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but it needs to be baked into a product,
not slapped on like icing
after the cake is baked.”

Duane Forrester

Back-to-School Shopping on a College Budget

Lets face it, we have all found ourselves at some point in our college lives cashing in cans from the night before just to make it through the rest of the weekend. You couldn’t tell your parents where you actually spent your allowance, and the idea of asking for more money was out of the question. Eating outside of the dining hall wasn’t an option, but if you didn’t go back to the mall and buy the dress that you just needed to have, life simply wouldn’t go on. You even hid it in the back of the rack in the opposite side of the store because it was the last in your size and you didn’t want anyone else finding it before your return. Oldest trick in the book. No one ever said being the best dressed was easy, but below are tips to help cut down the cost.


Clearance and sales.

Although it can be a hit or miss, no one has regretted sifting through the clearance or sales rack. You may even find the $160 dress you once needed and then eventually forgot about, down to $50 two months later (a true story at Bebe). Markdowns can become as cheap as 75% off the lowest ticketed price, which may already be down 50%. And although in most cases there is nothing wrong with the item, if you do happen to find a small rip or stain, bring it to the register and ask for an additional 10% off. Also keep in mind that clearance is usually final sale so don’t just buy something cheap for the sake of buying it, ask yourself if this is something you really need.

Find “inspiration” from stores, then shop elsewhere.

Admit it, most of us are guilty of purchasing that overpriced t-shirt just to show off the Ralph Lauren logo of the polo player, or the little alligator representing Lacoste. Which is fine. However, look for them at discount stores such as Marshall’s, T.J. Max, or DSW. While some people get caught up in name brands, the reality is that these brands actually do sell higher quality clothing. On the other hand, look out for brands that really are just selling you on their logo. You may find that a $100 black dress from Guess and a $20 black dress from Forever 21 are the same exact thing, except one is less than half the price. 

Online shopping is fun too! Sites like Zappos.com, who by the way, offers free shipping and returns, can provide you with clothing from your favorite brands all at discounted prices. Most of these sites are free to join, send exclusive online deals to your e-mail, and offer you rewards for referring your friends.

Thrift shops and hand-me-downs.

Growing up as the little brother or sister definitely has it’s perks, but having to wear your sibling’s worn-out clothing was not one of them. That is, until your mom no longer takes you “back-to-school” shopping and you’re left to start paying for these things on your own. Before making any donations to the local shelter or salvation army, ask your family and friends if you can take a look at what they have to offer.

My advice when it comes to thrift shops is “don’t knock it til you try it”. These shops have greats finds for all ages and contain a lot more than clothing. Often times, things are donated with the tag still on them. Places like Goodwill contain tons of old leather bags and jackets, a great opportunity for those of you going for the “vintage” look. And here, these items really vintage.

Saving money is fun.

With these simple guidelines, back-to-school shopping can become something that everyone enjoys. What is the best deal you ever found when shopping on a budget?

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