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Dressing for success is very important, but it can definitely take a toll on your wallet. This is especially true for recent college grads and young professionals, who probably don't have much in the way of a work wardrobe and have to start from scratch. A few pairs of slacks and jackets alone can really set you back, particularly if you don't take care to get them on sale. However, you need work clothes — what is the alternative?
Fortunately, there are ways to buy quality business professional clothes without breaking the bank, no matter what stage you're at in your career. Here are a few important strategies to follow if you need work clothes on a budget.
Work on the Interview Outfit
Many people looking for a professional wardrobe on a budget are looking for their first 9 to 5 job. One of the most important steps to getting a job is the job interview, and to be successful in your interview you need to assemble a professional, put-together outfit. You can think of the money you'll spend on a nice interview outfit as an investment to help you make more money later when you get the job.
Although you should always look your best on interview day, there are ways to save money on the outfit. If you're looking for your first job you probably know when you'll start doing interviews, so why not start planning in advance? Start scouring the sales racks for nice pieces around the same time you start your job applications.
Go to Sales and Frequent Bargain Stores
A good sale is your best friend when you're working on a budget — it really does help you stretch your dollar further. While sorting through the clearance rack can be a lot of work, the deals you eventually find more than make up for the extra effort. When looking for sales, it's important to know that companies often post bigger discounts at the change of the season, when you can get clothes for a fraction of the original price, even at high-end department stores. The longer you wait, the better the sale usually is as companies will become desperate to make space for new arrivals. No matter what time of year it is, though, you're bound to catch a sale somewhere.
Photo by Nicholas Eckhart
Where you shop can sometimes be as important as when you shop. Budget clothing stores like T.J. Maxx and Ross offer the same clothes you see at bigger department store but at a fraction of the price. You also shouldn't turn your nose up at consignment or secondhand stores. Again, you may have to do some searching, but a quality lightly used piece will often last longer than a cheaper piece purchased new. If you prefer to shop from your computer, you can also shop online for deals. There are plenty of good clothing bargains on the Internet, and not just from major retailers like Amazon and Overstock.com.
Trends will come and go with each season, but staple pieces will stay with you for years to come. Button-down shirts, blazers, well-fitting slacks and dress shoes are the building blocks of any outfit. These items will never go out of style because they're timeless, classy and professional. Solid colors rather than patterns also usually work best as you can wear them in a variety of different outfits.
Mix and Match
In addition, you should look to buy clothes that can be worn with a number of different combinations. While a bright orange skirt may be fun, are you really going to be able to wear it with many different pieces? Navy blue, black, white, cream and tan are much more suitable for everyday wear. You can make outfits pop with accessories and the occasional piece of clothing in a fun color. Scarves, for example, are inexpensive and really make your outfit pop.
Take Inventory and Think of What You Need Most
It's easy to lose focus when you're in the store surrounded by signs screaming "buy me." Even if you do stick to the sales rack you could end up with a lot of things you don't need, which definitely doesn't save you money in the long run. Before you go to the store or open your computer, make a concise list of what you need and set a budget. This way you won't be as tempted by items that will probably just sit in your closet anyway.
Shopping when you're strapped for cash can be a challenge, but with the right plan you can get what you need and have fun doing it. Follow these tips to get the best budget wardrobe for the office.