Just about all of us have found ourselves at our favorite store, torn between buying the highest-quality item or a less expensive version. So how do you decide? We spoke to experts to find out when it’s wise to save and when it pays to splurge.
Splurge: Shoes and Accessories
Bags and shoes are statement pieces. Cheap ones are easy to spot — and can leave a bad impression that’s hard to erase. “There is a silent rule of presentation that one’s most personal accoutrements — shoes, watch and bag — approximate one’s taste and wealth,” says Constance Dunn, a presentation specialist and author of the book Practical Glamour: Presenting Your Most Beautiful & Polished Self to the World.
Fashion publicist Kristin Marquet, accessory editor for StyleMom.com, agrees that high-end bags, shoes and belts are a good investment. “However, I suggest whatever piece you choose be something you can wear for more than one season,” says Marquet. For shoes, Annie Ladino, chief stylist for ShopItToMe.com, recommends investing in a nude patent wedge shoe this season.
Just bear in mind that good purses and shoes will need extra TLC — leather polish, suede brushes and resoling — to keep them looking their best for years. The good news: Once you know what to look for (solid stitching, quality lining, reliable designers), you can shop at consignment stores and auction sites to get great buys on investment accessories.
When it comes to denim, fit is everything, so you may need to pay a little more to find a pair that suits your figure. However, if you can find an inexpensive pair that fits you well, go for it.
“Denim goes on sale a lot, so it won’t be long before you can nab them at a discount,” says Ladino. Fashion designer Claudia Patel adds that skinny denim and loose tanks (with the help of fashionable accessories) are a great way to look smart without breaking the bank. Many discount stores offer good buys in jeans.
“Investing in quality bras and underwear has the effect of giving one an inner confidence that projects outward,” says Dunn. And what’s the point of putting on a nice work suit or party dress over a stretched-out bra or faded thong? Spending a little more on lingerie will affect your whole appearance. “Do this for yourself, and you will carry yourself differently, guaranteed.” Replace bras after a few months, or sooner, if they lose their support.
Don’t blow your budget on shirts and sweaters. They’ll need to be replaced more often because they wear out and go out of style more quickly than other items, says Sami Cone, a frugal expert and the founder of SamiCone.com. For a casual summer look, look for tanks and flowy tunics. For a more classic or professional look, head over to the sales sections of your favorite business casual stores.
Save: Everything Else
Although spending a little extra is always a smart idea for items such as lingerie, shoes and purses, most everything else should be purchased at bargain prices. Attractive, affordable clothing is widely available, and styles change far too quickly to justify spending a ton on something you might only wear a few times.