October 12, 2023
Keeping up with trends in fashion, travel, and home décor can get expensive. But it is possible to stay current without hurting your finances.
It’s appealing to “keep up with the Joneses” by always having the latest trend, whether we’re talking clothes, home décor, type of car, or landscaping. But it can obviously get quite expensive to keep buying the current “must-have” trends, especially when what’s considered new and hot is constantly fluctuating.
Trends are often cyclical, and come back into style every two decades or so. That’s because 20 years is generally enough time for a trend to rise, fall, fade from memory, and then get reborn with an updated twist. The thing is, you don’t need to wait for somebody to make that new modern version if you know how to find vintage treasures.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Pretty in Pink, you’ll remember that Molly Ringwald’s character Andie wore a lot of vintage second-hand clothes. She would re-style them to be more current and get new life from old cast-offs. She did this for two reasons: to create her own trends, and more importantly, to save money.
You too can raid vintage clothing stores to make a fashion statement for just a fraction of what it costs to buy new. If you search through the racks, you can often even find jackets, tops, pants and dresses that look like they’ve never been worn. And it’s not just clothing. Thrift shops and bargain stores carry furniture, home décor, kitchen appliances, and much more.
If vintage isn’t your thing, you can also score some amazing new deals on the clearance rack. Some large department stores also offer discounts upon discounts — an item with a list price of $100 might be marked down to $80, and then further reduced to $40, stackable with coupons. Seasonal sales, like Memorial Day, Labor Day or Black Friday events, will often give an additional discount on top of any previous price slashing.
Some sales offer store-specific loyalty bucks that you can spend on another purchase later, and online coupons or discount codes are readily available as incentives. Sometimes just signing up for email newsletters will get you a code, and you can also search online for “[store name] coupon code” or “[store name] discount code” to find more.
Another trick is to purchase discount gift cards from an online marketplace. If you save 10% on your gift cards and then use them to buy an item that’s reduced by 25% and score a discount code for an additional 20% off, you’ve just saved a nice stash of cash on your brand-new wardrobe purchase.
Don’t forget to take advantage of outlet stores, off-price department stores, and fashion resellers that offer designer items at a fraction of the cost. These include Nordstrom Rack, Saks OFF 5TH, Macy’s Backstage, Burlington, Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less, DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse), and more. Some of these chains also offer free loyalty programs or VIP memberships for additional savings. And they generally sell more than just clothes.
OK, so you have your favorite store. Or maybe you just assume a certain chain is always going to have the lowest price on something. But unless it’s a house brand item, you can still often find the same thing elsewhere for less if you comparison shop.
Let’s say you find a jacket you like that’s on sale for $56 at a major department chain, marked down from $75. That’s a pretty nice discount, but if you take the jacket’s brand name and style or model number, then search for it online, you can sometimes find it for even less. How does $47 sound at a different department store that happens to have a sale? Or maybe $35 or less at a website like Poshmark, Tradesy, The RealReal, Depop, thredUP, Mercari or eBay — which all operate as online marketplaces or consignment stores. Yes, these items are sometimes gently used, but often they’re brand new with tags.
Just remember that before you click that checkout button, it’s always worth taking a look at other sites by doing a quick search. You never know if your comparison-shopping diligence will get you a lower price on the item you want — or something very similar.
Spending a bit here and a bit there can add up quickly if you don’t pay attention. And losing track of your spending is probably the most common way to end up buying more than you can afford. So don’t let the pursuit of trends derail your finances.
It's important to set a budget with rigid spending limits and refuse to go over them, but you can be flexible on when those limits are in effect. You could enforce a budget for every shopping trip or project, or you might prefer to set limits that cover certain time periods, like each week or month. If you want to spend more but you’ve hit your ceiling, you need to wait for the next time frame.
Don’t make new purchases if you already have existing credit card debt, because it’s easy to end up overwhelmed and unable to pay. That can snowball to the point where you’re buried too far under debt to dig your way out. Instead, pay down the current debt, and then concentrate on only charging what you can afford to pay off in a timely manner.
To stay on top of debt:
When you have room on your credit card, it’s easy to spend money you don’t have to buy what you want now. Sometimes it can even feel like “free money” … but resist the temptation so you don’t fall into the trap. It’s definitely not free, and if you don’t pay off your purchases each month, you’re going to end up spending a lot more on interest charges. If you miss a payment by a few days, you’ll also be stuck with late fees.
In order to use credit cards responsibly, it’s important to start with the right card. Shop around and compare the features and benefits of different cards, just like you comparison shop for the best price on fashions. Check the interest rate, fees, and rewards structure to make sure it’s the best card for you. Some credit cards offer generous rewards programs that can allow you to benefit from shopping in specialized or general categories. And of course, the credit limit you’re offered will be a consideration as well.
Keep an eye out for pre-approval offers that you might qualify for. Some might even help you in rebuilding credit. But don’t apply for every offer that comes in the mail. First of all, they might not be the right cards for your needs. And secondly, applying for a credit card is a hard inquiry on your credit report, unlike a pre-approval or pre-qualification.
Having a high-yield savings account or certificate of deposit (CD) is a great way to grow your money and give you the freedom to invest in trendy products when they’re launched, without taking on extra debt. Typically savings accounts let you access your money whenever you want, whereas CDs require you to leave your funds for a set term until they “mature.” But both are reliable, relatively low-risk ways to increase your savings.
When we use the term “low-risk” to describe financial products like this, it’s because your deposits are typically FDIC insured up to $250,000 per person, per financial institution. So even if the bank goes under, you don’t lose all your money.
It’s not bad to crave trendy clothes and home décor, or even to want to take vacations and experience adventure on your trips. But taking on debt to do so could be a slippery slope. Instead, the best plan is to keep costs as low as possible, manage your debt before it gets out of control, and save up in advance for the things you might want to splurge on.
For over a quarter of a century, Heather has been working as a journalist in all media: TV, radio, print, and online. After establishing her career in Toronto, she has been living, working, and playing in Las Vegas for the past decade. She loves pulling apart complicated topics to make them simple, fun, and easy to understand, especially in the business and financial niches. But she also enjoys writing about the personal side of life, including success, relationships, families, and pets. She approaches everything from a yin-yang perspective, so her passion for wordplay and entertaining metaphors is always balanced with an intense (and some would say annoying) focus on facts and accuracy.
This material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor, attorney or financial advisor. Readers should consult with their own tax advisor, attorney or financial advisor with regard to their personal situations.
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