The recession. The news that people are losing their jobs, their homes and their retirement has us all on edge and given us new reasons to evaluate our spending and saving habits. For a fly, fashionable, medium maintenance diva like me, the recession has me doing a double take.
I mean, before this particular recession (this is not the first recession I have lived through, remember 1994?), I had a shopping habit. Some of you might call me a shopaholic but I don’t think I was quite that bad. Maybe I am in denial since I always try to be kind to myself but I really do know some shopaholics and I am not even in their league. Nevertheless, I probably spent too much and bought more than I really needed in the way of clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup, perfume and other girly stuff.
I am a fanatic for a certain kind of department store cosmetic brand that is a bit on the pricey side. For a long time, I used that brand exclusively and turned my nose up at other less expensive brands. This particular brand was a kind of status symbol that made me feel like I was pampering and taking good care of myself. My favorite scent is expensive too. I have to order it from a well-known department store since the department stores in my small southern town don’t even carry it. I kept bi-weekly spa appointments for a mani, pedi, and waxing. I always brought my own high-priced nail polish to the spa even though the spa used the exact same brand.
In my defense, I have always prided myself on being a bargain shopper. I love good quality clothing, jewelry and cosmetics but I don’t want to have to pay a lot for them. My eyes light up when I see a sale sign or find a clearance rack. I could rack up frequent flyer miles at the off-price stores and websites. Even when I bought that expensive nail polish, I always shopped the selection from the previous season so that I could save a couple of bucks.
But in a tough economy, even a good bargain is difficult to justify. Should I go ahead and buy the $200 shoes on sale for $80 or put that money in the emergency fund? Is the $30 for a silk designer blouse a valid purchase or should I put that money in the hard times grocery jar? How does a diva with a slight shopping habit still look good on a low budget?
Well, I will tell you, but first let me tell you a story. Not long ago, I visited a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a long time (I will call her Anna). Anna and I caught up with each other over a dinner. While we chatted, Anna reminded me of how we used to take care of all of our beauty maintenance needs for less than $20 a payday. She recalled that we used to do each others hair and do our own manis and pedis while chatting on the phone with each other. The thing we used to look forward to the most was shopping in the local drug store for nail polish, lipstick and eyeshadows. We purchased name brand shoes, clothing and perfumes from TJMaxx and Marshall’s. We would even have our own private contests to see who could put together an entire outfit, including shoes, handbag and accessories from TJMaxx. But then, we started moving up in our careers, making more money and discovering that we could afford to purchase more expensive stuff.
How do I maintain my medium maintenance diva status, even in this economy? I had to go back to those skills I learned when I didn’t have much money to spend but was still able to look like a fashionista. I started by doing some online research. I found out that there is a whole culture of money conscious shoppers out there.
I consulted the fashion and beauty gurus on Youtube and other websites, many of whom are on limited budgets also. One of the things I discovered is something called “dupes.” In the world of cosmetics, a dupe is an item similar to another item from a different brand. Often a dupe is an inexpensive alternative or substitute to a high end item. There are dupes everywhere. That expensive brand of cosmetics I love so much has a lot of competition from less expensive brands, including those found in the drugstore. That means that usually I can find makeup of very similar color and good consistency for a much lower cost. There are dupes for fragrances too!
I started reading labels on products like shampoo and conditioners, body butters and lotions. There are certain ingredients I have learned to look for or avoid. Some manufacturers make salon products that you can find in beauty supply stores. There are products whose names are not so familiar but that deliver great results. I’ve gone back to doing my own manicures and the results are really good!
While I still love to shop for shoes and clothes, now I take the time to look for deals online as well as in the store. It is easier to comparison shop and I have reduced my impulse buying tremendously. I rediscovered off-price stores and outlets. How could I have ever forgotten about the deals you can find there on clothing, shoes and accessories!
So now, I feel like my free wheeling spending days have come to an abrupt and screeching halt. But I still want to look good and I still love to shop. And I have learned how to do both in this economy with a little research, a good budget, an inventory of what I already own and a bit of willpower. You can do it too!