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Ask Avery: Girl on a budget

Photo courtesy of Flickr / sylvar

blog by Avery Hartmans  • 

Avery,
I’m on a budget but I have really expensive taste when it comes to clothing and accessories. How do I spend less and still look sophisticated?

Girl, this is a question that has plagued women since the beginning of time. Well, maybe the cavewomen weren’t exactly preoccupied with style, but you know what I mean. Women have been trying to achieve the “cheap-and-chic” aesthetic for years and if you’re style-savvy and frugal, you can do it, too.

The hardest lesson for me to learn when it comes to a budget and my shopping habits is that just because I deposited a check into my account this morning does not mean I’m allowed to go shopping tomorrow. It’s OK to treat yourself once in a while, but take note: “once in a while” is not synonymous with “once a week.” It’s a hard lesson to learn, I know.

But when it is time to spruce up your wardrobe or you really just need some retail therapy, head to the mall with a target price limit in mind — pick a number ahead of time and stick with it. If you usually pay with cash, put only that amount in your wallet. If you, like me, think that money spent with a credit card is not real money and therefore does not actually count and the bank fairies will miraculously erase your expenditures from your bank bill before your mom sees it, maybe you’re better off sticking with cash. Or better yet, staying home. But if you, unlike me, have any form of self-control, you can probably handle the plastic.

Once you’ve mentally prepared yourself and suppressed your natural instinct to spend, you may approach the stores. But be warned: it’s a war zone in there. You will be distracted by shiny fabrics and bright colors, but you will resist. You’ll be tempted by new merchandise — I’m going to warn you now, the fall collections are in — but you will claw your way to the sale rack instead. You will try on that dress you know you can’t afford, but you will turn away from your reflection and put it back on the hanger, even though you look damn fine in it. You will obey these rules and you will ignore that I am in no way qualified to be the boss of you in this situation, because I’m almost always the shopping buddy/cheerleader that squeals, “Buy it! You look amazing!”

Now that you’re actually in the thick of things, really examine the pile of clothes you’ve amassed thus far. You must first ask yourself the simple question of, “Do I actually need this?” No, you don’t need a sequined mini skirt. Yes, you do need to stock up on cheap yet well-made basics. You can pass on the trendy chiffon mullet skirt, but a chiffon button-down will never go out of style. And if you are going to buy trend pieces in general, buy them super-duper on-sale, so you won’t feel guilty a few months down the line. 

And if you’re frequenting stores like Forever 21 and H&M, take a closer look at the price tags. I occasionally find myself becoming irate when I check the price of something cute at Forever 21 and see that it costs all of — gasp — $34.99, until I realize A) that’s still amazingly inexpensive and I really need to readjust my comprehension of price points and B) that it’s probably higher-quality than the other stuff they have and I should consider purchasing it.

But most importantly, be an intelligent consumer. You can see for yourself if something isn’t made well and isn’t worth your money, even if it does only cost $10. And if you’re shopping at a more expensive store like J.Crew, Anthropologie or Banana Republic and you notice something is damaged yet fixable, bring it to an associate’s attention and get a discount. Don’t be afraid to hit up some consignment stores, either. I once found a Dolce & Gabbana silk top for $3 dollars at the Goodwill and have video evidence to prove it. You clearly don’t need to spend a fortune to look amazing, you just have to use your head. It’s like I’ve said before: always be smart, always be stylish.


I keep seeing celebrities wearing bright lipstick. Having never been a lipstick-wearer, I’m not sure what the right shades are for me. Which colors look good on which skin tones?

Lipstick and I have a love-hate relationship. As in, I love how it looks on other people but hate how it looks on me. This may or may not have something to do with my nearly invisible upper-lip, but that’s another matter.

You’re already on to something here and I’m glad you hesitated before diving into the world of luscious lips. Not all colors will look good on all skin and hair tones and it’s worth doing some research before you head to your local drug store to purchase ten tubes with reckless abandon. Or, if you’re classy and plan to visit Sephora, you’ll definitely want to be sure of exactly what you want before you critically injure your bank account. I always want you to look your best, so let me break it down for you:

Super pale

The politically correct term is probably “porcelain,” but let’s face it: you’re translucent. Not sure if you’re pale enough to qualify? Just ask yourself one question: “Do I glow in the dark?” If the answer is, “yes” or even, “only in the winter,” you’re super pale. Which means that you should wear colors with cooler undertones in order to compliment your cooler skin tone. You’ll look amazing in a red with a bluish undertone or a pink that edges toward plum.

Sort of pale

You probably get a little color in the summertime and those few times vanity has won out and you got a spray tan, it sort of looked natural-ish. You’re not a ghost, you’re more like a vampire — I swear, that was supposed to be a compliment. But what’s cool about your skin tone (perhaps the only cool thing about it) is that you can pull off either warm tones or cool tones. If it’s reds you’re after, try a vibrant, pinkish tone or something more purple. You may not be tan, but girlfriend, you can rock whatever lipstick you want.

Olive and tawny

While I want to hate girls with skin this tone for their gorgeous tans, I really can’t, because they look amazing in red lipstick. But always stick with warm colors if you identify as a golden goddess, because cool colors will wash you out, especially if you identify more on the olive side — you already have green undertones to your skin. But overall, olive-skinned and tawny-skinned chicks should basically always wear red lipstick because they look like super-hotties. Research Eva Mendez or Jessica Alba if you don’t believe me.

Bronze or mahogany

Bronzed beauties, listen up: warm tones were made for you. Don’t even touch that shocking pink or purplish-red. You were born to wear deep, crimson reds and corals.  Warm colors will pop on your gorgeous skin tone, but cool colors will be just “meh.” Mahogany ladies, however, should embrace the cold. Neon pink à la Nicki Minaj will be fun and playful, while a cool, chic red will turn you into the sultry seductress you are deep down inside.

TAGGED: cheap, chic, lipstick, makeup, makeup tips, shopping

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