Using cash is the number one antidote to overspending, according to experts. If you do pay with a credit card, beware of the trap "I've already got this debt, so it won't matter if I pile on more." Prelec compares it to the diet-blowing excuse "I ate one piece, so I may as well eat the whole cake."
Don't Buy 5 Before You've Worn One
You've finally found it: the midweight three-quarter-sleeve V-neck sweater you've been looking for all season. It's flattering. It's affordable. It goes with everything. And best of all, it comes in a rainbow of colors, so you want to buy a bunch of them. The problem is that while you know the sweater looks great now, you don't know how long it will last, how much it will shrink in the wash, or whether the fabric will pill, pull or fray. Until you've seen how the sweater wears, you're better off picking only your favorite shade.
Remember the Rule of 3
Your mother told you at one point that you should never buy something if it doesn't go with anything else in your wardrobe. She was right...sort of. Linda Lee, group vice president of Macy's by Appointment, the Macy's personal shopping service, says that in her experience, if a blouse goes with only one other item, her clients are not going to get enough wear out of it to make the purchase worthwhile.
Enter the Rule of Three. Whenever you're looking to buy an item, be it a pair of earmuffs or a pair of sandals, don't just ask yourself, "Does it go with something I own?" Instead, Lee says to ask yourself, "Can I think of at least three things I am going to wear it with?"
Know When to Pass
Don't purchase embellished or delicate clothes you won't have time to care for. Also, accept that certain styles don't flatter you—maybe strapless, sleeveless, low-rise anything. It doesn't matter. Love the looks that love you back.
Don't Outfit the Slightly Better Life
A navy floor-length sequined skirt is exactly the right thing to throw on with a casual top for a cocktail party, and, of course, you'll have one...soon. A silky blouse with an exquisite crossover neckline (that flops open oddly, but never mind) will be perfect for the board meeting...right? When you start telling yourself stories about where you're going to wear certain clothes, you're shopping for the life you want, or the one you think you'll have someday. It's great to dream about that life. It's not great to spend today's cash on it.
To save yourself an embarrassing incident during which that blouse does, in fact, gape at the neck and expose your bra during the aforementioned meeting, or the pain of having to give away that sequined skirt that you really love but have never worn, look out for your excuse words. When you hear yourself uttering hopeful things like "This might be the year!" or "Someday, I'll..." do not stop, do not pass go and do not spend $20, much less $200. Hang that item back on the rack.
Don't Be Flexible About Sizing
Buy the size that fits, not the size you wish you were. Sizes vary by designer, so don't get hung up on the number on the tag.
Never spend more than you can afford. It's not worth going into debt for fashion. If you want to invest, choose a timeless piece like the perfect black blazer, not a trendy item.