Style Hacks on a Budget

If you are anything like me, fashion and style are practically therapeutic. Being a student, odds are you are also on an extremely tight budget. While it may seem like these two elements are mutually exclusive, with a little creativity it doesn’t need to be that way. My mom always likes to tell me, I manage to leave Goodwill looking like I walked out of Nordstrom. With this in mind, I would like to offer some tips and tricks for fellow fashion-lovers who feel their heart palpitate at the sight of their meager bank account. 

1. DIY Acrylics 

People are constantly asking me where I got my nails done. I love getting shocked responses when I explain that I do them myself. In the past, I had the nervous habit of picking my nails and cuticles. Getting acrylics was a great way to prevent this habit but was starting to get too expensive by about my second fill-in. I decided to see what alternatives there were and stumbled upon an excellent YouTube tutorial. I decided to try this method out myself. I ordered a pack of acrylics online and then ran to Walgreens for a heavy-duty nail file and nail glue. I also purchased the Sally Hansen clear gel top coat and from there I simply followed the tutorial - gluing the acrylics, cutting and filing to my desired size and shape, painting with my desired color and covering in the topcoat. While once in a while a nail will pop off, carrying the glue in your purse or backpack will lead to an easy fix. Otherwise, my acrylics last an average of 3 - 4 weeks, saving me about $60 through not going to the salon every two weeks in the process. 

2. Staple-Item Splurge

If you are able to splurge every once in a while, make sure these items are timeless and can add to any look with ease. The last thing you want to do if you are on a shoestring budget is spend $70 on a snake print chunky heel just to have them go out of style by the time next fall rolls around. Consider what will last the span of time - a classic Kate Spade clutch or a pair of black Doc Martin boots are examples of timeless splurge-friendly items that will add to any look no matter how many years pass by. My aunt has been rocking her Docs for over 15 years, believe it or not, and they are still going strong - a true sign of a worthy splurge. 

3. Thrifting Tips

Thrift shopping is honestly a bit like fishing. You need to be really patient, but when you get the right catch it’s usually amazing. Most all of my closet is a mix of Chicago thrift shop finds, Goodwill, Plato’s Closet and an array of other local shops. What is great about thrifting, beyond the fact that it is sustainable, is that it allows you to experiment with your wardrobe in a way that won’t break the bank. If you find an oversized band tee for $4 at Goodwill, you can rock it until the style begins to fade out without feeling regret for splurging on a trend that didn't last. What’s more, if you’re willing to be patient with the process, odds are you’ll find some amazing items through thrifting. One of my personal favorite finds is a navy blue romper with the original tags attached - priced at $75 - mine for just $6 off of the Goodwill rack. If you are willing to be patient and look around, you will be truly shocked by the treasures you can find at a thrift store. 

4. Accessories   

I am a hat person, a big earrings person, a statement purse person, scarf person, bandana person, and a ribbons and rings person. Wearing the same black turtleneck sweater for half of the winter means plenty of cycles through the wash, but it also means the importance of accessorizing comes to light in order to easily camouflage what might otherwise seem like a very repetitive sweater choice. If you are on a budget, buying new clothing might not always be a budget-friendly option. Accessories, however, are often easy to find and inexpensive compared to additional clothing items. Swapping a scarf and clutch for a vest and a beanie, and a vest and a beanie for some layered necklaces and hoops can lead to an amazing cycle of accessorizing to disguise what might otherwise appear repetitive. 

5. Coupons Galore 

Thanks to modern technology, discounts are literally always at our fingertips. As a sucker for Bath and Body Works three-wick candles, I keep their app on my phone so I can stay in the loop when these go on sale. If you prefer other stores or brands, download their apps as well to keep up to date on discount days and coupon codes. Before checking out at any store, do a quick Google search to see if there are any coupons you can scan as you check out. This can range from $1 off of moisturizer at Target to 25% off your new makeup palette from Ulta. There is also no harm in scrolling through your junk email every once in a while if you know you are about to go shopping. Stumbling upon a useful discount is never negative, and being frugal and fashionable is totally possible with these tactics in mind. Also, take advantage of student discounts anywhere that offers them. Saving a dollar here and a dollar there absolutely adds up when it comes to staying in style on a shoestring budget. 

Photo credit: Bridgette Jasinski