Dress to impress…with no budget stress


Are you strolling around the main shopping street every Saturday afternoon and ever fantasize about how you would look in that dress, suit, pair of fancy pants,… and think “It will be mine, oh yes it will be mine”?

– Yes, I love that trench coat and I even tried it, I felt fantastic but it is just a little pricey right now.

– Worry not Fernanda, even if your budget is rather limited this should not refrain you from investing in at least one piece of quality clothing.

Noticed the word investing and thought: “But Jonathan, I will not get any financial return on that investment. What are you talking about?” You are correct that Burberry trench coat will not make you richer by the day, the returns of those well-spent 1 600 USD will however show in comfort, confidence in your appearance, and remember it is a once in a lifetime purchase. I personally own one since 2012, and never regretted my purchase ever since. I know for a fact I will keep it for many years and I just feel awesome in it!


Here are 8 guidelines I follow to look a million dollars without having them.

  • Investing in quality :

If you purchase more expensive clothing you will feel more comfortable, the fabrics and cuts will be finer, you will be able to wear your garments much longer (no holes after three rounds in the washing machine) and it will eye as more luxurious. As Vicky Oliver advises in her entertaining book The Millionaire´s Handbook: Even if it is a tough habit to break, escape “Middle-of-the-road” prices, you will only get middle-of-the-road quality clothing. She advises you to go and try (not buy) some high-end clothing at upscale stores to train yourself to recognize quality.

  • Investing in a few “timepieces” makes sense financially

Buying a high-quality dress or suit for work makes sense as you will be able to wear years and years. Buying quality means as well you will not have to replace the garment that often as it will not wear out that quickly, so you are saving money in the long run. If you are starting your quality wardrobe invest in timepieces, not fashion. Easy for me to say who is not a fashionista but even Coco Chanel said: “La mode se démode, le style jamais” (“Fashion fades, only style remains the same“). Over the past years, I have focused on purchasing quality clothing but in reduced quantities and the result is that in 2015 I did not need to purchase any piece of clothing. I had sufficient quality clothes that did not wear out quickly, so here is the saving. In 2016 so far I purchased two shirts and three pairs of pants for work on sale.

  • Cost per wear

CPW = Total cost of the item / Number of days you’ll wear it. To make it simple if you purchase and wear that Burberry trench coat at 1 600 USD  every single day for 4 years, your Cost per Wear is 1,01 dollar/day. If you have 4 pairs of Diesel jeans at 220 USD each, you wear 3 months a year each for the same 4 years, your Cost per Wear is 60 cents. Now compare these two figures with that funny (but low quality) souvenir T-shirt you have bought in Barcelona for 20 bucks and which you will wear 5 times every summer for 4 years (provided it lasts that long), what is your cost per wear? Yes, up to 1 dollar per wear! An expensive garment will give you more bang for your buck since you will be able to wear it often and longer than a cheaper one. Now of course fashion should not only be reduced to a cold number on a spreadsheet, it is about feeling, comfort, lifestyle, and much more… I am not enough of a fashion victim to elaborate more here but the point is that the cost per wear will however be a great tool for consumers who value quality over quantity.

  • The 150 dollar goal or the 1/3 rule

The problem of buying cheap clothes is multiple: You spend less today but in the long run, you lose the benefits of investing in timepieces. Marc Bain, a fashion reporter tells us that: “There are as well huge consequences for the environment, for the low paid workers and even for the mental well-being of the buyers” (read more here). As an advocate of purchasing less but better, an interesting approach to use is the 150 dollar goal. 150 dollars is far from being the average price you would pay for a pair of jeans at H&M for example, and that is the whole point of this: To make you think twice before you purchase anything. If you follow this guideline Fernanda, you will definitely limit some unhealthy spending habits because you will not be able to afford it. The good news is you will buy items you value more. Depending on your income, this 150 dollar goal can be moved up or down of course, it should be set so that it “hurts a little” as Marc Bain explains. Another approach to buy less but better is to follow Vicky Oliver´s advice of the 1/3 rule: Look at your wardrobe today, buy one-third of the clothes you own today and spend three times as much on each item.

  • Special occasions

Clothing might not be your priority, but some special occasions will call for quality or decent clothing at the minimum. Just think of that job interview where a neat appearance will already show your potential future employer how serious you are about working for him. Think as well of weddings, family celebrations, networking events, dating,.. you will want to feel great, confident, and look at your best.

  • Outlet stores

Contrary to popular belief I will advise you to avoid them, I first saw this rule in Vicky Oliver´s book, and here is why she recommends staying out of them. First of all 90% of the merchandise sold in the Outlet store is made for the outlet store, meaning the leather and the stitching of a handbag will be of inferior quality than in a regular store. And secondly, I like her comment: “If it is the real thing, it´s only there because people with money didn’t like it enough“. From experience I have purchased some clothes in outlet stores and on some of the purchases the clothes I felt a “disturbance” in the quality, it somehow did not feel that high-end or there were simply some obvious defaults.

  • Getting a better price

Once you found a few stores with the clothing style you like, sign up for their customer loyalty program. It is free and you will be kept up to date on their events, their new collections but most importantly…on their sales! One of the shops I registered at offered me a little discount on my birthday, department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps often have special customers´days when some line of clothing is at -15%,…Of course, you can just choose to shop during the winter and summer sales. If none of the above applies you can always negotiate yourself, I have tried the following with success :

– I like this jacket however I will go check some other stores to compare, do you have any sales at the moment?  The guy told me “As such no, but if you buy it today I will give you 10% off” (imagine 10% of that Burberry jacket – totally worth it), so I went to try other jackets in other stores but that one was the best so I went back two hours later and bought it.

– This suit looks great! I´ll take that other shirt as well which you proposed and those cufflinks,… Since I am ordering a few items can you do something on the price or give away the cufflinks? I did not get the cufflinks for free but I got a 5% discount. In another case I did not get a discount but a pair of Paul Smith socks for free.

It might seem “cheap” or strange to negotiate in a high-end store but if one does not try one does not get. The key is to ask the salesperson casually and not push for a discount, if they say they cannot do not insist. You are saving on quality clothing in the long run remember?

  • Enjoying!

Owning something beautiful is a pleasure and if there is a story behind the garment it will truly make you feel great when wearing it. One of my Belgian friends wears designer clothing from Walter van Beirendonck and Dries van Noten, he has met them several times and follows them. It gives him a great feeling wearing their clothes and I can tell you he will be more than happy to explain to you the story behind each garment he wears for hours!

So Fernanda, check your finances, follow the guidelines, and next Saturday I hope you see suited up and happy!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may make a small commission (at no cost to you) if you make a purchase. This will help to support Joney Talks!

4 thoughts on “Dress to impress…with no budget stress

Leave a Reply