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Look Like a Million Bucks on a Budget

by J. Money on Thursday, August 27, 2009

Million Bucks On a BudgetThis is a guest post from Kim Fusaro. It’s geared toward women, but the principles still apply to us men!

I’m probably best known for my bad spending habits - I chronicle them daily as Glamour magazine’s wayward personal-finance blogger, Little Miss Fortune. But in my 100-plus posts, I’ve managed to pick up some pretty good habits. And those are the ones I’m going to share with you.

See, after years of buying expensive clothing I recently learned an important lesson: You can’t buy style. When I realized this (and the fact that I couldn’t handle the credit card bills that came from all that shopping!) a funny thing happened. I started spending less – and looking better. I still shop (quite a bit!), but I shop smart. Here are the top four rules I play by.

1. Quality trumps quantity for wardrobe staples.

Buying crappy shoes (or handbags or dresses) is so easy. They practically call to you – and they’re so friggin’ cheap! But six weeks later, the heel snaps off (or the handle breaks or the hem falls out) and the junk you bought with your hard-earned cash is clogging up a landfill. If you love wandering through brick-and-mortar stores (I find it soothing), leave your plastic at home.

When you see something you love, note the brand and style, then go home and find it cheaper on the ‘Net. For example, I saw a fab pair of shoes for $120 in a department store. They’re a brand I know and love (nice) and they’re made from real leather (double-nice). Still, I don’t have $120 to spare right now. I took a quick spin on Google’s shopping page, where they turned up on Shoebuy.com for $87 with free shipping – getting warmer! A little more digging uncovered a 20-percent off coupon, which brought the grand total down to $70. That’s maybe $20 more than two pairs of plastic pumps, but these’ll last for years. (For the record, I still didn’t buy them!)

2. Don’t invest in trendy stuff.

Trends, by definition, don’t last. Of course you’d love a motorcycle jacket and a statement necklace and a neon dress right now. But pull them out next fall, and you’ll likely be asking yourself, “WTF?” To stave off an electric-pink case of buyer’s remorse, pick your favorite trend then embrace it on a smaller scale. Instead of a pricey Day-Glo dress, for example, cinch a neutral-colored shift with a brighter-than-bright belt for a mere $30.

3. Accessorize already, damn it.

Speaking of belts, the fastest way to update any outfit is by adding some baubles and bling. Say, for example, you have four weddings this fall. Start your look with a simple cotton dress ($30); I think gray is more versatile (and less boring) than black. For wedding one, top it with a bright-violet shrug ($20). Wedding two, steal a tip from the September issue of Glamour: Buy a couple yards of wide satin ribbon (around $5 at a crafts store; I’d love an ultra-bright yellow with the gray dress) and cut the ends at an angle to prevent fraying. Wrap it around your waist two or three times, then tie it in a bow or a big knot. So pretty! Wedding three: I’d layer two of these four-strand beaded necklaces ($14). Wedding four: Let’s top the dress with a flirty little black cardigan ($30). So there you have it, add your favorite black strappy sandals and you’ve got four wedding looks for under $100. Phew! (With a blazer and pumps, the dress is work-worthy, too!)

4. Know which beauty goods are worth the splurge.

I’m a sucker for a well-placed advertisement. And no one does ads quite like the beauty industry. You can make me look younger? Thinner, you say? With brighter eyes and smaller pores and miles of flawless skin? Where do I sign up? I’ve paid top dollar for fancy-pants beauty goods and bought the cheapie stuff, too.

Finally I wised up and asked a real-life doctor what was worth the dough. His thoughts: Don’t spend big bucks on fountain-of-youth face wash. It’s not on your face long enough to do anything but, well, wash it. Pick one that’s pH-balanced, like good ol’ Cetaphil. Every day a new miracle berry-emulsion-essence-of-peptide-firming-youth-enhancing ingredient comes out. Stick with products that contain scientifically proven anti-agers: A toner with salicylic or alpha hydroxy acid and a night cream with retinol, vitamin C, or coenzyme Q10. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

So that’s how I’m pinching pennies and staying pretty. What’d I forget? Do you guys do the clothing-swap thing? Shop online consignment shops? Would you rather have cash than clothing, any day? (That, I just don’t get!) Or do you manage to stay $exy without all this shopping? (If so, tell me how!)

Lil Miss budget
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Kim Fusaro (aka Little Miss Fortune) blogs for Glamour and has a wicked following (I LOVE her stuff). If you like what you saw, check out her site and show her some love :)


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