How to Look Like a Million Bucks For Less

Today’s frugal fashionistas know a thing or two about creating an enviable wardrobe at a fraction of the cost of buying retail and they do this in a number of ways.  Some shop deep discount outlet malls to pick up their brand name attire while others dig diligently through the racks of the secondhand store in hopes of acquiring the precise type of apparel that they are looking for.  Other, more creative types, sit down with a sewing machine and a pattern and whip out designs all their own.  College students looking to recycle last season’s fashions, clear out their closet and host clothing swaps where each participant walks away from an evening full of fun with an armload of new attire and accessories to wear.  Families with small children shop yard sales and online auction sites to buy lots of gently used clothing for their little ones to wear. Rather than replace items on a whim, these parents wait to buy new clothes until their children wear them out or outgrow them.

Like past generations, a majority of today’s population works hard to reduce, reuse, and recycle the items that they purchase or acquire for free.  You can learn a thing or two from these individuals by learning how to look like a million bucks for less.  Here are a few secrets that they would like to share with you.

Don’t Overlook the Potential of the Thrift Store

On a regular basis, people find amazing brand name, quality items that are still in the box or have the tags hanging from them while shopping at a thrift store or secondhand shop.  I once purchased a brand new pair of Doc Marten boots for less than a dollar at the Salvation Army. And don’t forget the other side of the coin as well. If you have clothes you no longer wear you can basically put money in your pocket by donating it or even selling it at a second-hand store like Plato’s Closet.

Get Your Hair Cut, Colored, and Styled By a Student

Visiting a school that specializes in Cosmetology has its benefits.  In addition to helping a student acquire the hours that they need to graduate, you can have your hair cut, colored, and styled for next to nothing. Don’t be afraid of a bad haircut. Chances are you’re going to get a great cut or style and pay a fraction of the cost of going to a regular salon.

Join the Do-It-Yourself Bandwagon and Learn How to Alter and Reconstruct Clothing to Make It Look New Again

Ill-fitting or otherwise unattractive clothing can be cut, sewn, embellished, and repurposed into amazing shirts, pants, skirts, belts, handbags, and headbands.  Craft store sell yards of fabric, spools of ribbon, patches, leather fringe, beads, and buttons specifically designed to update the look of old duds.

Buy the Best Items That You Can Afford and Take Advantage of Life-Time Guarantees

Many companies guarantee the items that they sell you.  Take advantage of these policies and buy the best garments that you can afford.  A high quality item purchased from LL Bean carries a lifetime guarantee.  Although the initial cost of a new coat may seem overwhelming, it pales in comparison when you consider the cost of multiple new coats over the course of a few decades.

Familiarize Yourself with Freecycle

Free is the way to be.  Get to know your local Freecycle group.  Post items that you no longer want and request items that you know you will use.  Not only will you reduce costs, you will also help the environment by keeping perfectly good items out of the landfill.

As you can see, you don’t need to blow your budget buying all of the latest designer fashions, getting expensive hair cuts, or buying junk you’ll only use once or twice. Frugal is the new black, and if you’re smart with your money you can look like a million bucks without spending more than a few dollars.

Charissa Arsaoui is a freelance writer for ChickSpeak, Buzzine, DisFUNKshion Magazine, Student Stuff, and a guest contributor for Wisebread.  She loves thrift related topics and can spot a bargain a mile away.

Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

6 comments
MargaretJHodges
MargaretJHodges

As long as you can pull off a $10 outfit, and you are comfortable wearing them, you can beat those runway models anytime.

jeancox
jeancox

There's nothing wrong with going with the trends but this costs a lot of money. You need to buy clothes every time there's a fad. So why not wear something you can wear any time of the year. How to look like a million bucks? Wear something you actually like. Because no matter how expensive your outfit may be if you are not feeling it or if you are not comfortable with what you are wearing, it won’t look good on you.

Kat
Kat

I also have trouble finding things that fit. I do sew and do alterations to almost everything I buy. I am convinced that all clothing is size "too"-Too big, too small, too long or too short.

I don't go to the outlet stores, as I have found the items are not usually that big of a savings. Thrift stores and sewing are my main sources for the majority of my wardrobe. I splurge on bras and underthings and buy the best quality I can afford.

Jen
Jen

Speaking of online sites, I found a Kate Spade purse on eBay for $35 ($25 + $10 s&h)! For accessories that I don't mind being slightly used, and thatI don't need to try on I would definitley use eBay or another online site again.

Credit Girl
Credit Girl

Love these tips! I already do about 3 of them, specifically the freecycle, thrift stores, and student stylists. Also, for certain things like designer purses there are websites where you can swap purses with other people and it's really cool because it allows you to connect with people who are interested in the same things as you and it allows you to both save economically. What's the point in buying a purse worth a couple K's only to get bored of it after a month?

Another thing, I would highly recommend going to student barbers. I attend a Junior College so we have a cosmetology/hair division as well and I've went to the students and they did a wonderful job! I got a hair cut and a dye job practically for free! All I had to do was tip the students so I tipped her $20-still cheaper than what I would've paid at a salon, which could range anywhere from $50-$100 for a cut and dye job.

Another thing I would definitely recommend for the fancy occasions is dress swapping/renting. There are so many sites online which have converted to renting out designer dresses to women for a night or so. It's a cheaper alternative and you might possibly be wearing the same exact dress that one of your favorite celebrities has worn! However, with this one though the drawback is that I think you'd have to live close to one of those stores because I don't know if they'd deliver the dress to you or not.

Kevin Khachatryan
Kevin Khachatryan

Shopping online is a great way to get the newest fashions for a fraction of the cost.

For example, you can go to macys.com and click on the sale section. I've bought a lot of nice shirts and polo's for under 15 bucks here.

Abigail
Abigail

Unfortunately, even when I'm in shape, finding stuff that fits me at a thrift store can be difficult.

That said, you can find treasures there, for sure!

I also am a staunch supporter of beauty schools. They can be amazingly affordable. Like any trip to the salon, I try to have a picture of the style I want (assuming I'm changing my style). The students always run everything past an instructor, so you're pretty safe on that front. Meanwhile, instead of $30-40 cuts, you can pay as little as $8-15. I may indulge in a color job soon because it's so darn affordable.

I think one of the main things about looking great cheaply is to go for classic stuff that doesn't go out of style. But also to build your wardrobe around some basics. Basic advice, but sound, nonetheless!

Jen
Jen

In addition to buying quality, I would add be sure to buy something you'll actually wear!! :) I focus on buying clothes that fit me properly, are flattering, and that I like. If I don't like something, odds I will never wear it. If something is just sitting in my closet or dresser, then I'm not getting any value out of it, and that was just money spent for nothing.