The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Tips for Shopping During a Shaky Economy

Tough economic times call for increased belt-tightening, preferably a studded leather Linea Pelle belt purchased on sale at, but it's gotta be tightened nonetheless. Whether or not you feel we're in a recession (I prefer to remain in denial and think positive thoughts! Channel The Secret, everybody!), a lot of people are definitely feeling the pinch of those gas prices, sluggish markets and more. So what's a stylish gal to do? Read on for some tips that will help you shop smart during tough financial times.

Indulge in virtual shopping. I didn't say online shopping, I said virtual, as in, not real. What do I mean by this? Visit sites like or where you can "shop" to your heart's content by browsing the web, saving your favorite items, creating crafty outfits and sharing thoughts and comments with fellow fashion lovers. Oftentimes, an hour of goofing around with Polyvore is totally enough for me to get that fashion fix. I can see how colors and silhouettes go together (or don't) without actually buying the items. Trust me, you don't really need to have those Louboutins or even that cute bag that's on sale at Target. Transcend, people, transcend!

Shop your closet. Honestly, you probably have gems hiding in there that you haven't seen in years, and they deserve to see the light of day. Pretend you're thrifting, or shopping a fabulous vintage trunk show. Pour yourself a glass of wine, play dress up, and think of creative ways to rework what you already own. You will be surprised by what you discover. Plus, just think of how green you're being!

Organize a clothing swap with friends. They don't all have to be your size, as you can swap things like accessories, too. Make them bring food, too, and you've got yourself a fashion potluck bonanza!

Go thrifting. If you've been put off by the funky smells or bizarro clothes you've seen at thrift stores in the past, give it another go. Nowadays you can find plenty of nearly new clothing and current styles since so many people have overflowing closets. Who knows, a recovering shopping addict may have just dropped off her 13th Chanel bag, and you can scoop it up for pennies!

Buy quality essentials. Now may be a good time to commit to buying just 2 or 3 great new items, and bypassing all the rest. That means no more Target or H&M. Instead, hit the sale racks at Saks or Neiman Marcus and get a sharp, designer blazer or quality Italian leather shoes in a neutral color that you can wear for years to come. It's not so boring as it sounds, it's quite noble in fact.

Have you had to cut back on your fashion spending? What are you doing to stretch your style dollars?

Great post. It is definitely something to think about, with the cost of living and clothing ourselves rising and our paychecks remaining the same.
#1 anthea (Homepage) on 2008-08-20 12:04 (Reply)
you really had some amazing points in your post (but please don't hold it against me when you read mine today on horribly expensive shoes). i couldn't agree more on 'shopping one's closet' since i almost always find things that i forgot about that are simply great!
#2 Cupcakes and Cashmere (Homepage) on 2008-08-20 12:52 (Reply)
WONDERFUL tips! I especially love the idea of shopping your closet as an event - wine in hand, music playing, a little celebration of your stylish bounty.

Oooh, and another great place to virtual shop is Etsy, which lets you create a list of favorites. Mine is usually 8 or 9 pages long. ;-)
#3 Sal (Homepage) on 2008-08-20 13:44 (Reply)
As a resident of The Golden State, I've certainly had to cut back on my fashion spending. With Californians paying anywhere from 25 to 75 cents more per gallon of gas than the rest of the nation, and the rising price of home energy costs, fashion has to take a back seat. You posted some great dollar-stretching tips today.

Some other ideas are: 1. Ask yourself whether you NEED or WANT the item you're considering purchasing - And be honest! 2. Find a hobby and spend less time browsing online, downtown, or in a mall. I've been walking the dog more, going on hikes, and reading voraciously! 3. Use fashion for good by going through your closet and donating the pieces you only wore once, or never wear anymore to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other consignment shop. (Note: You'll only get the real feel-good effect if you aren't paid for what you give away. Also, make sure the pieces are still of good quality.) 4. Finally, use cost per wear (the cost of the item divided by the number of times you'll use/wear it = true cost). A designer pair of jeans might actually cost you less per wear than a cheaply made top you'll only wear once or twice!

While all of these ideas aren't necessarily ways to stretch your style dollars, they do help to put everything in perspective and show how lucky you are to have the things already around you!
#4 Katie on 2008-08-20 13:46 (Reply)
Thrifting is my BFF--me and a friend found a brand new DVF dress that fit her like a glove for eight bucks, and I found a fab $300 trench for 14 bucks. Trust me, there's no shame in thrifting at all.
#5 Alyssa (Homepage) on 2008-08-20 13:54 (Reply)
one trick i learned from my late aunt was that she would wear something 2-3 years, then put it in her closet and a couple years later wear it again and everyone thought it was new. we're talking oatmeal cashmere turtlenecks from marshall fields when they were made in italy, not china. she'd get all her stuff on sale, major sale, and always looked fashionable. if it's a good piece, clothing, jewelry, handbag, whatever, you can always bring it back. then you won't feel you have to wear it till it wears out. keeping it in a cloth garment bag will keep it fresh and also keep your closet free for the clothes you are wearing this season.

i agree about giving tar-zhay and h&m a rest for a while. although i've gotten some good deals at target, i've also gotten some duds that have gone to the sally army after 2 washes bcuz they now fit chinese gymnasts. ha ha ha

another thing i've been doing to save is buying dime-store makeup (ok, not cheap-cheap, but maybelline, sally hansen, etc.)when i feel the urge to shop. i get the mini nail polishes from opi - you get 3 colors in the latest shades and it perks up an outfit without spending lots. a dior polish will run you more than $20 a bottle. i used to buy dior religiously for years. no more. nobody knows you're wearing dior rather than maybelline, right? you go to ulta or cvs and it's a lot cheaper than going to the mall and buying clothes, and you get the shopping fix bcuz you've bought yourself something.

here's another thought. when you think of getting that something you don't really need, think of poor people and how far that $5 or $10 will go to feed somebody that really needs it. giving to needy people makes you feel better than getting something for yourself.
#6 maggie z on 2008-08-20 13:58 (Reply)
I am a walking testimony to this post. I am one of the best dressed people at my company (or so I've been told) and theres over 900 ppl here. I am just a receptionist and there are tons of ppl that make waaaaaaaaaaaaay more money than me. With that said, all my clothes are designer but they are all from the thrift shop. I recommend finding a thrift shop in the richest part of your area and I guarantee you will find something exquisite. ;o)
#7 Cassy on 2008-08-20 14:07 (Reply)
Great ideas. I especially like the last one -- quality essentials are always a necessity. And in the current economy, finding great deals on them is also necessary. So instead of spending time looking through sale racks and money on gas driving from store to store, visit iStorez - the one place online where you can find great deals from the big names. Click on to find affordable prices on items from Dior, 7 For All Mankind, Bebe, Chanel and more.
#8 smode (Homepage) on 2008-08-20 18:02 (Reply)
Get a part time job at your favorite store. A lot of places will hire you to just work 4-8 hours a week. Not only do you get extra cash, employee discounts (20-50%, depending on where you work), notification of upcoming sales, but first dibs on the REALLY good deals.
#9 Jin6655321 (Homepage) on 2008-08-20 18:20 (Reply)
sales sales & more sales! =) i invest in bags (not only are they my obsession but they are key to an outfit) & basics.

please check out my fashion blog!
#10 lacouturier (Homepage) on 2008-08-20 19:02 (Reply)
I'm actually selling my clothing on Ebay & donating other clothing, accessories, etc. By selling, I feel like I'm recycling the $ lol. No $ lost, none gained lol (ok ok, maybe on big splurging random days, much $$ lost lol...but still). It always feels good to do things for other people, a fashionista w/ an overflowing closet just doesn't need everything. Once the piece is gone, it's more "out of sight, out of mind!" lol.

In giving things, I "try" to recycle. By giving away 1 old item, for 1 new item. But, eh that never seems to work. I have new clothing w/ tags in storage, bags, and bags..=x Oh my...

I realize, I do need to cut down a little more. I have so many things that are splurges. I need to start saving a little for an emergency!

I think we need a blog on top key pieces for every wardrobe?! PLEASE.
#11 chelle g on 2008-08-20 20:56 (Reply)
totally agree with you. i usually walk away for a couple of days and if i still want it then i will go back to get it. i have save quite a few pennies that way.
#12 savvymode sg (Homepage) on 2008-08-21 00:56 (Reply)
i have definitely avoided the malls recently. I am a terrible impulse buyer and end up buying way more than I meant to, and they're usually unnessary things that I don't absolutely love. Online shopping helps a lot because I have time to think--'Do I really, really need this?' Usually the answer is no. :-)

I love turning on music, drinking some wine and playing dress up in my walk-in. I always find things I haven't worn in years, or find new ways to wear old things. Last night I found a black silk and cotton crochet batwing shirt that fits right in with the gothic look for fall--and I absolutely love it--but a year ago I almost gave it away because I didn't like it at the time.
#13 taylor (Homepage) on 2008-08-21 08:33 (Reply)
Very helpful
Thank you
#14 Sophie (Homepage) on 2008-10-09 17:59 (Reply)
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