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Too Cool for School

August 28, 2011

When it came to school shopping, I knew I had to be cheap about it.  Right now, my priority is saving money to pay off my student loans, leaving little to no room for a new work wardrobe.  Even if we didn’t have those loan plans, I still wouldn’t want to spend a ton anyway.  I’m a born saver.

I did need a few new pieces, though.  Well, need may be a strong word.  I have been blessed with the means to provide myself with plenty of clothing, and there are definitely people in the world who need clothes more than I do.  I guess I should say that I wanted new clothes because I have lost weight and some pieces needed replacing.  With a tight budget and a few ideas, I began my hunt.

First, we went to Goodwill.  Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this place if you know what you are doing.  For those of you who are new to the idea of thrifting or shopping at Goodwill, let me give you a few tips.

1.  It works best if you have a loose idea of what you are looking for, not a tight one.  For example, if you go in thinking that you must find a pair of Seven jeans with a dark wash and studs on the pockets, you probably won’t be happy when you leave.  The clothes (and everything else) are very hit or miss, so keep your mind open.  You’ll have much more success if you go in thinking “dark jeans” instead.

2.  Try on everything.  They make dressing rooms for a reason, people!  It’s just like shopping at the mall, except that these clothes have been worn a few times.  But when you think about it, so have the clothes at the mall, right?

3.  Do close inspections of everything before you buy.  Check the armpits, the hems, the seams, everywhere!  Any sort of stain, discoloration, or hole that will make you unhappy should be seen in the store before you buy it.  While Goodwill has a return policy, it’s just easier to check before you check out.

4. Be patient.  That’s the difference between me and B.  I have the patience for thrifting; he does not.  You need to take some time with finding the great pieces, and there is no rhyme or reason in any sort of organization at Goodwill.  It drives B nuts that the pants aren’t organized by waist measurement.  The women’s side is a little better, but you cannot always count on the right sizes being put on the right rack.  Search around.  If you are good with sewing or know someone who is, don’t be afraid of getting something a little bigger and then tailor it to fit you.

If all else fails, go watch YouTube videos on thrifting tips.  They can be really helpful and give you creative ideas.

I ended up going to two different Goodwill locations, and I found an assortment of quality clothing pieces.So let’s go through each piece so you can drool over my new school clothes, shall we?  Starting at the top, I found this guy at the end of our first trip to Goodwill:It was just sitting in the jacket section, mixed in with a lot of oversized barn coats and pilly fleece pullovers, just minding its own business.  Who’s it by?  Oh, just some company called J. Crew!  I tried it on, and while I went back and forth on it, I decided to get it because my purple on is about three sizes too big.  It has absolutely nothing wrong with it and looks brand new.  I’m excited to try it out in cooler weather!

Original Price:  $118                        Paid: $4.99

Being feminine but appropriate is my main game at school.  With a larger chest, it can feel like I’m losing the battle, but when I found this Elle dress tucked into the shirt department, I knew I had struck dress gold.It appears to have had a belt at one point in its lifetime, but no matter.  I put it together with this belt from the accessories department and gave it new life.  This will look amazing with the new brown boots I ordered today from Amazon!

Dress:   Original Price:  $42                  Paid:  $4.99

Belt:   Original Price:  ~$15                   Paid:  $1.99

My school is notorious for feeling like a meat locker in the winter, so sweaters are a must.  I really liked the unique quality of the print on this Ben Sherman sweater, and when paired with a simply tank top under it, I think it will look great. Original Price:  between $30 ~ $70                       Paid:  $4.99

I cannot tell you how hard it is to find button-up shirts that fit me correctly.  If the waist fits, the chest is too small.  If the chest fits, the waist is waaaayyyy too big.  I also have a weird problem with the length of sleeves.  Apparently I have really long arms for my size (?).  That being said, I wanted to try some on, and I was lucky enough to find this pristine Banana Republic button-up hiding on the rack.It has 3/4 length sleeves, which is perfect for my long arms, and it FITS!  I have already worn it, and it is so comfortable and professional.  Plus you cannot go wrong with a pink and purple pinstripe!

Original Price:  $59.50                      Paid:  $4.99

I needed a new pair of pants to replace my large ones from last year, and I found these cute wool-blend ones from Dalia Collection.I like how they are soft, warm, and have a subtle red pin stripe in them.  These will definitely be good in the winter.

Original Price:  ~$30.00                       Paid:  $2.50

It must be my year for dresses because on my second Goodwill trip, I found a second adorable dress.  I know people who have larger chests should “stay away” from ruffles, but I love them.  I can’t help it.  Plus, in my defense, they don’t make my boobs look like a tent or a bushel of fluff berries… you know, if there were such a fruit…I’ll pair it with a skinny belt to accentuate my waist, throw on some leggings or dress pants, and BAM!  Adorable and professional.  Win win.

Original Price:  Unknown (but probably $20 or more)          Paid:  $4.99

Last but not least, I found this cute deep purple cowl neck sweater from Nicole by Nicole Miller.  Its another one that will be warm in my building and will look great with a tank top underneath.Original Price:  $30                    Paid:  $4.99

Total of Original Prices:  $344.50 ~ $384.50                     Paid:  $35.00

SAVINGS:  $310.50 ~ $350.50

Um, HELLO there, savings!  That’s amazing!  I knew I had saved money, but until I did the research, I had no idea how much!  Phew, well I feel much better about buying these clothes now!

I also picked up some really pretty jewelry from Kohls, thanks to a magical little card I got in the mail that was a free $10 gift card.  I’m not sure how it made its way into the mailbox, but it did, and I welcomed it with an open shopping bag.  Now, I wasn’t willing to spend over the gift card amount, so I just went in to see what I could get for under $10.  You know, maybe a pair of socks?

Nope.  Go to the clearance jewelry department.  Oogle the goodies.  Whoa, that sounds wrong.  Oh well, do it anyway.All of these were on clearance, so I scooped them up after hemming and hawing for a bit.  There were loads of options! The green necklace is from Croft and Barrow (anyone else think that name sounds like a rip off of Crate and Barrel?), the feather necklace was from Candies, and the earrings are from Vera by Vera Wang.

Green Necklace:  Original Price: $16       Clearance Price:  $3.20       Paid: $0

Feather Necklace:  Original Price: $16     Clearance Price:  $3.20      Paid: $0

Earrings:  Original Price:  $14           Clearance Price: $2.40         Paid: $0

Total Original Price: $46   Clearance Total Price: $9.33 (with tax)     Paid: $0


Round one of school shopping on a budget?  Success!  Stay tuned for round two!

What amazing deals have you found lately?  Have any good tips to share?

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