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Shop Smarter: Shopping Checklist and Saving Tips

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

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After going through 10 different phases in college and buying every trend under the sun I finally got to a point in my life where I had a steady income. I finally had a little extra cash to dress better... or so I thought.

How foolish was I to think spending more would somehow make me dress better?

A few years and a lot of debt later, I realized I still had no idea what I was doing. I still had no defined personal style.

My closet looked like I had 6 different personalities and none of them got along. On one end I had graphic tees and ripped jeans and on the other end, I had tailored pants, pink ruffles, and sparkly stilettos.

To make matters worse, nothing in my closet really went well with anything else I owned so I was always compulsively shopping for a head to toe outfit for every new social commitment.

Putting outfits together was very difficult for me, so whenever I went to a store I indulged and bought a head to toe outfit right off the mannequin. Once I wore that once, I'd dump it in a corner never to be worn again.

I was a consumer, I was the person fast fashion brands design for.

shopping tips

These bad shopping habits cost me a lot of money, a lot of time, but it especially cost me a lot of opportunities to learn about my preferences.

See when you think owning the next trend makes you stylish you become a walking advertisement for that trend or that brand instead of a walking promotion of yourself.

So I got myself out of the "I saw it on Karen, so I have to have it" mentality. I stopped thinking about "how does this outfit look on me" and started thinking "how do I feel in this outfit".

The result was some items made me feel powerful, made me feel like I could take on the world, made me feel like I somehow curated something that perfectly represents me as a person.

And I got hooked on that feeling.

That feeling was confidence in my personal style and let me tell you, not ONE brand can encompass all of you.

So I became the curator of my closet, and as curator of my own wardrobe, I had to be STRICT, I had to learn to overcome the "display effect".

The Display Effect is when you walk into a store and immediately fall in love with the items on display.


how to shop to define your personal style


I'm not here to recommend any specific brands because quite frankly you can shop anywhere you just have to Shop Smarter.

So I created a Shopping Checklist of things an item needed to have before I spent any of my hard-earned cash on it.

This checklist not only helps me dress better but has also curved my compulsive shopping habit helping me save more money.


01. Needs to fit within my Color Palette

This item needs to:

  • Complement my Complexion Contrast - So I know I'll look good in it.

  • Complement my Skin Undertone - So I don't look washed out.

  • Complement my Existing Wardrobe - So I actually have something to wear it with.

Staying within my Color Palette makes it incredibly easy to mix and match within my existing wardrobe and even easier to always look put together.

If you have trouble looking put together check out my popular How to Always Look Put Together Guides, a 5 post series on little upgrades you can make to always look and feel your best.


02. Needs to be Comfortable

  • If it itches, it's tight, or I have to be pulling it up all night leave it at the store. You need to love wearing your clothes!


03. Needs to be Timeless

I can't tell you how many trends have gone to die in my closet. I now stick with pieces that are timeless. Items that are not heavily designed or have too much going on.

And while I try to steer clear of hyper-trendy pieces if I happen to want to include a trend I try to find a more subtle version of the trend in a neutral palette.

This way it can stand the test of time.


04. Needs to Fit or be Simple to Alter

Let's be honest, clothes rarely fit the way they were meant to, I find most of my clothing in structured fabrics always need some form of alteration.

So I do a cost analysis;

  • a $20 shirt that needs $20 in alterations isn't worth it.

  • a $20 shirt that I can alter myself in under an hour IS worth it.



05. Luxury Items need to meet my High Expectations

CPW = Cost Per Wear. My rule: If I'm going to spend a lot of money on an item it should:

  1. Still look good in 5 years

  2. Not be out of style in 5 years

  3. Not display gaudy logos or emblems

  4. Function perfectly

  5. Fit within my color palette

For example; A leather handbag in a neutral color and design, a winter coat, a leather jacket, diamond earrings. These items I am willing to splurge on because they are long-term investments in my wardrobe.

So at $1,000, if you use it consistently for over 5 years it's worth it.

Don't forget luxury items always retain some value.

So after you're done using them or want to upgrade to another luxury item you can easily sell them on Poshmark for a profit and put those earnings towards your next purchase.

If you haven't tried Poshmark yet use code: TheFineRefine for a $10 credit!


06. Needs to fit my Style Aspirations

It's taken me a while and I have a long way to go but I have a somewhat defined Personal Style.

My point is: Don't buy something just because it's pretty. It needs to fit your style aspirations, everything you buy should be contributing to your personal style growth.

If you need a little help defining your personal style check out my guide here.


07. Needs to be Easy to Maintain

This is something we quite often forget when shopping, luxe-fabrics require special care.

Let's take a look at Cashmere, its gorgeous, cozy, and it instantly gives you an elevated and put-together boost.

But at what cost?

A Cashmere sweater usually starts at $100. Not that much right? and totally worth it for the posh points it gives your wardrobe.

But Cashmere has to be drycleaned.

So when you do that CPW cost analysis you need to factor in that the $100 sweater needs to be regularly cleaned so it has an ongoing cost.

While I do own Cashmere, I only own lower end cashmere to balance out dry cleaning costs.

Now if dry cleaning isn't something you want to be spending on. Then I suggest you read the label of every garment before you purchase.


Extra tips for major savings!


08. Consolidate your Purchases by Category

Most stores nowadays have rewards programs from grocery stores that may give you $5 off every time you spend $500 at the store, to Sephora and Ulta who provide you with enough free samples to offset the cost of your current skincare regimen.

My advice is to try and stick to ONE store for your beauty and self-care purchases (As best you can).

I chose to stick with Sephora since their membership program (free to join) has so many ways to redeem points, from free samples to experiences to discounts.

Since consolidating to Sephora I haven't had to buy moisturizer or mascara in over a year. Why?

There is either always a code for a free trial size sample, a free sample, or one of these in the Beauty Bazaar that I can redeem with points.

That money I save on mascara can go towards my shoes *WIN*


09. There is always a Promo Code (almost always)

If you look hard enough there is always a promo code when you shop online.

I personally use Honey who checks out dozens of promo codes for me but a simple google search can sometimes do the trick as well.

If you haven't tried Honey and are trying to spend less on clothing without compromising your style, you truly need it in your life.


10. You need to take advantage of Cashback sites

Rakuten is a free-to-join website that gives you cash-back just for using their links to stores.

After you make a qualifying purchase you start racking up cash.

Once you hit your threshold, you get a check in the mail.

It seriously couldn't get any easier.

Get Rakuten here.


11. Watch your Favorite Items for Sales

I try to never pay full price for clothing and accessories, so when I can't find a promo code through Honey, or get cashback through Rakuten I wait for sales.

Shoptagr (another free-to-join shopping aid) allows me to "monitor" items.

I just add them to my watchlist and Shoptagr emails me when the item goes on sale.


12. Make your Closet Work for You

Go through your closet and your accessories and purge the items you do not use anymore. That shirt that has been rarely used and taking up space in your closet could be worth $10!

$20! $30!

If you haven't started selling on Poshmark I don't know what you're waiting for. I have made over $400 all from selling old clothes.

Join Poshmark and use code: TheFineRefine - for a $10 credit.


13. Get a Credit Card that offers high Cashback at your Favorite Stores

Disclaimer: If you do get a credit card pay it off right away. Try to never carry a balance on your credit card. You'll regret it later in your life.

I am fairly biased because I use Amazon for my professional organizing because of their amazing Prime benefits, free 2-day shipping, and wealth of products. So I got the Prime Credit Card which gets me 5% cash back on purchases at WholeFoods and Amazon.

My Prime membership basically pays for itself!


14. Offset your Skincare Expenses

I offset a lot of costs by doing some of the steps mentioned in my list, waiting on sales, and by going reusable with my beauty and self-care aids.

Simple example:

My partner and I used to go through a box of cotton swabs a month. I used these little guys for everything from cleaning my outer ear, fixing makeup mistakes, getting into the bottom of jars, and applying those tacky lip masks.

We switched them out for Last Swab not only has Last Swab replaced our cotton swab arsenal but they have also freed up some valuable shelf space, and have completely eliminated cotton swabs from our shopping list. (Use code: TheFineRefine for 10% off)

That alone doesn't seem like enough savings to splurge on skincare right? but when you make little changes in multiple areas of your life you start to see the savings add up.


Want to know what other little swaps I made in my self-care routine to help me save space and money? I wrote a whole post on them here.


Do these tips mean you'll be shopping less? Yes, it does.

But at least you will be shopping with purpose and in time you'll see your wardrobe start to transform into the wardrobe you've always wanted.

budget and beauty

how to look put together accessories


Need more tips? Need personalized help with organizing?

Contact me here or leave a comment,

I'd love to start a conversation!

Happy shopping!



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