Staying Fashionable on a College Budget

Gone are the days when Mom took us back-to-school sales shopping at the mall. As grown-ups in-the-making, we’re expected to budget our limited incomes responsibly, and clothes rarely make the list of wise investments. If an up-to-date wardrobe is a priority for you, here are some tips to hopefully make your college shopping as fun and economical as possible.

• Scope out your college town: Malls are expensive, but luckily, they’re not your only option. Explore your new town/city for bargain shopping opportunities. They may not be big-name stores, but most areas have some hidden gems if you’re willing to look hard enough. And while you’re searching…
• Ask about student discounts: Many local stores offer discounts to encourage college students to patron more often. Sometimes it’s only a 5 or 10 percent discount, but it’s definitely worth asking about. While you’re there, make note of upcoming sales or rewards you can take advantage of.
• Thrift, thrift, thrift: Never underestimate the power of a great secondhand store. It takes a trained eye to fully appreciate the bargains available at a thrift shop, but even a rookie can find a few steals if she’s willing to really hunt.
• Sell/exchange your old clothes: If you can find a second-hand store that purchases gently used clothing, take full advantage. Some shops offer credit or rewards for sellers, so you can essentially trade in your old look for new.
• Go online: Search for online sales and opportunities for free shipping. If you can get a new wardrobe shipped to your school mailbox for free, it’s a bargain waiting to happen.
• Hunt off-season: End-of-season mark-downs can be enormous if you know where and when to look. While everyone else is shopping for sweaters and winter coats, stock up on sandals and shorts, for example; sellers are desperate to clear their storeroom at the end of a season, so search sales racks for items you’ll be able to wear in a year.
• Swap with friends: If you’re willing to wear clothes that fit somewhat awkwardly and you’re careful about spills and stains, trading clothes with friends is a fun way to spice up your wardrobe. Shoes and accessories are especially easy to trade amongst friends. Not only does swapping keep your wardrobe up-to-date, but it’s a way to connect with others and socialize; you may even discover colors and styles you never knew you liked.

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