Where to shop when on a serious budget

A guide for when you're really tight on funds.  Plus what to look for where.

From the Mailbag:  Shopping on an entry level job budget

I’m 23, recently employed, and want to stop looking like a boy pretending to be a man.  I’ve been reading Dappered for a while and have learned a lot, but I’m struggling a bit on where to look for new clothes.  Especially places that wont break my entry level salary.

– Andrew

First, congrats to Andrew.  Welcome to the real world, and no matter how frustrating the minutia of real adulthood gets, always remember that those who say: “College/High School was the best time of my life” are doing it wrong.

Outfitting yourself in your early 20s has just as much to do with when you shop and how it fits as to where you spend that hard earned money.  It’s a bit of a game and the idea here is to help you play it well.  With that in mind, here’s five locations to consider spending what little hard earned money you have.


1. Thrift Stores, Savers, and Value Village

Thrifting is like golf.  You can go six times and have crap results, yet all it takes is one good outing and you’re hooked once again.  It takes patience but thrift stores, especially upgraded versions like Savers, can be a solid bet.

Look for:  Blazers, t-shirts, merino sweaters, and button downs.  Keep an eye out for good labels.


2. Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx and Ross “Dress for Less”

There will be screaming kids.

These so called “Off-Price” retailers are sort of like the unworn/unused garage sales of retail.  The stuff is all new, but it’s overstock and leftovers.  Don’t expect to leave with something great every time.  Marshalls store photo credit

Look for:  Accessories like belts & solid ties, dress shirts which will need tailoring, and basics like underwear.


3. Target.  No, really.  Target.

Merona’s “ultimate” dress shirt is a good budget option.

Maybe not for a suit or blazer, but if you’re looking for any kind of casual stuff or even dressed up basics, try Target.  Specifically their Mossimo line for your dressed down gear, and their Merona brand for ties and pocket squares.

Look for: 
The Timex Weekender, ties, dress shirts, trim polos and solid athletic t-shirts.


4. GAP, Banana Republic and J. Crew FACTORY during sales

The Sportcoat Triumvirate

You’ll have to be disciplined, but wait for 30% off sales.  It’s worth it if you’re on a budget since you could score a suit for under $200, and blazers in the low $100s or double digits.  Get lucky with a fit and you could skip tailoring.

Look for:
Well fitting off the rack blazers, button downs, v-necks, and outerwear.


5. Macy’s during a One Day Sale

It’s actually two days, but who’s counting?

These happen about once a month.  They also happen over two days (kinda like the Big 10 conference having a dozen teams.)   Regular price items could easily be half off during these things.  Lots to pick from, not all of it’s good.

Look for:
Hilfiger Trim Fit suits for $225, INC blazers for cheap, Levi’s & Dockers D1s for $30-$40, CK shirts for $30.

Some Final Tips

What else?  We’ve all been here.  Suggestions go below.  More here in this piece written for Primer.  Top Photo Credit