Shopping on a Budget

This weekend, I took a trip into Chicago to do some shopping. I’ve had a list of items that for some reason aren’t in my closet, so I thought this would be the perfect day to knock my list out. But as I was walking from store to store, I realized that I was being more picky with what I bought.  However, I wasn’t being picky because nothing was fitting right; I was just watching how much everything cost.

Since coming to college, I’ve been a lot more careful about my spending habits. I’m lucky enough to have a fairly consistent job and parents who are helping me pay for college, but I’m responsible for most of my own expenses now. That means less clothes, more groceries, and shopping on a budget.

But I haven’t gone clothes shopping at a real-live storefront in months. So, I decided to take this opportunity to see how many items I could cross off my list without spending more than $200.

The Original List

  • Flare jeans
  • Short-sleeved Breton t-shirt
  • White sundress
  • Black athletic shoes
  • Striped button down
  • Gray comfy t-shirt
  • Jean skirt
  • White boho blouse
  • New concealer
  • Summer halter tank

How I Chose What to Buy
There are so many versions of every item on my list, and every brand from H&M to Ralph Lauren carried one or two of them. So to decide how I would allot my budget, I went through my list and thought about the following:
1. Fit. I knew exactly how I wanted everything to fit, and I also knew that certain stores (like H&M) would be better for casual cotton items while other stores (like ZARA) would have a nicer selection of tailored blouses.
2. Fast-fashion vs. durable-fashion.  I know from experience that fast-fashion retailers like Forever21 may have trendy items, but those items will unravel faster than the trend does. So I wanted to pick and choose where I bought each item from – would athletic shoes from Charlotte Russe that only cost $20 really be worth it when higher quality shoes would hold up better in the long-run?
3. Importance. My list of basics really were pretty basic, need-to-have items, but I had to think hard about whether certain items were really necessary.

The Final Haul
After a long day of walking up and down the Magnificent Mile, I ended up with nine items that I deemed most important to my list, a good mix of fast- and durable-fashion, and fit me exactly how I wanted them to fit.

Money saving

High-Waisted Dark Wash Flare Jeans – $7.50, Charlotte Russe (currently $21.99 online)IMG_0158
I’ve been desperately searching for a pair of dark wash flared jeans and these were absolutely perfect. I first tried on a $50 pair at Nordstrom, but the fabric was too stiff and didn’t flatter me. I was absolutely shocked when I found these on sale for $7.50 at Charlotte Russe. I don’t always love Charlotte Russe because I had a bad experience with a pair of boots that fell apart after about a day, but I felt better that these jeans originally cost as much as a pair from American Eagle and fit me in the most flattering way. They’re also really comfortable and stretchy, but don’t lose their shape throughout the day! This pair is longer, so is great for heels or boots.

Short-Sleeve Breton T-Shirt – $12.99, H&M
IMG_0160I have no clue how I didn’t have a black & white striped shirt in my closet. It goes with everything! I was really excited to find this version at H&M because the fabric (100% viscose) is slightly heavier and looser than some cotton versions so it’s really flattering. I can’t find the version I have anywhere on H&M’s website, but this fits similarly and is only $9.99.

Nike Internationalist Athletic Shoe – $55, Lord & Taylor
I have a pair lightweight gray and blue Nike running shoes, but I’ve wanted a pair of black athletic shoes since they go with everything and are a lot easier to dress up (by dress up, I mean wear as athleisure). I really, really didn’t want to buy a $100 pair, so when I stumbled upon these on the sale rack at Lord & Taylor, it was fate. I love the suede accents on this pair and the waffle outsole has great traction. They’re no longer available on Lord & Taylor’s website, but you can get them at Nike for $69.97.

Striped Button Down $39.90, ZARA
This menswear-inspired blouse is such a classic for spring and summer and I’ve been searching high and low for a version that fits loose but straight. I finally found it at ZARA and the blue and white stripes go great with blue or white jeans.

White Sundress – $26.99 Charlotte Russe
With summer just around the corner (hopefully!!), I wanted a white sundress that I could dress up with heels or throw on with a jean jacket for a casual day. This shift dress was a great find, and the tassels on the hem keep it from looking like a slip.

Black Halter Tank – $12.99, H&M
I’ve been really into halters recently (not the 2000’s style that tie at the neck, but this style!) and the crocheting at the hem screams music festival.

Low-Waisted Mid Wash Bell Bottom Jeans – $7.50, Charlotte Russe (currently $21.99 online)
IMG_0161These are different from the first pair of flare jeans in this post, I promise! This pair is more of an ultramarine mid-wash with fading on the leg. It’s also lower-waisted and the flare is more like a bell-bottom (which is totally on-trend). These fit like jeggings so are super comfortable.

Gray Jersey T-Shirt – $9.99, H&M
ver the years, all of my basic t-shirts have seemed to disappear (I blame my sister for stealing them). So I was glad to find this version in H&M’s basics section. I wear it as both a casual t-shirt and a pajama top (gotta love when a product is multitasking!)

Makeup For Ever Ultra HD Concealer – $27, Sephora
I have been on the lookout for a concealer that isn’t too thick and will brighten and correct my under-eye circles and this is it. It doesn’t settle or crease and while the product is thin, it’s pigmented enough that a little goes a long way.

My grand total after all of this came out to $199.86 (before tax). I’m really happy with everything I found and I won’t feel like I need to go shopping again any time soon since everything I got is versatile and goes well with what I already have in my closet.

Have you struggled with shopping on a budget? How did you work around it?



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  • Reply
    Chris Blanchard
    05/10/2016 at 7:57 PM

    Loved your article. Looking forward to the next.

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