Looking Professional on an Amateur’s Budget

Author: Erika Sloan

Hi 20-Somethings! As part of a “Freaky Friday” idea that we had over at TwentyTweets, your founder, Sam, was gracious enough to guest post on our blog. Be sure to check out Sam’s That’s So 90s post on TwentyTweets!

Like Sam, I’m a recent college grad. When I started working last June, I thought I had it made. Real job, real apartment, real paychecks… The life. Hah! Thankfully, I don’t have any school loans but I forgot about bills, rent, food, and oh yeah… Clothing. Who knew that shopping for the real world would be so expensive?! My two pairs of black dress pants from Express just weren’t going to cut it anymore. I had a lot of shopping to do and a lot of NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) clothes to push to the back of my closet.

But let’s face it. I’m living off of an entry-level salary, here. I can’t afford designer brands and I certainly can’t depend on Mom and Dad to support me (I’m a grown-up now, remember?) So I started extreme-couponing looking for deals and figured out a few simple rules to looking professional on an amateur’s budget:

1. “Can we have your email address for future promotions?” The answer to this question is YES. Okay, so the daily “while supplies last” emails can be annoying, but they’re definitely worth the one or two (or ten) promos that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about. A lot of stores will email special codes and info about one-day events that you aren’t going to want to miss!

2. Buy basics. Buy all of your professional basics – a black blazer, khaki pants, white blouse, solid long sleeves, cardigans, etc. first. Now take a look around your closet. That Saturday night bar shirt (which you probably only wore once) might look pretty good (and professional) under a suitable-for-work cardigan, don’t you think? Before heading to the mall again, try mixing and matching shoes, jewelry, and other accessories with your staple items. You probably have more outfits than you realized!

3. Shop out of season. Remember when you were younger and Mom took you bathing suit shopping in the winter? You probably thought she was crazy, right? Well, she’s a lot smarter than you think. Shop for winter clothes in the summer, and for summer clothes in the winter. Okay, so it sucks not wearing your new clothes right away, but it’s totally worth saving money on the “end of the season” sales. You might even forget about something that you purchased a couple of months ago – that’s what happened to me! I wore a brand new khaki jacket to work this week that I had bought on-sale in November. It was fabulous!

4. Buy good pants. If you have to splurge, do it on pants. The styles of shirts, sweaters, and tops will continually change. You’re better off buying a more expensive, good pair of pants that will last you YEARS (because let’s face it… you’re not getting any taller) rather than an expensive sweater that’ll be out of style by next year. Finding nice, comfortable dress pants (as a man or woman) is key in the working world.

5. And finally, if Mom and Dad offer to take you shopping, do it. I won’t bore you with reasons like saying these are golden opportunities (although they are)… But I will remind you that they were young once too, and know how frustrating it can be to struggle financially. You’re trying to make it on your own, and they’re proud, so there’s nothing wrong with “taking” a hand out or two. Now I’m not saying that you should go on a full-out shopping spree, but a new winter coat, or a pair of boots, flats, etc. isn’t going to break the bank. As you get older, you may have less and less of these opportunities, so if they offer… Take them up on it!

Now trust me… I understand the feeling of needing to “get a good shop in” every once in a while. If that’s the case, do NOT… I repeat… DO NOT TAKE YOUR CREDIT CARD! Limit yourself to one or two items, if necessary. Building credit in your twenties is important; but charging items that you don’t really need will haunt you later. So shop smart, look for deals, and be unique! Do you really want the same Michael Kors bag that everyone else has anyways? Ugh… Wishful thinking…

Have any other ideas? Share them with us at @Forever20tweets or @20sTweet! And be sure to check out Sam’s post on TwentyTweets!

Samantha Matt

Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still going. I like pizza, French fries, barre class, spinning, more pizza, more French fries, and clothes. I have a serious shopping problem. Writing is fun. Follow me on the twitter - @samanthamatt1.

4 Comments
  1. Hey there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for
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