How to Make the Most of Your Shopping Budget

How to Make the Most of Your Shopping Budget: Header

Build a wardrobe you love while sticking to your budget with these tips.

Maximize your shopping budget

“Nothing fits. Nothing. I have nothing to wear,” I panicked at my husband as I was packing for a mid-winter beach getaway. Our flight was the next day, and I had nothing to pack.

I had finally shed the baby weight from babynumber six (…6 years later…), and I basically needed a whole new summer wardrobe, but summer clothes weren’t on my mind in February, and I hadn’t even considered they would be two sizes too big.

Thanks to this packing fail (who needs clothes at the beach, anyway?), I started saving my budget for several months anticipating the big expense of replacing my warm-weather clothes, but I still needed to be careful with how I spent it to make sure I got a working, functional wardrobe.

As I’ve said before, never, never, ever go in debt over clothes. A house? Yes. A car? Sure! Shoes? NEVER.

Most of us have a budget of some variety that guides our spending, and a number one source of guilt and conflict for many of us is allocating our resources. How do I spend my budget? How do I maximize my purchasing power? In my case last summer, how do I replace a whole wardrobe without breaking the bank?

I’ve shared about how to create a clothing budget, but once you have one, how do you get what you want and stay within your means? How do you stretch those dollars?

I’ve definitely got tips on getting great deals, but that won’t help you unless you know these tips first.

The Ways We Waste our Budgets

The Good Deal Gremlins

How many times have you said something like,

“What a great deal! This top is on clearance!”

“This designer item is only…”

If you’re anything like I used to be, passing up bargains if feels like turning your back on the shopping fairies who have delivered this deal to you. We must not offend lest they abandon us! But here’s the thing…do you actually like it? Love it? Would you pay full price for it because you love it so much? How much would you wear it?

You would be shocked at how easy it is to nickel and dime away your budget. $25 here, $50 there, and before you know it, it’s gone. There is a difference between shopping fairies and good deal gremlins.

Even if you consider bargain shopping an Olympic sport (#heysoulsister), chances are you’re spending way more money on clothes you don’t love or wear. If you look at the items you purge, the ones with tags still on them, the ones you wore once and…never again, were they the really good deals you couldn’t pass up?

I know how hard it is to resist an amazing deal, even if it’s on a crazy print skirt (do you even wear skirts?) in a color that doesn’t suit you (but it looks so good on her!) and doesn’t really go with anything else you own (I’ll buy something to go with it!). Is that top super cute? It is…but is it perfect for you, or someone else? 

Or what about a pair of shoes that pinch your toes but are otherwise perfect? Will you really sacrifice comfort for style and live with pinched toes? Maybe you will. I sometimes do. But many women won’t, and knowing your boundaries is so important.

Shopping Without a Plan

Will you roll your eyes if I say it?

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Benjamin Franklin

Overquoted, perhaps, but still very true! Shopping aimlessly and buying whatever is the fastest way to have too many clothes, nothing to wear, and an empty bank account. Is your wardrobe cohesive? Do your items mix and match easily? Or is it full of wild card items you can’t pair? Do you have your basics covered? Do you know what you have and what you need?

Have you ever come home with a new top only to realize you have 3 others just like it…that you forgot about? Because your closet is so packed with things you don’t love and wear that you couldn’t even see this one? And now you have another one, and less money. Sigh…

When you shop without a plan, you buy a lot of great (or not so great) things, but not necessarily what you need.

How to Maximize Your Budget

Shop Your Closet First

Shop your closet FIRST for items you already have that match your style. Pull out everything you really love and feel great in, that suits your coloring, and fits your lifestyle. Take an inventory of what you have, starting with basics first, then see what special pieces you have. I guarantee there are lost gems hidden in the racks of your closet, dying to come out and be loved!

How do these pieces work together? Can you mix and match them? Can you make outfits you love? Put them at the front of the closet so you can get to them easily (don’t spiral and get caught up in a closet purge that will overwhelm you). That can come later.

Find the Gaps

Now that you know what you have, what’s still missing? Do you really want it? Would you wear it often? Would it really fill a hole in your wardrobe, or is it just something you like and would wear occasionally? Would it expand your outfit options or provide some much-needed variety? Is there something that would tie together several other pieces and create several more outfits? 

Shop from a List

Now that you know what you are missing, make a list so you can shop with intention and come up with a workable wardrobe rather than a mishmash of items you can’t make outfits from.

It’s common to go shopping and grab whatever seems fine, or even makes you go all heart-eyes, and still have nothing to wear because it’s not what you actually need, and none of it goes together. Impulse shopping without a plan is a big reason why so many women have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.

Prioritize basics and pieces that you will get the most wear out of, and the most versatility in your wardrobe 

Intentional shopping saves me money

My shopping budget hasn’t changed in 5 years, and I buy fewer, but much nicer, better quality clothes that I truly love because I’m shopping from a list instead of picking up whatever I think is cute. I prioritize quality, and by quality I mean not only construction and fabric, but also what I truly love and will wear, over quantity.

Which is really a better deal: a $20 top that will only end up collecting dust in your closet, or a $60 top you adore and wear once a week? The answer is clear — even though when you’re looking at the price tag, it may not seem that way. When you’re more selective about what you buy, you get more value from the pieces you love.

You’ll get a better cost per wear, and you’ll have to replace items less often. I used to be the queen of the clearance rack, but now I consider cost per wear. If I won’t wear it, it’s not a good deal, no matter how inexpensive. I’m willing to invest in items I will wear over and over and over.

Does that mean I don’t still love a great deal? Does that mean I pay full price for everything and need it all to be the best brands? Absolutely not! But I won’t buy something just because it’s on sale, and I’m willing to save for what I really want.

The Stunning Style Classic Wardrobe Guides are a done-for-your wardrobe plan, shopping list, links to anything you might need, and 100 outfits already created for you. The wardrobe is cohesive, mix and matchable, and with the weekly Style Steps I walk you through the process of curating your wardrobe, customizing it and an end-of-season evaluation. The waiting list for the fall season is open, and when you join you will be the first to know!

8 thoughts on “How to Make the Most of Your Shopping Budget”

  1. Jane Lawrenson

    I am becoming a much smarter shopper with colors & styles. I no longer just grab off clearance rack. I am looking for belts at present. Thank you!

  2. I have followed your idea but spent more this season than I have in a while. I have put on weight so part of my spending was related to that.

    I go through phases where I spend nothing also.

    I look now at thrift stores. Thank you for your tips

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