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On a Budget: Fashion for Less

Insights & Ideas Team •  June 9, 2016 | Your Finances, On a Budget

There’s no need to sacrifice style to stay within your budget. Scour magazines and blogs for inspiration from the latest trends, but instead of shopping boutiques and department stores, hit these five places to find a style bargain.

Clothing Rental Services

Borrowing or renting new clothing used to be reserved for celebrities, but it has gone mainstream with sites like Gwynnie Bee and Le Tote.

Gwynnie Bee and Le Tote offer affordable subscription services allowing you to try before you buy—or simply try but never buy—to keep your wardrobe looking fresh. For less than a new pair of jeans, you can receive a constant flow of new items. Subscriptions include shipping and laundering, so after you wear something, you simply drop it in the provided packaging and send it on its way. If you can’t bear to send something back, you can purchase it at a deep discount.

Resale Websites and Apps

Kristine Pachuta of Brooklyn, New York, discovered Poshmark when she was purging her wardrobe in 2013. She snapped pics of a few unwanted items and posted them for sale on the app. She sold the items, making some money – and room in her closet.

“Having a small New York City apartment, I have to get rid of things before I can bring more in,” Pachuta said. “I take the money I’ve made selling to buy new things. It has become my shopping budget.”

Pachuta has sold nearly 300 items on Poshmark and purchased about 20. Before buying, she asks the seller questions and does her research to make sure she’s getting a good deal. She has asked how many times an item was worn and for additional pictures to gauge fit and condition.

Some sites, like Poshmark, simply connect buyers and sellers and streamline the sale and shipping processes. Other sites, like thredUP, function as online consignment shops, where sellers simply send in their items and the site does the rest. Sellers may receive credit toward future purchases or cash via bank transfer or PayPal.

Online Garage Sales

Garage sales have long been a bargain hunter’s go-to, and now they have gone virtual. Rachelle Johnston of Wheaton, Illinois, has been shopping Facebook garage sale groups for a number of years.

“We went from two incomes to one, so I’m on a strict budget,” Johnston said. “The Wheaton Moms Facebook Group helped me transition my wardrobe from working mom to stay-at-home mom without breaking the bank.”

Creating a Solid Financial Plan: Your Guide to Money ManagementSellers post photos and descriptions of their items, and buyers comment, sometimes forming waitlists in case someone changes their mind. The seller and buyer then coordinate pick up or drop off, and most sales are cash and carry.

When Johnston sells something on Wheaton Moms, she puts the money into an envelope to save for future purchases on the site. If she doesn’t have any money in the envelope, she can’t buy anything.

“It’s amazing what gems you can find,” Johnston said. “I feel like we’re buying local. We’re giving back to each other and helping everyone out.”

Swap Parties

Swap parties can help you stretch your fashion dollar without spending a dime. Invite your friends to clean out their closets and bring a bag full of unwanted items in good condition. Sort them by size and/or type and see whose trash becomes treasured!

To make it fair, you can have each person pick out only as many items as they brought or even “auction off” high-value items, such as designer or vintage goods. Guests can earn tickets for the auction by bringing in their own high-value items.

After the swap, guests can either reclaim their “unsold” items, or the hostess can donate everything that’s left.

Outlet and Resale Shops

Lastly, outlet stores and resale shops give the traditional shopping experience with a smaller price tag. There has been debate about the quality of items sold at outlet stores, but ultimately, you are paying a lower price for high-end style. So although the item may not last a lifetime, it should keep you looking great for a season or two.

Resale shops such as Goodwill, Savers and Style Encore resell items that people have donated or consigned. Some items are gently used; others still have their original tags attached. While finding the right items may take some hunting, you could walk out with a shopping bag full of tops, skirts and accessories for the price of one new blouse.

With a little time, dedication and creativity, you can have an on-trend, stylish wardrobe for a fraction of the cost. Whether you go online, visit brick-and-mortar stores or simply trade with friends, follow these tips to look great for less.

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