The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Deal du Jour: All Two Lips Shoes $19.95 at

Two Lips "Cotton Club" at, Originally $75 Now $19.95

The Deal: Monday 3/9 through Thursday 3/12- All Two Lips! Only $19.95 **excluding G2® product

Why You Need It: Two Lips has some fun styles for spring, many made with real leather uppers like the antique-look pumps above. The downside is that sizes are limited, so shop early if you're in the market for new shoes.

Ask BB: The Best Business Pants on a Budget

New York & Co. at ShopStyle

I recently lost a substantial amount of weight (35 lbs) and went from a size 12 to a 6. So you can imagine, my old clothes are tad too big. … I need to buy new pants for the office. I literally have one pair of black pants that actually look normal on me, and I just want to be able to get the same (or very similar) style, cut and price for all colors (like grays, blacks, pin-stripes etc.) so I can be sure of how they will fit all at once. Places like TJ’s and Marshall’s are hit and miss with these kinds of things and I REFUSE to pay $60 for a pair of black or gray slacks at places like Express, Limited or NY&Co. I worked very hard for this weight loss, so I want to be able to wear a size that is true to my body, instead of forcing my old clothes to fit by awkward alterations and belts, but I never realized how expensive it could actually be! Help!! —Swimming in Old Office Slacks.

First off, congratulations on your weight loss: You set a goal, and you reached it! This accomplishment is certainly worth celebrating, but I understand how expensive it can be to build a new wardrobe basically from scratch. Fortunately, I think there are many places where you can shop for affordable, office-appropriate pants.

Graduation Dresses on a Budget from American Living

American Living Green Pleated Dress, on sale in stores for about $62 (not available online when this post was written).

I know a few ladies who are looking for affordable graduation dresses to wear this spring, and I think I may have struck gold! The other day while conducting research (as I like to call it) at JCPenney, I tried on a bunch of spring dresses from the American Living line (that's their Ralph Lauren red-white-and-blue Americana themed collection), and I think they looked, in a word, CLASSY. The American Living collection as a whole doesn't reflect my personal style, but even I like to get pulled-together for special occasions, and these ladylike frocks were a breath of fresh air.

American Living Tiered Mock-Wrap Dress, From $82.50 To $84.00

Here, I'm modeling three of the more brightly hued dresses. The feminine, conservative-chic cuts were very flattering, each dress was fully-lined and allowed for normal bra-wear. I'm wearing a black bra underneath the white dress (below) and it did not show through, which says something about the quality.

Another pro: Long hemlines. Finally a practical skirt that drops at the knee. (I say practical because I have nothing against short skirts and showing leg, but sometimes you need more length—at a formal graduation ceremony, for example!) Yet another great thing about these dresses is that they're available in Misses size 4-16; additionally, many of the dresses are also available in Plus size 14W-24W. Sweet.

American Living Floral Eyelet Dress, Original $100.00; Now $75.00.

Ok, so let's talk price: All American Living dresses were on sale at my local JCPenney, averaging around $60. However, I was looking at the new spring arrivals. There were great finds under $50 on the clearance racks. Overall, I didn't see any dresses over $100. You may want to check it out in stores, then consider ordering online. Stalk the sales, and use a coupon.

If bright colors aren't your thing, the American Living collection also had a large selection of classic black options. Worn with a cropped cardigan, pearls and strappy heels or cute wedges, I think any of these dresses will help you accept your diploma in style.

View the entire American Living collection here.

Secrets Retailers Don't Want You to Know

Personal stylist Angie Cox (Photo credit:

Retailers are using every trick in the book to lure shoppers into stores and get them to open up their wallets—secret strategies they don't want you, the customer to know about. Angie from, who was recently invited to speak about this topic on NBC's Today show, says the best defense is to have your own shopping strategy beforehand. "I think you have to be really aware of your state of mind when you shop," says Angie. "Be discerning about what you buy, and take it home and retry it again with what you have and make sure you're happy with it, and if you're not, return it. Find something else." Well said, Angie! (And congrats on the TV spot! She's a natural in front of the camera, and I think she'd make a fab host of her own style show, too.) Here are some more secrets retailers don't want you to know that were mentioned in the segment—see if you're an "aware" shopper or not!

Secrets Retailers Don't Want You to Know

Seduction begins by setting the right mood. Retailers work hard to create an inviting atmosphere that will put you in a good mood for spending, appealing to all your senses with cool music, alluring scents, and eye-catching displays.

The store layout is key.
Retailers cleverly and strategically place what they call impulse-buy areas near the entrance, which is why you'll see makeup and perfume counters when you first enter department stores. The layout also encourages shoppers to linger, because as retailers know, the longer you stay, the more you'll spend.

Free samples let you try before you buy. Personally, I love getting free samples in the makeup department, but retailers know that once you've tried a product at home you're more likely to come back and make a purchase. Stores will also monitor what you've purchased, then send you related coupons in the mail (again, I think this can be a good thing if used correctly).

A confident shopper will spend more. Retailers use subtle messages to boost confidence such as indirect lighting and the infamous "skinny mirrors" which are tilted at an angle to make you look taller, longer and leaner in the dressing room.

Signs create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Retailers use words like "new," "free," and "limited-edition" to attract shoppers. And have you ever noticed those "One-day only" sale signs that seem to stay up all week? Don't believe everything you read!