How I Shop On a Budget

With a blog that has “thin wallet” right on the title you would think that my shopping routine would have been something that I would have covered already. I may be behind but given the fact that we have just entered fall and entering the holiday season this seems like a great time to breach this subject.

Being on a budget should never be a deterrent to having great fashion and style.

Fair warning, my shopping routine does involve a lot of footwork  other than just going through the sales and clearance sections both online and in-store, but considering the abundance of clothes that are currently stuffed in my closet and armoire I have to say that it is worth it.

Disclaimer: While this is indeed a process there really isn’t an order to my methods save for the first and last items on this list .

1.) Do your research

The key thing to shopping on a budget is planning on having no plan. Yes, I know that is an oxymoron but trust me, there is a reason for my madness. Considering the inconsistencies within the plus size fashion industry from issues with sizing, to fabric quality and obviously cost its practically impossible to do any one-stop shopping so its best to be fully armed with knowledge when entering unknown retail territory. (Yes, I do liken affordable plus shopping to war.) Start in you own closet, and create an inventory for yourself. Focus on what style staples you have and/or need as well as the areas you wish to expand. Then go online and find out which which brands fit your personal style and consider joining their mailing list so that you receive notices regarding new collections and of course sales. Once you have taken care of all that, turn your attention towards taking down your measurements. This is an essential part of your shopping arsenal as it will help you figure out if a brand or collection carries items in your size for you to consider.

2.) Go to the store and try on everything 

I’m not going to lie – trying things on in the fitting room is hard even if you are body positive. Yet the fact is that you won’t know how something fits until it is on you. Even when you find something where you like the print but not the silhouette, give it a shot. I find it helpful to go with someone who can judge your selections with you impartially. I usually take my mother along since I have a strict “if I’m uncomfortable wearing it in front of my mother then don’t wear it” policy. I live a modest lifestyle that is linked to my religion and while there are times that I do push the boundaries a bit I try to stay within those guides as much as possible.

In the Target fitting room wearing Victoria Beckham for Target.

Trying things on has dual functions: You get a chance to give something new a real try and you get to familiarize yourself with a retailer’s sizing. Once you know your sizing from trying items on in store it will make it a bit easier should you decide to order something online. (Like those moments when you are on break at work,  just casually browsing through the TORRID website only to find yourself adding items to your cart. We’ve all been there. Don’t deny it. )

3.) Don’t forget to walk through the straight size section 

There is no secret that straight size fashion is on average much more affordable compared to plus size fashion. The most cited reason for this price gap is the difference in the amount of fabric needed for plus size pieces. I always call this out as an excuse, nevertheless, even though the plus size community may be sized out in many brands with the popularity of oversize sweaters, tees and even dresses there is a high chance that you would be able to find something that would work for you. Keep in mind that there are some retailers that even go so far as to keep certain things available for straight sizes in their section,  as if plus size women don’t use things like hosiery and hair accessories.

4.) Have a fashion splurge fund

I’m the first person that will tell you that I don’t believe it is fair that plus size people need to “invest” in fashion if they want quality.  The mere suggestion of this implies that only one set of people are meant to have access to fashion, being those that are well-off. I work 2 jobs just to be able to make ends meet, however, I do splurge on occasion mainly on things I know I will be able to wear many different ways. Statement pieces like vests, blazers, special occasion dresses, handbags and shoes are things that I will put down bit more money for.  For this I highly recommend doing two things : separate those funds in cash and set your splurge limit.  My splurge limit ranges from $50 to $150 depending on the item and I make sure that it isn’t for something frivolous that I would only use once.  I can’t afford to consistently purchase items at a high sales price even with a “splurge fund” so I try to make these kinds of purchases count. As for the cash thing, studies have shown that having physical currency in your hand at time of purchase does help to control your impulses so you don’t around spending a considerable fortune at a whim. The psychology is that if you see what you’re spending you’ll put some real thought into a purchase and if you are on a budget this is a necessity.

5.) Sample Sales

Spring 2017 Fashion to Figure Sample Sale

Here’s a secret, most of the FTF pieces in my closet were never bought at full retail price – they all came from their sample sales.  When it comes to sample sales prices are way more reduced, ranging from 50 to 90% off original retail price. For me the highlight of these sales is the opportunity to gain direct access to designers and brand merchandise buyers  to speak on the clothes as well as finding some one-of-a-kind samples that were never mass produced and no one will ever have.  Admittedly, living in NYC does give me the privilege to take advantage of these kinds of sales but there are some brands that have virtual sample sales on their websites – two that immediately come to mind are Youtheary Khmer and SmartGlamour.

6.) Build your accessories drawer

As you can imagine being a “budgetnista” I see nothing wrong with repeating outfits. I mean if you really like something why not wear it often. Of course we live in an age of social media and with such popular platforms like Instagram there is some pressure to put your best self out there. This mentality  has created this unspoken rule that something can’t be worn again once it has been showcased “on the gram.” I think it is much more interesting to repeat a look while also showing how you can change it up and the best way to do this is with accessories.

This is only a fraction of the belts I own which is why I’ve been recently dubbed “the belt queen.”

I don’t wear much jewelry but I do have a collection of belts, scarves, broaches, neckties, ribbons and gloves that I incorporate into my outfits to change it up. I’ve also just stated to look into shoe clips as they are an inexpensive accessory that can help update my shoe collection in an unexpected way.  What  accessories you decide to include into your wardrobe is up to you and with sites like Etsy and Storenvy you also have the option of finding some cool, chic handmade items.

7.) Shop your friend’s and/or favorite blogger’s closet

I’m a bit of a pack rat in that I still have a few things that I bought and wore back in high school, some of which surprisingly still fits. For the most part I’ve kept these things for sentimental reasons, but some of what I have is actually still in my closet at the behest of my mother who is convinced that I will lose weight to fit into things that I’ve outgrown (both literally and stylistically). Anyway, even with my fashion hoarding I do have items that I have purchased that I either haven’t used or don’t really fit my aesthetic (anymore). So I make a point of doing a closet clean up at least twice a year where I got through everything that I own. Sometimes this leads me to giving things away to charity or to family members overseas, however this year I’ve done something completely different in letting my friends shop my closet. Most recently Jonquel shopped my closet in the spring and I shopped hers in late summer. We both managed to get some pretty cool items and so managed to refresh our closets without even having to reach for our wallets. I

This entire outfit, down to the belt, cost me nothing. F-R-E-E!

You can also just take advantage of blogger sales like the Blogger House Curvy Closet Sale that Darlene of Suits, Heels and Curves and Sandra from La Pecosa Preciosa have every Monday evening on Facebook Live. For these kinds of blogger closet sales social media is key so be sure to be vigilant on Instagram and Facebook because you never know when your favorite blogger may be clearing out their closets with an online sale.

8.) Layaway

I do a lot of shopping reconnaissance in-store and most of the time I don’t have the funds available to make a purchase if I find something I really want so depending on the store I’ll ask if they offer layaway. I’ll say this once: there is no shame in paying for something in installments. Unlike with credit cards, this practice may delay the gratification of making a purchase, yet ultimately you will be able to call that item yours. Ultimately the  layaway policy will differ according to location so its worth asking each time you wish to make use of this traditional in-store payment system.

9.) Use Store Credit Cards

Now I don’t recommend that anyone get into any kind of credit card debt in the name of fashion, yet there are some advantages to having store cards be part of your shopping arsenal. Depending on the retailer being a cardholder gets you exclusive discounts, sales and even coupons for your birthday. I find these perks incredibly handy because often times you can combine them with in-store sales.

A faux leather moto jacket is a closet staple that every woman should have.

In fact this was how I was able to get my Glamour X Lane Bryant Faux Leather Jacket, which originally retailed for $100, for a little over $20. Of course I highly recommend only picking a maximum  of 2 store cards, this way you don’t run the risk of going overboard and having major debt. Start by looking at the cards offered at the stores you shop often but really make a point to find out which cards would benefit you most before signing up for them.

10.) Shop out of season

I have friends that always laugh about this but all of my swimsuit purchases have been made in the dead of winter. I’m not exactly sure if this is something that only occurs in places like NYC that have 4 seasons, but I’ve found that with the cold winter weather most retailers tend to take the concept of supply and demand very seriously so prices tend to get lower on summer items like swimsuits but remain higher for sweaters,scarves, gloves etc. (Obviously the opposite is also true once the weather starts warming up.) Retailers want to get rid of old inventory they didn’t sell earlier  which leads to some pretty low prices. Sure there may be trends that have probably passed by the time you make your purchase, yet fashion is more about style than actual trends and having something that was once popular can also give you a chance to make it your own.

Bonus – If in the tri-state area shop at The Big Fat Flea

I actually didn’t make it this year but the Big Fat Flea is a great place to get pieces to refresh your wardrobe without breaking the bank. Of the three times that I have managed to go I have taken the opportunity to find things at great prices from brands I have only been able to follow online, like SWAK and Cherry Velvet to name a few. This flea is a rummage sale with items that have been donated by individuals as well as plus size brands so expect to do some actual digging should you attend.

Happy shopping!

What are some of your concerns when it comes to shopping on a budget?

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