Friday, 26 April 2013

Everyday budgeting without pain - Part 3 Looking Stylish without spending a fortune

First – a confession.  Before I started this budgeting process, my clothes spending was out of control.  Not necessarily out of control in that there were items hiding in the wardrobe with the tags still on, or carrier bags full of secret and shameful shopping hidden under the bed, but wild and profligate, regardless.
I never actually got into debt because of my ‘wardrobe building’ (yes, I know, it sounds lame to me now  too), but that was more good luck than good management.  Certainly I spent money that should have been saved, invested or paid off the mortgage while we could.  Oh, the benefit of hindsight.
I was equally bad with skincare products – looking for the holy grail which was going to make me into a supermodel.  Of course that wasn’t going to happen.  As a result I ended up with a big stockpile of partly used items, which were cluttering up the cabinet and which hadn’t even been given chance to work.
Since then, I have put strict limits around my spending on clothes and beauty – and actually, I think I’m probably dressing better as a result.  I’m focussing on what really suits me and works for me, but still being conscious of not getting stuck in a rut.  When you only allow yourself one item, rather than a range of similar items ‘just in case’, you do tend to avoid that ‘pile of cardigans’ or ‘heap of similar cut jeans’ scenario.
1)    Firstly and most importantly, before going shopping, make sure you know what you have.  Do not buy anything new unless you have thoroughly cleared out your wardrobe, identified your favourite outfits, and tried new combinations.  This takes time, but ‘shopping your wardrobe’ can unearth all sorts of new treasures, and spending time creating new outfits can give you just as much satisfaction (if not more satisfaction) than buying new things.

2)    Cultivate an enjoyment of ‘elegant frugality’.  Apologies to Rebecca Ast, author of ‘The New Spend Less Revolution’ for stealing her phrase, but keeping this in mind really does help.  Make NOT spending your aim.  Enjoy the process of finding creative solutions (as per 1 above), rather than simply throwing money at the problem.  This can include swapping clothes with friends or sisters, or borrowing temporarily for an event.  Or it could include sharing a big purchase such as an expensive handbag.  What about timeshares in it?

3)  Set a strict monthly budget.  No ‘borrowing’ allowed – although saving is definitely permitted.

4)    Beware the discount.  If there is something you were going to buy anyway, and you can find a discount coupon, then brilliant.  But companies send you discounts to tempt you in to purchases you neither needed nor really wanted.  Resist!  Unless you are strong-willed, you may want to unsubscribe from any mailings you think may be difficult to ignore.

5)    Make use of returns policies.  No, I’m definitely not advocating wearing something and returning it.  But if you have an item you’re not sure about, and its within the return period, and it still has its tags – please return it.  And if you have bought something full price, and then get a discount coupon the next day, please do not have any qualms about returning and then re-buying at a discount.  The shop assistants expect this to happen – as long as its within the returns policy you’re well within your rights.   Even in relatively high end stores such as LK Bennett. I got £40 off my black courts by doing this.

6)   Institute the ‘pause’.  When you decide you would like an item, put it on the wish list and leave it for a week (at least).  When you revisit it, often it has lost its desirability.  Or you’ve even forgotten you ever wanted it!  But if you still love it at this point,  if it fits into your wardrobe, and you have the budget for it – go ahead and enjoy.

7)   Ebay unwanted items, particularly designer items or brand names.  It’s amazing how much you can make with a bit of time and effort.

8)   Reduce the frequency of dry-cleaning for your clothes.  Most things don’t get particularly dirty, and there is definitely no need for cleaning after every wear – even for blouses.  Your clothes will also last longer.

9)   Not everything that says its dry clean only needs to be dry-cleaned.  Cashmere is the best example of this – it is actually better being washed.  I even machine wash mine on a cold wool wash – but I’m not sure whether this would work in those huge US style washing machines which always look rather fearsome to me! 

10) Consider drugstore brands rather than that £100 pot of moisturiser.  In a lot of cases, the owners of the companies are the same, and the same research and development filters down into the cheaper brands.  The best example is L’Oreal, which owns Kiehls and Lancome as well as Vichy and Garnier.  Chanel cosmetics are owned by the same company as Bourjois.

11) Learn how to apply your make-up correctly, rather than spending money looking for a solution.  Make-up counters will often do a free makeover, or to avoid any risk of spending money, there are all sorts of videos online.

12)  Rather than having expensive highlights in your hair (yes – I fell into that trap too!), choose a tint that is close to your natural colour that you can maintain yourself between appointments.  And go for a haircut which doesn’t need regular trimming – no fringe, or sharp bob. By doing these two things, I can still afford visits every 3 months to my swanky but very lovely hairdresser.   But if a fringe or bob is your ‘trademark’, see if you can find a student night, or even a cheaper local hairdresser to trim it for you. 

13)  Clairol Nice and Easy root touch up is so easy to use, and makes it perfectly possible to go longer between colour appointments without those dreaded roots showing.  Definitely worth the £4 it costs!
I would love to hear any of your top tips or your thoughts on the above.

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