Ballin’ on a budget: shop for less without looking cheap

Jhenevie Oca, Photo Editor

Disclaimer: This list does not include anything about thrift stores. I love thrift shopping, but I only do it when I want to get something vintage-y. I can get new and unused items for the same prices or less than they sell in thrift stores.

Be Patient.

This is the most challenging thing for me. I know the feeling when you’re on the way to the clearance rack all the way in the back — they do this for a reason — and you see the most beautiful dress you’ve ever seen in your life. Don’t fall for it. It’ll go on sale in a couple of weeks. Quite honestly, when I do get tempted, I’ll look at the tag, see the price and say, “Girl, you know for a fact you can get five tops total for that price.” It sucks when you can’t get it, but whatever, priorities. Just in general, whenever you’re buying something, really ask yourself if it’s worth it. Look at the design, the brand, the material, every part of it. I have a price range set in mind whenever I’m buying clothes. When I’m buying a blouse, anything over $13 is a no-go. I don’t go over $15 if I’m looking through skirts. I only buy dresses that range from under $20-$25, and no, it doesn’t look cheap. By the way, Ross has some of the best dresses and jumpsuits for a decent price. Jumpsuits and rompers are usually anywhere from $15-$20.

Know The Sale

This tip is super important but will probably take a while for you to get down. When I say, “know the sale”, I mean, know when it’s good enough to buy. This varies from store to store. For example, some stores will bait you with a 40 percent off sale, but I know for a fact that in about two weeks, that sale will become 75 percent off. So wait for it. Don’t buy something you know will get cheaper in just a few days. This one is hard because you won’t know off the bat what’s a good sale unless you continually check out a store’s website.

Clearance Rack

Thank God for clearance racks y’all. Whenever people ask me where I shop, I literally just say “the clearance racks.” I don’t have a designated store. Seriously, even though it can be annoying to go through, it’s so worth it. If you want specifics, Forever 21, Target and H&M have the best clearance racks. Don’t shop at lame clearance racks though if you know a store sometimes has “additional 50% off clearance” sales. That’s when you pounce and splurge.  

Sign Up

Guys, I literally have a spam email set up specifically for shopping. Almost every single store has some sort of reward system. It’s probably at the top or bottom of the page. All you have to do is enter your email into the box, and you’ll get sent coupons or be notified of sales. Usually, they’ll even give you a coupon simply for signing up. This has saved my life so many times, you have no idea. Agaci and Hollister both have really good reward systems.


I learned this one from my mama. It’s literally common sense, so it’s okay if you feel stupid when I tell you this one because I sure felt that way at first. Don’t buy things when they’re in season, that’s when it’s most expensive. Buy them at the end of the season when they get super cheap because stores have to make room for new clothes. Sure it kind of sucks that you just bought a crap ton of winter clothes right at the start of summer, but seriously just stock up. You’re prepared for the next winter — or summer nights because Illinois weather, ya know — and then right before winter starts, all of the summer clothes will be on sale. It does get a little frustrating because you basically have to wait to wear your new clothes, but you’ll thank yourself later. Also, shut up with all the “That’s so last season” talk. If it looks cute, it looks cute. Why does it matter? Some people might say that trends have “expiration dates”, but listen, if you have class then you’re timeless so who even cares?


Use this every time you shop online. Cashback is exactly how it sounds. You get money back for simply using a domain to shop through. Ebates is a great cashback website, but to really find the best cashback percentage, go through, and it compares every cashback website out there and finds the highest one for you. All you have to do is create an account from that cashback website, type in the store you want and click “shop now”. It will direct you to the store’s website, but make sure you shop and pay from that link to get cashback. In a few weeks, you’ll receive a check in the mail giving you money for simply using that cashback website. Note: You should not be giving any credit card information to cashback websites. If they ask for one, it’s a scam. The only thing you should give is your address so they can send you a check in the mail.


I call my mother Coupon Queen because she actually is royalty in that area of expertise. As helpful as coupons are, finding them are a pain in my butt. It takes forever to find a really good coupon, but again, it’s worth it. Nothing worth it is ever easy to find. There’s not much to this tip. It’s literally just to look for good coupons. No seriously, instead of checking Instagram for the hundredth time while you’re waiting in line to checkout, type into Google “coupons” for that store. You’d be surprised at what you’ll find.


This one is kind of like the sign-up tip. Sometimes stores will have an app, and every time you make a purchase you’ll get “points” or something like that. My favorite shopping app is Shopular. Trust me, it’s the best one out there. It’s updated daily so you know about flash sales right away. They give you coupons. There’s a cashback module. They even show you weekly ads for some stores. Seriously, if there’s one thing you take away from this really long article, it should be this.

Store Policies

This tip isn’t super significant, but it’s still really important in my opinion, especially if you are shopping from clearance racks. Forever 21 doesn’t allow returns on any clearance items, so you better make sure you try it on in store and you love it before you buy it. If some stores are really lax, sometimes I’ll just buy things and decide later if I get overwhelmed in the store. Hint: Do this during Black Friday so you save time. We actually have a saying in my family: “grab now, think later”. Make sure you actually return what you don’t need though.

Don’t Tempt Yourself

I think if you’re a newbie to the “saving” life then this will be the most important one for you. As a little girl, I would always beg and beg to get the regular price items. My mom stayed strong and told me no. And guess what? I was perfectly fine in my clearance jeans. Long story short: Don’t even look at the regular price items. It’s not worth it.

There is nothing wrong with getting things off the clearance rack. Some people just have this negative notion that somehow buying things at a cheaper price makes a person cheap. It quite literally does not. Be proud of the $8 shirt you have hanging in your closet. The girl down the street bought that same exact shirt for $32 a month before you. Who’s laughing now? Buying expensive clothes and brands don’t make you any cooler. Do what you want with your money, but stop putting people down for what they do with theirs. If they look good, they look good.

Look, I know it’s a lot to remember and a lot of work. But trust me, it’s worth it. If you want to pay $50 for a single top at American Eagle, dude, be my guest. However, in my opinion, I’d rather be stingy with my money so that I can have a vast wardrobe and work it every single day than splurge on one thing that will make me look cute for only one day. I also love the surprised faces I get when I tell my friends how much my outfit was.