October 8, 2013

Is it possible to look a million dollars on a shoestring budget? Money expert Kerry Lotzof gives her top tips for frugal fashionistas.

Stylist to the stars Rachel Zoe is known for her chic fusion of high end designer fashion with vintage touches and quirky second-hand accessories.  You may not have Rachel’s budget, but by channelling her open minded approach to style you can put together fashion forward looks that won’t empty your bank account.

Whether you take inspiration from Dita Von Teese’s impeccable retro look or mix it up like Kate Bosworth, with her irreverent combinations of high and low fashion, these tips will help you build an enviable wardrobe for a lot less than you’d think.

1. Shop like a collector

Stop thinking about yourself as a shopaholic and start thinking of yourself as a collector. Once you’ve got all your basics covered an item that looks “ok” shouldn’t be enough to have you reach for your wallet. If a new piece doesn’t move you and make you want to wear it every single day, put it back on the rack. Collectors wouldn’t spend on something second rate or ill fitting and neither should you. Whether you’re shopping at Target or Chanel, keep an eye on the detail and make designers work for your hard earned.

Spending time at vintage fairs, flea markets and second hand stores in posh neighbourhoods can yield amazing finds like immaculate vintage dresses and unwanted Ferragamo or Bally heels for less than $10. You can also check out what’s available online through Etsy and eBay, and mix it up with high street basics and the odd designer splurge. Behaving like a collector (and the fussier the better) will give you an inimitable style and ensure your closet doesn’t fill up with unloved impulse purchases.

2. Designer crush? Find it cheaper online

If you’ve fallen in love with a designer piece that’s a must-have budget breaker, take a deep breath before you swipe – a quick coffee with your smartphone to shop the item out online can save you hundreds of dollars. You’ll be surprised what current fashions can be found in as-new form for a fraction of the price. Savvy fashionistas treat stores as a place to look and try then go home to buy online.

3. Coupons – not just for grandma

Today, coupon websites like and are making it ridiculously easy to take your fashion dollar further. Don’t swipe your card or proceed to checkout ever again before checking if there’s a coupon for what you’re about to buy. A 30 second search can bring up coupons for things like free delivery and loyalty gifts, and anywhere between $5 and 75% off your fashion purchases. On average, customers find a way to save $20 from a quick visit to the site and most retailers will accept them at the counter as well as online.

4. Make sure your shopping loyalty is actually being rewarded

How you pay can make a big difference to how rewarding your purchase is. The bad news for loyal ‘points collectors’ is that the goalposts keep moving. In fact, Mozo recently found that over a third of rewards cards now lose you money, charging higher annual fees than can realistically be earned each year in rewards. If you’re spending less than $17,000 a year on your rewards card it’s probably not working in your favour meaning you’d be much better off with a low fee credit or debit card. The fastest way to find out if your card is eating into your fashion budget is to jump on and see how your card compares. If you aren’t getting a good deal, be ruthless – a better card means less fees and more shoes!

5.  Swap, sell, up-cycle

Most of us only use about 10% of our wardrobes, throwing on the same easy favourites every day and neglecting a growing pile of barely-worn impulse purchases. If you don’t love an item, think about swapping it, selling it or up-cycling. If you have friends the same size as you, organise a closet swap to freshen up your look, or pop unwanted items on eBay and free up the cash (and closet space) for new stuff you really want. Also if you’re handy with needle and thread a little embellishment can go a long way, turning a neglected T-shirt or cardi into a compliment generator.

Kerry Lotzof, a.k.a. “The girl in the green” is a vintage fashion addict and writer, covering lifestyle and finance topics for comparison site, Australia’s money saving zone.