Budgeting

4 Tips for Building a Chic Wardrobe on a Budget

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Joanne Poh

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Everybody wants to look good. The difference is that to some people “good” means not having armpit sweat stains on their t-shirts and smelling respectable from a distance of 5 metres, while to others it means having an identifiable designer brand on every article of clothing on your body.

We’ve know our fashion choices affect our career. Unfortunately, good looks do come at a price. Building a decent wardrobe means having to spend a bit of money, unless you wear only free T-shirts from company events and your school days, or are able to fashion your own clothes from pieces of scrap cloth.

Here are four tips for building a respectable wardrobe on a budget.

 

1. Save clothes shopping for when you go to Bangkok or elsewhere

Despite the ridiculous number of malls we have here in Singapore, the shopping scene isn’t great.

As Singapore is devoid of clothing manufacturing capabilities, apart from the big fast fashion brands like H&M and expensive designer labels, most of the apparel you see being sold at places like Far East Plaza actually comes from wholesalers in Thailand, South Korea or China… with prices that have been marked up ridiculously to cover the cost of rent.

If you are a frequent traveller and occasionally go to Bangkok or Seoul, save all your shopping for these trips. A skirt that would cost $60 at Far East Plaza can be bought for 150 baht (6 SGD) at Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, and for 10,000 won (12 SGD) you can find decent footwear at Dongdaemun Market, shoes which would be marked up to $35 in Singapore.

 

2. Discard unwanted items on Carousell as soon as you can

There is absolutely no reason to hold on to clothes or accessories you don’t use, or that you use very rarely. Letting them languish in your closet is not only a waste of space, but deprives you of the cash you could make selling it online.

While some items are worth more when they become “vintage”, don’t count on the same fate for your low quality Cotton On or Forever 21 t-shirts.

It’s better to sell these items now, when they’re still relatively on-trend and haven’t fallen prey to the ravages of Singapore’s heat and humidity, than wait a couple of years. In 3 years’ time, the faux leather on those handbags would have started peeling, and you’ll have an even harder time convincing someone to buy them off you.

 

3. If you’re only using the item once, borrow or rent it instead of buying

Sometimes you just need to wear that article of clothing or costume once in your life. In such cases, it makes no sense to buy when you can rent. These include things like wedding dresses, Halloween costumes, graduation gowns and so on.

Sure, you might really want to dress up as a getai singer or giant pineapple for Halloween this year, but unless you intend to be one every single year, it makes no sense to buy that sequined tube top or spiky vest.

And unless you intend to get married more than once, it is silly to spend thousands of dollars on a designer gown, no matter how much it fulfils your princess fantasies.

 

4. Use a credit card that rewards you for retail spending

If you’re determined to spend a lot of money on clothes that will be out of fashion in 9 months’ time, be our guest. But at least use a credit card that will reward you for spending all that cash, whether through cash rebates, rewards points or air miles.

The American Express True Cashback Card is a good all-rounder, offering 1.5% cash rebates on everything, with no limit and no minimum spending. You also get 3% cashback on everything during the first three months after you sign up.

Another good option is the Citibank Rewards Card, which gives you 10 rewards points or 4 miles for every dollar you spend on shoes, bags, clothes or at department stores and on online shopping websites.

Hey, if you’re going to be broke, at least try to mitigate the damage. Just make sure you pay all your credit card bills in full and on time each month.

Where do you usually buy clothes and how much do you spend each month? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.