When I first discovered lululemon–aka my “gateway drug” to fancy spandex–I wasn’t exactly living in the lap of luxury. I was a graduate student living off a meager stipend. Even when my income has been incredibly low, I’ve made a point to get creative with how I spend my money.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been in the predicament of wanting fabulous things, but being stuck with a tight budget that makes indulgences tricky. I don’t believe that a less-than-impressive income forces you to scour the racks of Target or H&M and only dream of nice things. It also doesn’t mean you have to go into debt. All it takes is a little resourcefulness! In this post, I’ll share some of my best tips for how I managed to satisfy my taste for expensive things while still living squarely within my means.
Prioritize your budget
This concept is THE biggest lesson I’ve learned about budgeting. How you spend your money should always reflect what’s important to you.
Think about the things you buy that make you feel like your life is excellent, versus the things that might be nice, but don’t really make all that much of a difference to you. For me, what I wear is one of those priorities.
The fact of the matter is that, for many of us, we can’t have it all. Our resources are finite, so most of us do have to watch our spending. If that’s the case, better to really examine what really matters to you, and focus hard on that, so that your hard-earned money will work for you in a way that makes you maximally happy and doesn’t put you into debt.
There are a number of things that other people love that just isn’t important to me. For example, I don’t like manicures and pedicures. I don’t have cable TV at home, I don’t color my hair, and I don’t eat out that much. There are lots of little things I’ve pinpointed in my life that don’t make me as happy as having that money for other things.
Instead of spending money on something because you feel like you “should” or because that’s what everyone else does, really take a hard look at whether it really adds joy and value to your life. That list will be different for everyone,
Leverage the resale market
If you’re a girl on a budget, the resale market should be your best friend. Yes, buying from places like Poshmark, eBay, or Tradesy can save you lots of $$ on the front end, but selling gets actual money back into your pocket.
In my experience, lululemon in particular has an excellent resale value. For items in excellent condition, I find I can typically recoup 50-100% of the price I paid. On many occasions, I’ve bought some lulu either new or off a resale site, worn it a few times, and then sold it back for the same amount I paid! If that isn’t magical, I don’t know what is.
Even though the cost might be high up front, the net cost can actually be really low. If the choice is $20 for leggings from Forever21 that I’ll never get back versus a net $20 for a pair of lululemon leggings that I resell, the choice is obvious for me.
If selling your clothes sounds appealing to you, you might find these posts helpful:
Look at the other side of the equation
If, generally speaking, income minus necessary expenses equals spending money, then cutting down your expenses is only one solution. The other option: raise your income!
One way to raise your income is by selling, which I talked about in the previous point. I’ve had many months where the amount I received from selling things balanced out what I spent on new things, meaning I could enjoy new things that I loved while not stressing my budget. Besides clothing, I also regularly sell old household items that I no longer need or want.
If you really want to go for it, you can earn more income through other means. It doesn’t have to be a formal part-time job, since those can often be logistically challenging. Think about the skills you have and how you might be able to leverage them into income. Think about what and who is in your area that could use some help, regardless of any special skills. I’ve tutored algebra and science, stuffed envelopes for a local real estate agent, helped a catering company at weddings, participated in paid clinical studies, and quite a few other odd jobs.
Keeping your eyes open for these kinds of opportunities can really make a difference! Even if it’s just $50 here or $100 there, maybe that’s a pair of leggings that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. I don’t know about you, but knowing that a few hours of work can mean getting something I really want can be a powerful incentive for me!
If you think outside the box and flex your resourceful muscles, the sky is really the limit here.
Hunt those deals
Lastly, the tried and true way of stretching your budget further: deals and sales! Scour resale sites for deals, find some coupon codes, set up price alerts for sales… This method works for obvious reasons: less money spent, which means more left in your budget. Read more deal-hunting tips in this post.