College Budget Shop and Style Guide

By: Mariam Vakani


We all know the comforting charm of being in sweatpants and hoodies all through the worst weeks of college -the finals, the midterms, the essays- and being thankful that no one cares if we show up to lecture in our pyjama’s. For those who function better when they are dressed well, there is also the intimate familiarity with the feeling of your stomach dropping when you see the price-tag on a particularly gorgeous piece. Looking good while on a college budget can seem difficult but it’s not! Hunting for sales, double checking for student discounts, making informed choices and shopping at drugstores can make a dramatic difference to your wardrobe.


There are two fundamental points to this: the first is dedicating a portion of your monthly or bi-monthly budget to fashion purchases, and the second is deciding what your style sense is. What products are you looking for? Whilst experimenting is a good idea, sometimes the truth is that you need to get something you know you’re going to wear. Do you prefer dark colours to light colours? Do you have a particular shirt style that you’re uncomfortable with –and so, should know not to be tempted by no matter how good it may look on the rack? (Some of these things, of course, you’ll find out only once you make a bad purchase. That’s okay too! Try reselling over apps such as Depop or donating to charity shops.)


Once you’ve figured that out, you can start shopping!


  1. Online browsing: The perks of buying online is that you can view several stores at once, weighing out your options before making your purchase. Once you’ve figured out what stores have the cheaper options, you can check in-store for product quality. The downside of this is how long it takes. On the bright side, once you’ve shopped at a store a few times, you’re going to have a better idea of what their quality is like anyway.
  2. Familiarize yourself with your options: Know what you can afford to buy and where you can afford to shop at. Check local businesses, know where you can find better options for lower prices, and always double check!


  1. Discounts: Most brands give you a discount if you show them your student I.D, whilst others give you a discount if you sign up to their email newsletters. Always check online if there are discounts available online that aren’t there in-store and vice versa. Being subscribed to email newsletters also gives you a chance to know what sales are up.


  1. Invest in staples: Once a month, invest in a slightly more expensive, long-term staple item. Sturdy blazers, leather jackets, a black dress. Opt for items that are versatile and can be used for formal college events or job interviews too. Here too, look for discounts and compare prices online. Try the item on in-store before deciding on whether to purchase it or not, and take a few days after purchase to decide if you want to keep it.


  1. Decide what the big purchases are: Sometimes, there are things that you just can’t be economical about. Know what these purchases are going to be and budget accordingly. These things you shouldn’t skimp on, especially when skimping would result in discomfort or unease. For me, personally, jeans and shoes are the two things I know I need to think twice about where I’m buying from. You can compromise on a few things, but some things are expensive and necessary.


  1. Don’t discount department stores: By which I mean, the Walmart’s and Target’s of the game. While their clothes selection may seem to be dismal at best, searching through the racks always results in a solid selection of good items. Look here for items to layer: tank tops, oversized shirts, loose clothing. Also, turn to these trusty places to buy your pj’s, sweatpants, and hoodies for bad days, as well as exercise clothing and socks!


  1. Always research your dupes: This is a makeup tip, but also a tip when it comes to handbags. I discourage buying false imitations of branded items –for the fact that they never are as good in quality, and are produced by sweatshops and underpaid labour- but I do encourage checking what brands or stores create pieces of similar quality but lower prices. Aldo, Payless and Spring are good stores for reasonably priced handbags. As for makeup, always check what drugstore brands are perfect dupes for the high-end stuff. Revlon does great lipsticks; NYX creates amazing eye-palettes for quarter of the price of a high-end palette; Rimmel sells good nail-polish and Covergirl makes excellent mascaras. Here again, you might find that there is some makeup that you have to buy high-end, so budget accordingly for that purchase.


  1. Complement and accessorize: Though this may seem silly, learn to know what your outfit is lacking. While minimalism is all the rage, sometimes what a bleak outfit needs is a statement piece and a few accessories to pull it together. Know what you need, and by this point, you can turn to your well-chosen closet and probably find a piece to pull it together. Have a sharp eye. Maybe all you need is another shade of lipstick or a different hija’ab style to give the outfit a kick.


  1. Do your laundry well: Separate your lights and darks, check the label to see how to care for the item. Stock up on tips on how to clear out hard to remove stains and always carry around a Tide Pen.


10.Keep your receipts: Buying an item only to realize you don’t want it when you bring it home is the worst. Make sure to keep your receipts until the return date has passed, just in case you decide to return it.


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