Business on a Budget or Ideas on Dressing Professional for Less $

This one is for all you frugal fashionistas out there! Here’s a week’s worth of my outfits for work, where I got them, and how much I spent (aka my attempt to look professional while still shopping on a Forever 21 budget).

Disclaimer: I am by no means a style-expert; if I was Anna Wintour’s intern I’m sure she would judge me just as much as Anne Hathaway’s character in Devil Wears Prada. I am known amongst the kids I coach for only ever wearing leggings to swim practice (which I have been told is a fashion faux pas because they don’t count as “real” pants 😦 )  I do, however, enjoy shopping and I always try to look my best at work.  Like other people my age just starting out, my budget for clothes is a little more limited than I would like.  My idea for this post wasn’t just to show off how great my clothes are, but rather to give people ideas for buying clothes on a budget while still expressing your own personal style.

So here it goes . . .

Monday 8/26 –


Sweater: Forever 21, $18.99

Pants: Gap, FREE (graciously donated to me by my sister)

Sandals: Payless Shoes, $7.99

Tuesday 8/27 –


Dress: Target, $24.99

Boots: DSW, $89 (*splurge item!)

Wednesday 8/28 –


Headband: Urban Outfitters, $10.89

Dress: Forever 21, $12.99

Chambray Shirt: J Crew, $34.99

Shoes: Forever 21, $11.99

Thursday 8/29 –


Dress: Forever 21, $22.99

Sandals: Payless Shoes, $9.99 (same as the ones from Monday)

Friday 8/30 –


(Note: I cropped my head out of this one because I made a weird face – it’s Friday 🙂 )

Shirt: Nordstrom Rack, $28.99

Jeans: Forever 21, $12.50

Sandals: Surprise! Same ones from Monday and Thursday again:), $9.99

Button: Free & made by our super cool button-making machine at Casco

Tips for Shopping Smart:

1. For Trendier Items, Go Somewhere Cheap – Places like Forever 21, H&M, Target, etc. are great stores to go to when you bored with your wardrobe and feel like you need something new.  If you want to purchase something trendy that might not be in style for more than a few months (like a peplum shirt or gladiator sandals), it doesn’t make sense to spend too much.  If you’re buying something you’ll wear a lot (maybe everyday), that’s when it makes sense to invest more money; if you need boots or jeans that will last for 100+ wears, it’s reasonable to spend more money for a quality item (like those boots I wore on Tuesday, I’ve worn them 2 or 3 times a week for 2 years and they still look nice).  For something you might only wear 5 times, try to stay more in the $10-$20 range – then when you donate it to Good Will after only a few wears you won’t feel as guilty.

2. Be Willing to Shop Around – Forever 21 is my favorite place to shop ever (even though I am 24 and probably too old to still go there). Yes the stores are huge and they have a crazy amount of stuff in there (most of which makes you look like Miley Cyrus at last weeks VMAs).  BUT if you are willing to spend some time looking around/ trying things on you actually can find some great clothes at an amazing price.  Spend a few extra minutes checking all the racks in the store, travel around to a handful of different places, try stuff on even if it only looks so-so on the hanger – investing a few extra minutes into really shopping around could help you find items you love at a lower price.

3. Borrow From Your Friends – One of my favorite things about my swim team in college was that it provided me with a lot of friends who lived close by and were conveniently my size!  A cheap way to spice up your wardrobe is to clothes swap with a friend – it means new clothes for you and her!  In addition, be open to getting hand-me-downs from friends and family. Although the typical younger sibling is supposed to complain about hand-me-downs, this has been one of my favorite ways to get new clothes since I was a little girl.  I have been stealing my older sister’s clothes since I was 2. Luckily for me, she is now a fashion merchandising director at Banana Republic, so 2 or 3 times a year she sends me a box with sample clothes from her office, as well as some of her own clothes that she is bored with . That’s how I got those nice blue dress pants from my Monday outfit.  Her boxes of clothes save me a bunch of cash! If anyone ever offers you hand-me-downs, I say take them – even if only 1 out of 10 items they give is a keeper, that’s one less piece of clothing to buy!

I hope these tips help you look your best at work while keeping some extra dollars in your pocket. Happy Shopping Everyone!


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