$20 a Day in the Closet: 10 Tips for Cheap Clothes

$20 a Day in the Closet


$20 a Day in the Closet: 10 Tips for Cheap Clothes

I am a long way from a fashion icon, but I’m not completely frumpy, either. It’s sometimes a struggle trying to be both cheap and cute, but I believe it can be done. Here are my tips for how to maintain a pretty great wardrobe without making your wallet cry.

1. Don’t buy a ton of crap

This almost too obvious, but if you want to save money, you just can’t have a ton of crap. Sorry, it just doesn’t work. When I go to the mall, it’s more like visiting a museum. I look, sometimes I even try on, but I rarely ever buy. 100 years ago, average people were lucky to have like five outfits, so just learn to live with less.

2. Don’t throw anything out

Just the other day, I got several compliments on a top and a skirt I’ve had for probably 10 years. If your clothes still fit you and aren’t torn, stained, or otherwise inappropriate, you can probably hold onto them and figure out ways to give them new life. Most people aren’t going to care or even notice that you’ve been wearing the same dress forever.

3. Buy classic pieces

 Pencil skirts in black and tan, black pants, white and black button down shirts, and comfortable but awesomely hot black heels will never ever go out of style. You don’t even have to spend a bunch of money if you’re patient enough to find good stuff at discount stores like Ross or TJ Maxx. Take good care of them, and you’ll be able to make a million outfits for years.

4. Go shopping with a plan

Before you step into the shop, think about what you actually need. Don’t just randomly shop impulsively. It’s the same effect as going to the grocery store hungry. You end up spending money on things you don’t actually need and will probably never wear. 

5. Try on in store then shop online

If you’re buying from a major chain like Old Navy, they’ll probably send you a bajillion emails with all kinds of great coupon codes. It’s kind of annoying until you need something. There’s a pretty good chance you can get 20% off or more if you can be patient.

6. Don’t buy stuff just because it’s on sale

If you spend $20 on a $50 piece that you never actually wear, you didn’t save $30, you actually wasted $20. A sale, in and of itself, is not a good enough reason to buy something. I mean, if you need something and can get it on sale, that’s obviously good, but I think you get the point.

7. Always try stuff on

If you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance you’re too lazy to actually take stuff back to the store if it doesn’t fit right, so make sure it’s going to work before you get it home. 

8. Don’t buy stuff unless it makes you feel awesome

Similar to #6, if you buy the cheap version of something you need, but you don’t love it, you’re probably not going to wear it. Money wasted. It’s worth it to spend a little more on something that makes you feel excited about getting dressed in the morning.

9. Have fun with accessories

I’m a scarf and hat girl, personally, but you can pick up a few fun accessories to add a pop of color to your wardrobe and stay on trend. You’re gonna have a lot of classic pieces and old stuff, so play around with the little cheap things.

10. Don’t feel guilty

You deserve to look good, even if you can barely afford a fashion magazine, let alone all the stuff inside. If you want to save your pennies and splurge on something that makes you feel like a movie star, don’t beat yourself up about it.  We all know that material things aren’t what really matters, but you don’t need to feel guilty about buying something beautiful every now and then.

You deserve to feel awesome. With a little patience and creativity, you can collect a wardrobe of reliable pieces, throw in a few trendy accessories, and look and feel totally rad. Everything is possible.

Thrifty Halloween Costumes: Margo and Richie Tenenbaum

I am not that into dressing up for Halloween, but my husband seems to love it. I guess costume parties are a regular thing in England, even though Halloween doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. But the spectacle of Halloween in Waikiki is something not to be missed. We also got free tickets to a benefit party for the Make a Wish Foundation. It’s called Crazy, Sexy Ghoul, and it was definitely crazy. We went as Margo and Richie Tenenbaum from The Royal Tenenbaums. A few people even managed to figure it out.

Margo and RichieTenenbaum

So I had no choice. I had to have a costume this year. Luckily, we were a bit more prepared than last year when we ended up at Floradec the day of our party, spending a fortune on premade costumes. This year, we had a much better strategy.

Step 1: Decide ahead of time what you want to dress as, rather than waiting until that morning. Duh!

Step 2: Choose a character that’s basically an actual human, real or fictional. This will make it much easier to find costume elements than if you wanted to go as, say, a unicorn or Iron Man.

Step 3: Hit the thrift stores, and give yourself plenty of time to look around.

Step 4: Be flexible on the details. Everything doesn’t have to be 100% perfect. Especially if you choose something from an obscure indie film that almost nobody has seen. If you can’t find a “fur” coat in Hawaii, just make sure you’re wearing plenty of eye liner. Everything will be fine.

Richie Tenenbaum costume

For Geoff’s costume, he wore his own khaki pants and trainers, his Blackburn Rovers shirt, an $8 tan blazer from Goodwill, and a $3 headband he ordered from Ebay. Oh, and he’s been growing his beard for weeks.

For my costume, I managed to find some size 8 loafers at Savers for $9, a blue Ralph Lauren polo dress at Goodwill for $3 (it was half off red tag day), and a cheap blond bob wig for $8, also at Savers.

Margo Tenenbaum costume


My favorite detail is the 39¢ piece of brown felt I bought at the craft store and then turned into a “wooden finger.” I cut a rectangle long enough to go around my finger with a skinny tab on the top to fold over. Then I whip stitched it along the long seam, then used masking tape to hold it in place. It worked like a charm.

There may or may not be a fur coat on it’s way to me in the mail, thanks to Kaleigh of A Rambling Fancy. But it’s really all about the eye liner. I put on more eyeliner than I’ve ever worn in my life, and I still don’t think it was enough.

I felt a lot better about my costume this year since I put a little effort and commitment into it. It’s also totally comfortable.

I can’t wait to check out the utter mayhem and impressive creativity in Waikiki next week. I hope your Halloween is totally awesome!

Awesome Work Clothes on $20 a Day

work outfit1

I got this great new job, and I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted to look like a professional who was ready to conquer the world. The problem is, I hadn’t bought work clothes in about four years. In fact, most of my more professionalish pieces are from my early days of teaching. That’s nine years ago. Shhhh!!! Let’s not talk about how long ago that is.

Let’s add to that the fact that I am not a rich lady and clothes are expensive. When you’re trying to get by on $20 a day, there’s usually not a lot left over for clothes. I mean, cheese and chocolate are important, but when you go to work, people expect you to be dressed. Time to go shopping.


I made a plan because I get easily distracted by cute sundresses. From the hundreds of outfits and accessories I have pinned on Pinterest, I created a new pin board and narrowed it down to 10 things that I wanted to look for on my shopping trip. Then I gave myself an allowance, $40. Two days worth of spending to try to get myself something new to wear to work.

Shopping is not my favorite thing. It’s a chore, but it has to be done. Let’s not talk about the trauma of broken ATMs. My first score was these red ankle pants that I found at Nordstrom’s Rack for $10. What? I had to have them. I also scored this cute navy blouse for $16 at TJ Maxx.

I tried on a bunch of stuff that didn’t work, and found a bunch of great shoes that were almost my entire budget. It was a tough day, but I’m happy with the few things I was able to find, and confident that I’ll be able to add some accessories, like a skinny leopard belt, soon enough. I still have $14 left to buy myself something new.

work outfit2

I’m going to have to continue to very slowly grow my collection. One must play one’s part. But I also just have to accept the fact that a lot of my clothes are old, and work is not a fashion show. I don’t think I’m more than the normal amount of vain. I just want to represent myself and my organization in the best way possible. Most humans have eyeballs. They look at you, and their brains make an assessment. That’s reality. 

Looking good also makes me feel more confident, and in the face of a brand new career, I’ll take all the confidence I can get. What are your awesomest shopping tips for work wear on the cheap? I need all the help I can get.


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