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What to Wear When You're Broke

Don't stop buying, swap with pals

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Fashion's a breeze when you've got money to blow. But getting that fresh-from-the-runway look gets tricky when you're short on cash. Here's how to look good for less in a material world:

Redefine the word sale

Sounds basic, but to really save a bundle on clothes you have to be willing to pass up enticing promotions (15% off; free shipping; gift with purchase) and hold out for the hard-core sales (40% off is good; 50% and up will land you a buy for almost what it cost the retailer).

Don't stop buying

Counterintuitive? Well, think about dieting and how you pass on sweets and carbs until you binge. Scary, but it can happen with pent-up shopping desires, too (and credit card debt racked up in a binge will end up costing you a fortune). Satiate the fashion lover in you with a very small treat: you set the amount and frequency ($10 a month for new earrings, etc.) Pay with cash.

Shop in season

Sure, stuff is cheaper when bought at the end of the season or even out of season. And that's fine if you're just looking for any old thing to wear. But if you love fashion (and you do, or you wouldn't be here), you should shop as close to the season as possible. Otherwise you'll just waste your money on trends that will be out of style by the time the next year rolls around.

Swap with pals

Friends that wear your size (and share your taste) are a gold mine. You can even go large scale and organize a swap meet where everyone can switch shoes, clothes, etc.

Get rid of your inner snob

Scour second-hand and discount stores. Buy basics from the warehouse where you buy your paper towels in bulk. If vintage is your thing, haunt flea markets and garage sales.

Become a do-it-yourself whiz

Learn to whip together a new outfit on the sewing machine or simply turn old jeans into a new skirt. Recycling is an easy update: a ruffle on last year's skirt, a bow at the ankle of three-year-old strappy sandals.

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