The Fashionable Student: Guide to Smart Shopping

We often indulge in the idea that clothes shopping is the ultimate therapy, and back in the good old days when shopping was simply a case of picking out something nice and heading to the bank of mom and dad for a quick cash withdraw – this would probably be true. But now as students, shopping is more traumatic than relaxing. Just one retail therapy session alone will see your bank balance slump even further below 0 and you living off biscuits for a term. So, until we’re earning enough to have a therapeutic shopping spree that doesn’t involve budgeting or any rationale at all, besides ‘oh that’s nice’, here’s how to shop smartly and keep your bank balance (well, slightly) in the black…

Know your fabrics
You may think you know what you’re buying by simply studying the trends you see in magazines, but fashion trends aren’t the only thing you should consider when shopping. Think of it like this…would you buy a phone purely based on its appearance? Or would your decision also come down to its features and specifications? I think we would all choose the latter – so why should clothes shopping be any different? We wear clothes everyday and just like our phones we expect them to last, especially when we don’t have the money to replace them. So, how do you know what fabric it is? Well, just look at the label. You’ll find most clothes are a mixture of fabrics. What you’re ideally looking for in an item is a decent percentage of wool, cotton or jersey, which is within your budget. This is especially true for winter clothes shopping as an extra 10% of wool could mean you not freezing on campus. But don’t be put off by high percentages of polyester, as long as you treat it right and don’t over wear it – you’ll be fine.

Do your research
Whether it’s food, clothes or even toiletries – a 2-minute Google search could change your life as well as your bank account. An easy way to get into researching your buys is to search for voucher codes. If you know what shop you’re going to or wanting to buy from then do a quick search and chances are you’ll be able to get that must-have fashion item you’ve been gawking at for weeks for the best price possible. And if you have something in mind you want to buy: shop around. There’s nothing wrong with taking that extra time to grab a great deal – plus shopping is meant to be fun, so why not take your time and enjoy every minute of it? I’d recommend using Google Shopping to search for specific items or alternatively make your own ‘stockists’ list magazines use and write down all your favourite shops that are in your budget limit. This way you can be systematic as you go in for that ultimate checkout kill.

Get your priorities right
What’s the point in splashing out on statement pieces when you have nothing to pair them with? When it comes to clothes shopping always make sure you buy your essentials first i.e. jeans, plain t-shirts/vests, a party dress and a good coat. Without investing in your essentials first you’ll be wasting your money on fashions that will last one season rather than all year-long. Once you’ve got your essentials, build on your wardrobe from there. This way you’ll have a lot more options of looks and not have wasted your loan on a single season wardrobe. Remember: essentials first, trend pieces last.

Think before you buy
It’s great being able to buy statement pieces simply as an impulse buy and heck, that’s what fast fashion is all about, but when you’re on a budget you really can’t afford to splash out on that gimmick garment or out-there outfit. When I shop I always think about this great scene in the film The Blind Side, where Sandra Bullock gives shopping advice while Micheal is picking out clothes. She says: ‘Before you choose something, think of yourself wearing it. Say to yourself “is this me?”‘ If you’re going to splash out on something you need to make sure it’s money worth spending. If you can honestly see yourself wearing it more than 10 times, then it is probably your soul mate, otherwise leave it – it’s not worth living off biscuits for. Fact.

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