Closet 101 Money Style

Shopping and the Budget – Part One

I consider shopping and budgeting a bit of a sport -probably because I have never played any real sports- but really, it’s very difficult to create the perfect closet on a limited budget. For me, my list of wants is usually pretty long…and my wallet’s funds are a lot shorter. Over the years I have made many mistakes in budgeting and have tried to learn from them. I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you all (over a multi part series – I have lots of wisdom OK???) and would love to hear your tips and tricks too.

So here we go – Part 1 of my personal shopping and budgeting rules:

1) It’s a marathon, not a sprint. What’s with my sports analogies? Anyway, what I mean by this is that for me, going on temporary spending “bans” and etc have never worked out well. I end up usually just feeling first deprived, then a little smug and superior towards the end (I don’t need the mall! I am Discovering Myself and Other Hobbies), and then when the ban’s ended, going on binge buying all kinds of questionable items. Now, I try to keep a consistent level of spending – of course there are peaks and troughs, but I never starve myself  – I love fashion. Everything in moderation and within your means – and you should be OK.

2) It will go on sale. Unless it’s a classic handbag or piece of jewelry. Otherwise, it will pretty much be going on sale, it’s just a question of how long you are willing to wait. I violate this rule all the time by buying things full price, and even wrote about it here, about this dress that I just had to have because it was sooo beautiful. And now, guess what? I’ve only worn it once in the past few months and now, it’s on sale! GAH. Of course sometimes I will still pay full price for convenience or because it is just so cheap it doesn’t matter too much – but I always feel a little bad.

3) Will I wear it in two years? That’s how long I try to envision any new purchases lasting – at the very least. This rule has been very handy, preventing me from purchasing everything from certain aggressive gladiator sandal styles to various studded items (but not all of them). I always think about all the things I’ve wasted my money on in the last few years and what I would get if I had those funds now – that usually serves to make me put down whatever neon item has caught my fancy.

This, my friends, is an example of of when I should have listened to my 2 year rule. I bought this Blumarine dress because it was a) pretty and b) I love Blumarine. However, I neglected to think about whether I could ever wear it out! I don’t know if you notice…but there is a giant, clear lace diamond in the middle of the dress! I’m not sure if my 21 year old abs were good enough for this but I should have known that even a year later they would be in no shape to be displayed! I’ve literally only worn this dress once in five years, to a Donatella Versace themed party. Yes, I came as Donatella!!

4) Be like Warren. Despite some of his recent troubles, I really think Warren Buffett is the man. He is notoriously frugal and is a world class investor. I always try to look at my purchases with the same frugal eye. I don’t mind buying luxury items – but I’d always like to get them for the best possible price. I try to negotiate everything possible – something that’s really come in handy during our wedding process. That being said, I never try to wring every last dollar out in a negotiation – most of the time it’s better to go for a fair deal that lets both parties walk away happy.

5) Don’t be obsessed with “The Best.” I went through the phase where I bought lots of cheap, disposable fashion, and then figured out that investing in a few quality pieces ended up being a better deal. But I think often times we can take that “invest in quality” mantra too far – it’s wonderful to buy yourself “the best” of handbags, shoes, jackets, etc. But your whole wardrobe doesn’t all have to be these big name designer items. Quite often we find cheaper items more disposable simply because we buy so much more of them – it’s easy to say that you never wear that one dress you bought for $15 at Forever 21 – it’s because you bought ten different ones from there! Of course you treasure your brand name items more. But try this: figure out what brands work for you – it should be a mix of high and low – and try to buy sparingly, no matter what the price tag. It’s worked for me, and helped me appreciate all my items a lot more, no matter what label they have.

Whew, that was long! I hope this was helpful to you (if just a little tiny bit) and I would love to hear some of your tips and tricks for shopping and keeping in budget as well.

For those who want to read on: Part 2 of Shopping and the Budget was published here!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Loved this post! Fashion and personal finance are two of my passions. I've really been trying to do better about actually wearing all the items in my closet – I'm rotating them after I wear them! Also, I'm getting rid of things that just don't work. It's awful to think of how much money I've wasted by not trying things on first, buying it b/c it was cheap/on sale, or buying it b/c it was cute on someone else.

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I totally agree with you! It's so tough to build a closet that you can be proud of, and want to wear every single item in it ALL THE TIME, when your budget is limited.

    When I shop now, I ask myself these three questions, usually it helps me decided whether I really need it or not:
    1. Will I wear it?
    2. Do I NEED it? (I know this can be subjective, but you'll see my reasoning later…)
    3. Can I afford it?

    Only if I've answered YES to all three questions, do I buy it right away. If not, I'll wait for it to go on sale.
    In parallel, I have an exception rule, if I haven't answered yes to all three, but REALLY REALLY want it. I put it down, wait a few days, and if I'm still thinking and WANTING that particular item in the next month, then I'll go get it (it's usually on sale by then…=D)

    Those are my two cents…turned our longer than I expected it to be..haha

  • Reply
    Lindsay @ A Walk in the Closet
    June 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Great tips Katherine! I should probably print this out and take it along with me when I go shopping or stick it to the wall beside my computer while I browse Net-A-Porter. 😉

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I think along the lines of no. 3 often. I try to stay away from things that are hot now but maybe not so much a few years from now. When it comes to a color trend, I get my fix by buying a nail polish in the "it" color. It's a small enough buy to make me happy.

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Great post! My rule of thumb is to stay true with your style – don't fall for the brand, price tag or trends bluffs. Ironically, some of my favorite buys over past 10 years came from some discount stores like Filene's basement.

    I also ask for opinions from my 11-year-old boy, who develops a rating system for my purchase. "8" is the minimum score needed to survive his judgement 🙂

  • Reply
    Tara @ Haute Lunch
    June 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Great tips! I completely agree with them all. I do go on "spending freezes" once in a while, but that's when income is particularly sparse for some reason (like not getting paid for a month because there are no classes for me to teach in May). Boo. Otherwise, I follow them all very well. I almost never buy items at full price and usually pick pieces that I can wear for a while. I also like to buy brands that will last, but aren't necessarily the cream of the crop. I've found that brands like BCBG, Free People, Banana Republic, and others in that approximate price range offer excellent quality clothing that is also not horribly expensive (especially when you get them on sale).

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I totally agree on the "marathon" idea, you crack me up with your sports analogies. I played sports all my life and one thing I do have to say about it is that it sure is applicable to almost everything! Anyway, thanks for your insight, I agree with your ideology, and also picked up some good tips… great post!

    I personally try to live by the rule "50, 30, 20".

    That is: 50% of your monthly income goes to your "Needs" (the trick is learning that those "needs" are things like food, shelter, and bills… NOT me pretending that I need a new pair of shoes to survive).

    30% goes to "Wants"… which is the hard part to budget. I used to use almost all my "want" money on clothes/shoes or things to take care of said clothes/shoes (like obsessive dry cleaning and cobbler visits, the nicest hangers, new closet systems, etc). That's when I realized I couldn't go out to a fancy dinner and then go to the best bar in town for my friend's birthday without dipping into other accounts! Wants are more than just clothes… I learned that I needed to save some of my want money, because investing in my social life is more important than investing in my closet.

    20% goes into savings… I like to divvy it up between a "rainy day" MMA fund and my 401K. I haven't started investing in any stocks yet (I only have one bond), but I figure I'm young and I have about 2 more years before I have to scare myself with saving!

    Anyways, that's how I budget my life… budgeting my measly 30% wants is another story, I still haven't figured that one out completely!


  • Reply
    emma basilone
    June 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I love this post, great information & advice!

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Wow, amazing comments! Thank you so much everybody…

    @Tangles, I shudder whenever I think about how much wasted $$$ is hanging in my closet. Need to donate, pronto!

    @Yaya, your patience is amazing…I don't know if I could wait that long on purchases…I tend to be an impulse purchaser too 🙁

    @homestilo, great tip on the nail polish! I just bought some colors at Opi yesterday 🙂

    @Julia that is so adorable that your son helps you! A score of 8 sounds pretty high!

    @Tara, I love BR/BCBG too – I agree they are great value/quality ratio, especially on sale!

    @Melissa, I love that rule…I might have to quote you on it for my next post!

    @emma & Lindsay – thank you!! I also love Net-A-Porter! It's my downfall…

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    @Katherine: Thanks for dropping by Atelier 630 again^^ Yes I made everything myself, from the inital design, to the pattern, to choosing the fabrics and actually sewing everything together. ….I'm also quite an impulse buyer, but since I know that, I try my best to discipline myself, not that it always works though..haha

  • Reply
    amy b.s.
    June 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    loved every tip!

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Hello! I've just discovered your blog, so cool! All the info you post is very importanta! xx

  • Reply
    Ella Pretty Blog
    June 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Lovely post – pleae do many more of these!

    Last year I decided to give myself an allowance – it's the best balance of budgeting I've found so far.

    I used to steer away from things that I really wanted (i.e. 1 Chanel make-up item) and yet used to buy 5 drugstore things without blinking an eye. In the end, I spent the same, but didn't get as much satisfaction.

    With an allowance, I keep track of all my spending, and can buy higher-end items without feeling guilty.

    I TOTALLY agree with your last item about not being obsessed with buying the best…there is a place for cheap and cheerful items – I don't always want to wear expensive clothes and worry about them LOL!

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Great Tips Katherine! Such a serious topic and you add your fun twist to it and make it light and interesting.
    I agree with everything you say. But I do go on Shopping bans every now and then just so that I unearth all those hidden clothes which I dont even remember existed in my closet and fall in love with them all over again and the saga continues. Fortunately for me this has worked well and I dont binge at the end of the period.
    Oh and Im a big sales and clearance rack shopper!! I never, Ok almost never pay full price except for things that dont go on sale!

  • Reply
    Looks and Books
    June 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for this post. I have noticed that you have a great selection of quality pieces, and it's interesting to get the logic behind it. When you're on a limited budget, it's easy to envy style bloggers and think they go on shopping sprees all the time–good to know that a lot of thought goes into building your closet, just as it goes into mine!

  • Reply
    Leslie *Fresh Out of Lemons*
    June 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Smart tips! I've starting really thinking about pieces that I'd like to own, even researching image ideas on Pinterest, before I shop for them (online or in a store.) I've found that knowing exactly what I want keeps me from getting sidetracked on the quest! Kind of like not grocery shopping on an empty stomach. 🙂

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Great post. Finances are such an important part of style- and getting oneself into debt is never fashionable… or at least in my book.

  • Reply
    DSK Steph
    June 3, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Gimme your wisdom!! Wouldn't it be nice if we could win the lottery and then not have to worry about balancing our wants and our wallets? lol

  • Reply
    June 3, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Thank you Katherine for another awesome post! In Part 2, could you include some tips on how to negotiate in a friendly and reasonable manner? I either get really wimpy or really angry. 🙁

  • Reply
    June 4, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Shopping is totally a sport … and you are an all-star! Love your round up of tips and tricks 🙂

    xx Cat brideblu

  • Reply
    June 4, 2011 at 3:23 am

    LOL at your sport analogies!

    i put myself on a shopping ban a week ago and have already completely failed. said shopping ban slipped my mind within a day. i believe it helps my void by spreading out and limiting myself to small/one item purchases every few days or so. a bottle of windex will even do or maple syrup will do! ..i just need to buy something.

    i am working on #5. i'm slowing getting out of this habit of purchasing things i don't need or even like very much because it's on sale. i can only wear and stash so many pairs of similar looking khaki shorts and trousers in my closet lol

  • Reply
    Joyce Lau
    June 4, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I usually employ my "go back" rule on expensive purchases. If I see something I really love, but it's more than I usually spend, I put it on hold or just walk away.
    The test if I really love it? If I'll make the effort during my busy life to actually commute back to the store and buy it.
    Sometimes, I go home, then go to work, then a few days pass and I realize I don't need it. Other times, I realize that it's absolutely perfect and worth the hassle to go back.

    My problem is not clothing (of which I'm a moderate spender) but art. It's a bit different, since I only buy art once or twice a year.

    I never, ever buy something because the salesperson tries to strong-arm me into it.

  • Reply
    Joyce Lau
    June 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I agree that one has to find a good middle ground in terms of spending on quality.

    My closet used to be filled with cheap disposable clothing. Then I started buying a few classics.

    There are some items, like a tailored grey suit, or a classic trench, that I've had for years. I don't mind that I spent a little more on them.

    Generally, I am happy to go cheap on stuff like T-shirts, sundresses and lipsticks. (I honestly can't feel a huge difference between a Calvin Klein t-shirt and a cheap one from a local Hong Kong shop).

    But I never go cheap on shoes or skincare.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Amazing post! I usually just try to avoid shops because I know if I walk in, I will most likely come out with something. Budgeting is probably my biggest challenge. I still haven't gotten down the whole "saving for something big" because I get so distracted along the way.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Nice post!Normally I have a list of my "what to shop" items and usually I only buy items that I really wanted.I also shop according to my lifestyle so that most of the items will be used and not only stuck in my closet.In terms of clothes, previously I want to buy in on sale but I figured out that mostly items on sale racks have deficiency and sometimes I ended up on tailor shop for repair!So from then on I rarely shop on sale.If I do, I check everything so I will get my money's worth and not just take advantage on the word SALE.:)

  • Reply
    June 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    LOL – I just wrote something similar to post yesterday, but Blogger didn't put it up til today! Great minds. 🙂

    Shopping is my profession so I have a lot of opinion on it. I don't, however, have my own personal budget. (For shame.) I do consider one thing before I buy any item (accept accessories) for myself or others: Three Outfit Rule.

    It's easy to get excited just because it's on sale, but will it really work in your wardrobe? I agree with you on not obsessing about "the best". It's a good rule to buy the best you can afford on classics like black pants or a pencil skirt because you'll get the most cost per wear out of them, but you can pick up the super trends at more affordable places.

    Oh, I could go on and on. Love reading tips on how other people budget! You can check out my shopping tips here: {mommy chic} and share your thoughts too!

    Happy shopping!

  • Reply
    American Gypsy
    June 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Oh! I love WB, too. We share the same cheap + budget-happy Midwestern mentality. 😉

    And always, always hold onto your receipts and never take the tags off until you actually wear it out. Because even if you're over the time limit for returning an unworn item, you can still sell it on ebay for money if its "with tags."


  • Reply
    June 4, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Fantastic post!
    The 2 year rule is definitely a must – i'm a living testament to that.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    This is a really great post 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing these tips. I can completely relate with you about the temporary shopping bans – I manage to not buy anything for a few weeks but then at the end of it I tend to "reward" myself for being good by buying things that I don't really need.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I ABSOLUTELY agree with you on all counts!!! No point being a clothes-whore. Need to shop with a stable mind!!! 🙂

    ♡ from ©

  • Reply
    Chic 'n Cheap Living
    June 5, 2011 at 12:28 am

    Darling, that is totally part of my mantra. Tanvi above actually guest blogged about her shopping tips and I totally agree. I'm still figuring out that mix of high and low.
    Oh and re: Warren Buffett, I love that he is a billionaire with the same house from the 70s or so just replaced his car last decade. I need to be a bit more like him!

    Chic 'n Cheap Living

  • Reply
    Nina Morena
    June 5, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Great post! Thanks for all the tips 🙂

  • Reply
    June 6, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Love your blog and this post. I find it sooo hard to save money haha. I think over the past 2 years or so I spent maybe 50% of what I earned on clothes that I never wear (this might sound kind of shocking but I live at home…so it's ok haha)
    Now following 😀
    xx Cin

  • Reply
    Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    June 6, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Amen to all the tips above! I couldn't agree more.

  • Reply
    Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    June 6, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Amen to all the tips above! I couldn't agree more.

  • Reply
    Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    June 6, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Amen to all the tips above! I couldn't agree more.

  • Reply
    The Fashionable ESQ
    June 7, 2011 at 1:23 am

    This was a GREAT post.
    Words to shop by, LOL!

  • Reply
    June 8, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    You're absolutely right about viewing he item 2 years down the line. That's when it's truly worth the money. Also, I completely agree with going for what's good enough. I mean, it's crazy buying $80 tee shirts! Thanks for sharing; you have a beautiful blog!

  • Reply
    Fatiam Alkhuzaei
    February 1, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I love this post, i do buy alots of things and i do not have that mutch occasions to wear them all, but i am trying hard to stop that habbite.

  • Reply
    Mrs C
    February 19, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I live by rule # 5 but all my life I've been haunted by the 'I don't have anything to wear!' syndrome. Sigh!

    Great post, Kat!

  • Reply
    Mrs C
    February 19, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I live by rule # 5 but all my life I've been haunted by the 'I don't have anything to wear!' syndrome. Sigh!

    Great post, Kat!

  • Reply
    Warren Buffett chocolates | Feather Factor
    May 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    […] I wanted to thank you all for your sweet comments and more importantly, AMAZING tips on my last post on shopping and budgeting! I learned so many new great tips and am working on a Part 2 for you all. […]

  • Reply
    Shopping and the Budget – Part 2 » Feather Factor | Feather Factor
    August 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    […] Friday! It has been a while since I did my first Shopping and the Budget post. I really enjoyed that post – I got so much great feedback and wonderful tips from […]

  • Reply
    October 29, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Re the “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” So many times I wish I could buy something, only to look at it and think it’s way too expensive. Yet, is it? Sometimes I look at my credit card statement and think, “I could have had a V8!” In other words, I’ve forked out in the aggregate for a lot of little things, the same amount I would have spent for the one thing I really want.
    Money is dear and I think it’s important to prioritize and to identify the need we’re trying to fill with shopping. Now, if I want to go on a shopping spree, I try to go to Williams Sonoma-I mean, who can’t use another spatula, and besides, it’s a lot less damaging than running off to Barney’s for a pair of Louboutin’s that will probably kill me anyway.

    • Reply
      October 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      Thank you poodlgrl for your very thoughtful comment – and I love your tidibit at Williams Sonoma, my equivalent is Target or Godiva!

    Leave a Reply