larger, more interesting items) can make a plain outfit something spectacular.
  • Scarves: These aren't just for winter coats! Light, chiffon-type scarves can be found anywhere and worn in many ways. They can also be used as a belt with the correct outfit.
  • Handbags: Don't spend your inheritance on your handbag collection, but having a few well thought out purses and bags can add a lot to any outfit. And that rule about it matching your shoes? That one changed years ago, so get creative!
  • Hair Decor: Adding a small clip, a headband with decoration, or a silk flower to a down or up do for an extra bit of pizzazz!


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    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      Jane, I hope you are able to get the boots, and for an incredible price! Coupons are a wonderful thing to take of the extra that doesn't work with the budget.

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 6 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by Pinkchic18!

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 6 years ago from Oregon

      Great ideas! There's a particular pair of boots that I would love to get before the end of fall, but they're just a bit too far out of my price range. I'm taking your advice and have signed up for the coupons and sales from this store!

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 6 years ago from Minnesota

      Great great great tips!! You are spot on!