How to Look Fabulous Without Breaking your Budget

Damon GonzalezBudgeting, Lifestyle

Looking and feeling your personal best can make a great impact on your life.  A quality wardrobe can go a long way and fortunately you can look fabulous without spending a ton of money.  Read on for my tips on how to buy great clothes for less and how to keep those clothes looking good for longer.

Buy Quality at Great Prices

Buy your Shoes on Ebay

Shoesallen-edmonds and clothes usually last longer than we care to keep them.  It is a genuine challenge to wear through rubber soled shoes in 21st Century America.  Someone’s boredom with an old pair of shoes is your opportunity to get a gently worn pair of shoes that could have cost $400 to $1,000 for only $50 to $200.  You have probably seen leather in a museum that is over 100 years old.  The uppers on a good paid of shoes can last your entire life if you take good care of them.

My favorite dress shoe brands are Allen Edmonds and Cole Haans.  My wife loves Jimmie Choo’s, Tamara Mellons, and Manolo Blahnik’s.  pictured from top to bottom are a pair of Allen Edmonds black Oxfords ($66 all in), Manolo Blahnick satin Open toed pumps ($45 all in), and Allen Edmonds Players brown suede wingtips ($50 all in) that we recently bought.

manolo-blahnikIt feels great to be walking around in some of the best shoes that money can buy.  Your friends and colleuges don’t have to know that you bought them from a stranger in Lafayette, Louisiana who found them for $15 at a his local thrift store and marked them up to you on Ebay.

When I only pay $50 for a pair of shoes, I don’t feel bad wearing them for five years and then throwing them away.  If I really like them, it is comforting to know that most of my shoes can be resoled for about $75.  Allen Edmonds is well known for their recrafting service where you can mail your shoes back to the factory in Wisconsin and have the shoes completely redone by the factory for $125.

The first step to making a good purchase on Ebay is to first find the brand and style that you want.  Then scroll down and looking for the area on the left hand tool bar that says Show Only and click sold listings.  This will give you the prices that people have recently paid for the item that you are looking for and help you determine what you are willing to pay.  Now go back to the top of your search and click follow this search underneath the words Buy it Now.  You will start receiving a daily email from Ebay alerting you to all the new listings so you don’t have to keep searching through the entire inventory.

Pre-owned shoe prices can vary dramatically on Ebay.  Sometimes you will get lucky and nobody else will bid and sometimes a lot of people are really interested in the shoes you wanted.  I try to pay about $50 for some very worn dress shoes and I have paid $115 for some shoes that looked like they were worn only twice.  I pay a lot of attention to the soles to understand what I am buying.  I will pay more if the heel is barely worn, the logo inside the shoe looks new, and if the stiching around the soles is still in good shape.  It is also good to know that a cobbler will charge about twenty dollars to put new heals on.

I really wanted the brown suede shoes pictured above and they are rarely seen on Ebay in my size.  The auction ended at a time when I was busy so I decided that I was willing to put a bid in for $105 when the highest bid was $35.  I figured that I might not see this style come available for six months and although I woud love to have them for $40, buy also happy to pay $105 for barely used shoes that cost $300 new.  After the auction ended, I was happy to see that the only other bidder gave up at $41 and I got them for $42 plus shipping.  In other circumstances I have seen that there will not be much bidding on something you want and then with seconds to go, four or five people will come out of the blue and surpass your maximum bid before you can enter a new one.  Once your shoes arrive, make sure to regulary oil them and apply polish when necessary.  Try to alternate shoes and don’t wear leather soled shoes when you know it is going to be rainy.

Shopping for Dress Clothes

A Brooks Brother suit that I bought when they had a two for $500 sale.

I often frequented thrift stores in my twenties. My two best finds were a perfectly fitting Jos. A Banks suit for $30 and a Saks Fifth Avenue

cashmere sweater for only $3.50.  Although unicorns can occasionally be had at Goodwill, I no longer want to spend so much time sorting through piles of junk for that one spectacular deal every third trip. I have found Ebay to be a great place to buy gently used clothes for a fraction of their retail price.  Men have it easier than women when it comes to buying dress clothes online, because most coat and shirt sizes are standardized.  Pants and altered jackets can be trickier.  When I want to try clothes on, I have found outlet malls to be the very best place to shop; especially around Thanksgiving and right after Christmas.

I used to buy dress shirts for $25 or less until I discovered that I could get a much better quality Brooks Brothers 346 shirt on sale for about $40.  These shirts are normally priced around $70 to $90 and they are worth paying more for.  They look better, they last longer than you will keep them, and they require almost no ironing if you pull them freshly from the dryer.  In my opinion there is no better value for dress clothes.  If 40 of the 45 U.S. Presidents have worn Brooks Brothers suits, I don’t think you can go wrong wearing one to your next business meeting.

You can really feel the quality of their clothes.

Brooks Brothers has two lines of clothing.  Their main line is named 1818 after the year the company was founded and their outlet line is called 346 (the Madison Avenue address of their signature store where Ralph Lauren used to work).  According to this former buyer, the only difference between the 1818 brand and the 346 brand is the quality of the material.  In my opinion it is not worth paying a steep premium for the premium fabric unless you are buying preowned clothes.

Wearing undershirts will allow you to wear a dress shirt five times before washing it and you can easily wear slacks or jeans ten times without washing them.  This will help extend the life of your clothes.

Take Care and Maintain Your Clothes

Use a Shoe Horn

Working my shoe horn with my $55 Allen Edmonds Black Captoe Oxfords.

Working my shoe horn with my $55 Allen Edmonds Black Captoe Bluchers.

I didn’t grow up around shoe horns and didn’t understand their value until my late 30s when I took a relatively new pair of black Oxfords into a cobbler to get the heal resewn.  I thought I bought a lemon shoe, but the cobbler instantly recognized that I wasn’t using a shoe horn.  He patiently showed me how I was inadvertently bending the heal and putting undue stress on my dress shoes.  I now see the wisdom of protecting the heals on my dress shoes and my $6 shoe horn should last the rest of my life and more than pay for itself by keeping my shoes looking great.


Buy a Clothes Brush


Owning a white Pomeranian means you are always going to have fur on your clothes.  The sticky lint rollers don’t work very well for me and I don’t like filling up landfills.  For about $15 you can buy a quality clothes brush like the one pictured to the left.  It removes fur and lint much faster and doesn’t apply a sticky chemical to your clothes.  Even if you don’t have pets, your suits are getting dust and food particles on them every time you wear them.  This can shorten the life of your garment or cause you to go to the dry cleaners more often.  I am amazed at how much dust I brush off my suits after just one wear.  I also use this brush to clean my felt cowboy hat.  Brush the top counter clockwise and the bottom side clockwise to match the way the fur was formed when your hat was made.  Since clothes brushes are so cheap, there is little risk in trying it out for yourself.

Store Wool Clothes in a Moth Bag

The moth bags in my closet.

The moth bags in my closet.

Moths love to eat and lay their eggs in wool, felt, and cashmere.  I have tried to protect my most valuable clothes with moth balls and cedar hangers in the past.  My wife threatened to leave me over the smell of the moth balls and cedar loses its scent over time.  You literally are supposed to sand your cedar hangers every six months to keep the odor strong.  Who has time for that?  After the latest moth feast in my closet, I took a few wool items to have them rewoven.  It was expensive and I was unhappy with how the coats turned out.  I started researching solutions and was happy to find these $10 vinyl suit bags at Amazon.  It is a pain to hunt through the bag to find your wool clothes, but this is the best way to protect your investment from moths.  It is a smart idea to dry clean everything you are going to put into your clothes bag so you don’t accidentally get moth eggs into your bag.

In addition to eating right and exercising, your clothing can make a big impression and give you confidence.  Armed with the advice above, you can learn how to buy the best quality at affordable prices and keep those clothes looking great for many years.