7 Tips for Dressing Like a Fashionista on a Teachers Budget!

One of the most important parts of feeling good is looking good! We all know that girl at work who’s always “so well put together” and has the perfect outfit. Who walks in the office everyday with this I’m beautiful, confident and approachable air about her. I used to wonder how people, with the same job title as me, could afford to always look like a million bucks. It’s easier than you think to look good on a budget. Two of my favorite things are shopping and getting a great deal. I don’t know about you, but I love to look and feel good, without the guilt of spending too much money. You don’t have to struggle to love a good deal! Besides, I’ve never been able to justify paying high prices for things I’m not going to wear for more than a season (two if I’m lucky). I love to follow new trends and I’m constantly spicing up my wardrobe. The most important thing to finding a bargain for me is QUALITY! It’s very easy to find cheap clothes, but finding good quality items for a fraction of the cost is the ticket!

Since moving to the OC, I’ve noticed just about everything is more expensive than Seattle. Not just housing, but everything from haircuts to clothes and pedicures.

Our culture today seems to confuse being smart with money as being cheap and frugal. I know so many people living beyond their means, or simply spending money to make themselves feel good, or create a lifestyle perception to others. In a way it saddens me, because you can dress and feel like a million bucks without spending it. Plus, who cares what others think?! If you feel good you will look good. That said, you can’t make a believer out of everyone, so that just means more bargains for us. I’ll go into how to find bargains on pampering yourself in another post, but for today I’m going to focus on clothes. The wardrobe! The magical thing that can make you stand up straight and feel fabulous. The thing that tells people who you are at first glance. Lets face it…your world is responding to who you are, so make your story beautiful, inside and out!

I’ve always been good at finding a bargain, but I love to learn new tips and tricks for just about everything. I’m always thirsty to learn more about whatever sparks my attention, and I’m constantly searching online for inspiring ideas, or doing research on whatever caught my interest in that moment. Spring in Orange County brings sun, so I recently decided to do an online search for tips on how to dress classy without breaking the bank. I did find some great tips (click here for some I especially liked) however, I also found a lot of articles on how to maximize the expensive pieces in your wardrobe. What I really wanted was how to look like a million bucks for less…not how to wear my expensive pieces smarter. I was left feeling unfulfilled. Since I have some knowledge and experience doing just this, I decided to write this post. Any feedback or tips are always appreciated.

So here’s to all the ladies (and any men) who want to dress to impress and don’t want to blow a ton of cash. Follow these tips to look good on a budget.

Keep a Tally – In your head, on paper or a note on your phone, whatever works for you. I always keep a tally of recent purchases and needs, you never know when you might run across an amazing sidewalk sale. This also helps me maximize my shopping experience. I know I recently got a new high waist skirt and need a specific style of top to go with it. Or, I just found some amazing coral heels, but I’m also in the market for a white dress, so I’ll keep my eyes out for something that will wow with those coral heels…something like that. This way you can grab the deals as you find them and build your wardrobe as you go. It’s very costly to go shopping and buy entire outfits in the same store. If you have an idea of pieces you have, you can stay focused and you’ll have a better chance of finding treasures that will complete that perfect outfit. You’ll also be more likely to find pieces you can wear with multiple things, versatility is our friend when bargain shopping! That pair of coral heels will look great with that white dress you found, but will also look dyno with a pair of white shorts and a flowy top, or skinny jeans and a crop top…you get the idea?

Budget – Always have a budget in mind. Whenever I head out for a shopping trip, or just a fun day with the girls, I always have an idea of what I’m allowing myself to spend. This way I’ll be less likely to overspend and I’ll get the most for my money. It’s ok if I go a few dollars over. Its about having an amount in your mind, so you don’t end up frivolously blowing all your spending money for the month and not having much to show for it. I feel so much better when I get home and start unloading a zillion bags of great finds. Plus, you’ll remember how good you felt about the purchase each time you put it on.

Hit the Sale Rack First – Since you have a budget, you know how much you’ve allotted on this particular shopping trip. If you go straight for the display racks, you could end up reaching your limit quickly, and before ever making it to the sale rack. I’ve found when I hit the sales rack first I can sometimes walk out with twice as many items. It can be hit or miss, but I would never have found those coral heels if I hadn’t looked at the sale rack first! Besides, remember how good it’s going to feel when you get home and go through all your fun new items?? It’s not going to happen if you blow your budget on 2 tops, believe me.

Discount and Consignment Stores – Stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx are great for finding high end pieces at a great price. You can find amazing deals on shoes and jeans if you shop smart. Also, I recently walked out of my favorite consignment store with a pair of designer shorts and a top (with the tags still on them) for $20. Many of these consignment stores also purchase your gently used clothes. You never know, you may just add a few bucks to your shopping budget!

Dresses – Probably my favorite thing to wear!!! Dresses can be casual, fun, flirty, pretty and sexy. You can wear them on dates, to work, on a hot summer bike ride, to the beach, out to dinner with girlfriends, special events and the list just goes on. Best of all, you get an entire outfit for one low price…often between $30-$70. I recently scored a flirty summer dress, I could also wear to work, and a sexy date dress for a total of $25. Dresses are easy to wear, easy to accessorize and you don’t have to put a lot of thought into the outfit. They’re definitely my go to when I’m not feeling particularly inspired, or if I’m short on time, because I know I’ll still look and feel fabulous.

Online Shopping –  I really love making an event out of shopping. Spending the day perusing shops trying on sunglasses and goofy hats, then grabbing lunch with the besties, but you can find some really great deals online.  My favorite things to shop for online are accessories and clothing brands I already know my size for. I find there tends to be more options and sizes online than in stores, I assume this is because their warehouse gets overstocked. Another great trick is if you find something in the store but they don’t have your size, snap a picture of the tag and check online when you get home…a lot of times they have my size and for less than in the store. Often times these stores have free returns when you spend a certain amount, so even if it’s not the right fit, or you just don’t like it, you can easily return it. Also, you get a bonus because since the money you spent was already allotted towards shopping you get to go shopping again when the refund hits! Here’s a small list of some online stores with great sale sections: Swell, Victoria Secret, Macys and Forever 21. Did you know you could shop Nordstrom Rack online??? That was particularly exciting for me… The Rack I usually go to is always picked through in my size.

Tell Your Friends – Spread the wealth! I find that when I tell my friends about this amazing bag I found for a quarter of the retail price, they suddenly have to tell me about bargains they’ve found. Surprisingly enough, a lot of people bargain and second hand shop, but not many brag about it. The more you talk about deals, the more your friends will tell you their favorite little hidden treasure shops and tips they’ve learned. For example: I recently moved to a new area. The other day my roommate complimented me on a dress I was wearing. I told her I had purchased it at a nice consignment shop I really liked and offered her the detes. She quickly told me about an amazing consignment shop right around the corner from our place. It turned out to be even higher end pieces for less then I’d find at places I normally hit. SCORE!!

Lastly, smile! There’s nothing less expensive and more attractive than someone who’s happy, positive and upbeat. A friendly smile and “hello” costs nothing, but it makes you feel good and can make someone’s day!