Q&A: How to shop when you're broke
Breaking news: the economy is a hot mess. Our would-be presidents are cat-fighting about it. Raises are scarce. We can't sell our homes for baked beans. Everyone is really grumpy and frankly, our hair is starting to look bad. Leaping off the Sears Tower would be more pleasant.
There's another problem, and it's called being human. Sweaters! Jackets! Gorgeous leather boots! And, CRAP, your favorite jeans have a stain on the butt from that time you sat in blueberry syrup at Coldstone after Nights in Rodanthe! YOU NEED NEW CLOTHES.
To help us find satisfactory moderation during tough times, Deal Divas enlisted help. Alison Deyette is a fashion stylist who regularly dispenses advice on Today, The View, Tyra and TBS's Movie and a Makeover. And Clarky Davis, a.k.a. the "Debt Diva" is a financial expert and TV regular. Together, they've been giving advice about fall shopping on TJ Maxx's website (fair warning for the TJ Maxx enthusiasm below). We snagged them for an interview.
Our finances are in the toilet. How can we justify shopping for new fall clothes?
Clarky: As Americans, we're all in the same boat. Our buying power has definitely changed. What we're having to do is look at our overall budget and see what we're spending money on. The average woman is spending about $150 on updates for their wardrobe. Set a goal of how much you want to spend. You need to have cash. You should not put that $150 on your credit card.
Alison: Before you even go shopping, it’s about finding out what your needs are. It's a great cleansing experience to go through your closet. We all stand in front of our full closets of clothing and say we have nothing to wear. But if you took the time to actually spend one day pulling everything out, trying items on, going through and seeing what you should toss, what doesn't fit anymore, you'll find out what you need. It could be as simple as, "I need a crisp, white button down shirt," or "I want to add some purple this season."
What if I'm totally dead broke, but OH MY GOSH, I REALLY WANT ANKLE BOOTS?
Clarky: You need to come up with ways to save money. One great thing to do is to have a rummage sale at your apartment or house. You’ll be amazed at how much money you can make just by cleaning out your house. And instead of buying those brand name items, buy the grocery store brand. They're exactly the same. Look at your list and cut out things that are not necessary. People spend a lot of money on things that are not grocery items. They’ll buy bath soaps, magazines, junk food and soda and things that are really costly and can up your grocery bill. Take that extra $20 that you would spend on food and put it toward your clothing budget.
Ok, so we've set boundaries. How can we get the most for our money?
Alison: Before I head to the mall, I go to off-price retailers. I go to TJ Maxx, I go to Marshalls. I always find myself a new handbag. They have the most phenomenal Italian leather handbags. For a woman that’s wearing a suit at the office, you can find a fabulous suit, a great top and scarf, and you can wear it as separates. If you're going to buy a suit, make sure you can take the pants or jacket and wear it with a fabulous sweater and belt around the waist and some beaded jewelry.
Any tips for self-control in full-on shopping mode?
Alison: Don’t succumb to sale psychosis. We see something on sale and we say, "What an amazing markdown!" We get home and we're like, "What was I thinking?" I always say take a breath, walk around with it, go to the dressing room, always try things on, then decide. How does it work in my wardrobe? Is the color right? You might end up putting it back on the rack.
Clarky: Before you succumb to temptation, ask yourself, "If I do put my credit card down on this item, can I pay it off in the next month?" Credit cards are not bad things. They're great financial tools if you use them properly. I try to use mine in case of emergency only, but as a shopper and someone who loves clothes, I know temptation happens. I'm not going to tell you that if it’s the one perfect item you've looked for all your life not to get it. Just know before you put that credit card down that you can actually pay the credit card off.
~ Deal Diva Stephanie