Budgeting Tips, Fashion

12 Secrets to Scoring a Preppy Wardrobe on a Tight Budget

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What if I told you that you can dress the way you want to without breaking the bank?  Building an amazing wardrobe on a budget will take time, but I have some secrets and tips that will help you make the most of your money in the process.  I have rarely paid full price for any item of clothing, and with this list, you won’t either.

  1. Follow your favorite designers and brands on social media and join their email lists. If you want to know about the best sales, this is crucial.  Many preppy designers/brands have amazing sales if you know the right time to shop.  As an added bonus, most websites will give you a percentage off your first online purchase once you sign up!  Start a little “fun money” or “clothing” fund and save it for when the big sales come around.
  • Lilly Pulitzer – Lilly gives 2 chances to shop the “After Party Sale” every year: One in August and one in January, and they both include free shipping.  This sale gets crazy, so if you plan to shop the next one, create an account on the site and enter your credit card info ahead of time.  The site will be locked down the day of and you will be put into a virtual line to shop.  You will want to log in early (on multiple devices if you have them), grab a cup of coffee, and wait for your turn.  This sale truly is major event and you will want to be prepared to make the most of it, so check out additional tips and tricks from Annie Wears It here.
  • Kate Spade – Kate Spade will have “Surprise Sales” from time to time.  This is a great way to score purses and jewelry!  You can expect deals up to 75% off retail!  The Surprise Sales are the best way to save big on Kate Spade, although there are also Friends and Family sales in April and October.  Raging Rouge has more Kate Spade sale info here.
  • Tory Burch – Tory Burch has Private Sales throughout the year, in addition to a Friends and Family sale and a Friends and Fans sale.  Pay close attention to your emails in March, August, and October!  The most recent sale just ended and had items up to 72% off!
  • Lauren James – Lauren James has a big birthday sale every year on January 28th, but there are also other sales throughout the year, such as the Extra Love Sale that took place in February this year where shoppers could score an additional 40% off of sale items!
  1. Know when to shop. Certain days of the year are just better days to shop in general.  Black Friday.  Cyber Monday.  Day after Christmas.  July 4th and 5th.  Even if a designer is not having an online or in-store sale, you may score big at a department store or boutique during these big sale days.


  1. Take note of brand/designer secrets and tricks. There are some secret hacks for scoring a deal on certain brands.
  • Hunter Boots – If you wear a size 7 1/2 like me (or if your shoe size is smaller), you are in luck!  You can fit into Hunter Boots kids sizes and purchase a pair for about half the price!  Find out even more Hunter Boots tricks here from Kelly in the City.
  • Kendra Scott – On the month of your birthday, Kendra Scott will give you 50% off of your purchase of one item!  You will need a valid ID.
  1. Shop discount sites. There are several discount sites that sell items that may be on sale or from last season.  This is especially helpful for designers that do not have an online sale page.  My favorites are Rue La La and 6pm.  For a complete list of sites, check out this post.
  1. Hit up the sales rack first. Back in the day, I didn’t like to shop the sales rack because I felt like those clothes were older and not as good.  Then I began working at a retail store in college and realized that some items we received would go straight to the sale rack without ever even hitting the sales floor.  It may be a little more work to look through the sales rack, but you can find some incredible deals! For instance, I once found a cute Banana Republic sweater for $5!


  1. Check out the outlets. Many designers and brands have outlets now.  You can find discounted Kate Spade, Vineyard Vines, Polo Ralph Lauren, etc.  The catch is that most outlet stores are not online, however, some are!  For instance, Mudpie has an online outlet store now that has some great deals!


  1. Pair designer pieces with cheap ones. Your entire outfit doesn’t have to be expensive.  A Walmart, Target, or Old Navy top will look just as cute with Lilly shorts and will be a lot less expensive.  If you are on a budget, don’t blow $40 on a pink top when you can get one for $3.  No one will know the difference, but they will notice how cute your one-of-a-kind shorts are and compliment you on your Kate Spade purse!


  1. Stick to neutral shades for accessories. If you can’t afford to get three different pairs of designer shoes or multiple purses, stick to a color that will go with everything.  For instance, I have two pairs of Tory Burch flats, a black pair and a tan one.  My Lilly Pulitzer sandals are gold.  Neutrals are your friend.


  1. Research which items hold their resale value well. Some designers and brands hold their value much better than others.  Lilly Pulitzer, Tory Burch, Tieks, Louis Vitton, Frye, Lulu Lemon, Michael Kors, Burberry, etc.  If you take care of your clothing and accessories, you can sell them when you are tired of them.  Where can you get the biggest bang for your buck?  The old standby is Ebay, but you can also sell locally on neighborhood Facebook groups.  Another option is to join brand/designer specific Facebook groups if you are willing to ship.  You should always use PayPal (not friends and family) when buying and selling online.  Live Laugh Motherhood has some great tips for successful buying, selling and shipping online using PayPal!


  1. Buying used clothing. Join the online Facebook groups for the best deals.  You can also stop by consignment stores and head to women’s consignment sales too!  You can sometimes find awesome deals at stores like Goodwill or at yard sales, but those amazing scores are few and far between, and you can waste a lot of time there.  However, if you are careful with your purchases and buy items that hold their resale value well, you can often get back as much as you paid for the item in the first place!  How is that for cheap!?


  1. Let gift givers know when your favorite pieces are on sale. When you see an item that you want for a great price, tell those who buy gifts for you, especially if it is near your birthday or Christmas.  Most people will appreciate the heads up!  Just a couple of weeks ago, my kids gave me a hard to find NWT (New With Tags) Lilly dress that I found at a consignment store as a birthday gift!  That never would have happened if I hadn’t given my mom the heads up of the fantastic deal!  Every Christmas, I get a few Lilly gifts that were purchased during the August After Party Sale because we all know that is the best time to buy brand new Lilly!


  1. Make friends with people who love the same brands you do! When I lived in Charleston, I started a Facebook group called Lilly Lovers of Charleston (It is still active if you love Lilly and you live in the Charleston, SC area!).  Through it, I was able to connect with others who loved Lilly like I did.  We would shop together and alert each other of great deals!  Plus, when you have friends who love the same clothing as you, they give you first dibs when they are tired of the items they want to sell!

So, there you have it…some of the best secrets and tips for dressing preppy on a budget!  I hope they help you fill your closet with lots of beautiful items that you never thought you could afford!

Speaking of filling your closet, when I lived in Charleston, I began a consignment sale for Lilly Pulitzer clothing.  We then expanded the sale to include some accessories (such as Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Louis Vuitton, etc!)  I am no longer running the sale since I have moved, but some of my closest Lilly friends are keeping it going and it’s this Saturday, March 10th!  If you love Lilly, it is the best way to score some great deals (and it is where I got a pair of Tory Burch flats and a gorgeous hot pink Kate Spade purse!)  I’ll be volunteering and taking home some new finds!  Email chslillylovers@gmail.com for more info!

Do you have any shopping secrets to share?  Let us know in the comments below!

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