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When it comes to shopping, we’ve all been guilty of an impulse purchase or two (or ten . . .). Whether you feel like your cash is burning a hole in your pocket, or you’re simply struggling to determine if something is worth spending money on, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before handing over the green. Follow these useful tips to save money while simultaneously building your dream wardrobe.

01. Is this piece stylish or just trendy?

We’ve all experienced it. The siren call of a dress, innocently hanging on the rack as if it doesn’t know what it’s doing. We rush over like a fish caught on a line and exclaim to our shopping companions, “Look at this!” Now, before you make any rash decisions, ask yourself: “Is it stylish or trendy?” Meaning, will this item stand the test of time, or will it be an embarrassment to your closet in three years? Or better yet, would Audrey Hepburn cringe at the sight of you in it? Would Kate Middleton buy it? Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what is stylish versus what is trendy, but if you can picture your style icons rocking it, then it is probably a stylish piece that will stay in your wardrobe forever. Not that you must only purchase stylish clothing, but take the cost per wear into consideration before spending your hard-earned paycheck.

02. How long does it take you to decide?

Have you been holding that jacket in your hand for more than five minutes, debating over whether you should buy it? If you’re still questioning it in the checkout line, step away from the cashier, and walk out of that store. When deciding to buy an item takes longer than five minutes, it’s not worth it. You should always be confident in your purchases.

03. How will you feel if you just walk away?

Speaking of walking away . . . it’s time to look into the future. A sure way to determine how much you absolutely love a piece is to imagine putting the item down and leaving the store. How will you feel? Will you forget about the item? Or will its ghost haunt you for weeks on end? If you can imagine yourself not thinking twice about it after leaving the store, it’s probably because you don’t really love or need the item. Try out this theory next time you’re shopping. You will soon know if it was a mistake or not.

04. How many outfits can you picture with this one piece?

Are the outfit ideas overflowing? Or do these shoes actually only go with one pair of pants you own? If you’re having a hard time picturing this item pairing well with anything else in your wardrobe, it will most likely end up sitting in your closet unworn and taking up space. The key is to find clothes and shoes that seamlessly blend into your wardrobe. Think of your wardrobe as a collection that you add to over time. Every piece should flow together to create a theme that all together expresses your personal style. Follow this rule for optimal use of your items and for a wardrobe you can be proud of.

05. Is it one of a kind?

Before you drop $50 or more on an embroidered bohemian top, ask yourself: “Am I going to see twenty other variations walking down the street the second I leave the store?” Sometimes the answer will be yes, and sometimes that’s OK. But for most purchases, it’s important to cultivate a wardrobe that is as unique as you are and expresses your individual tastes. And honestly, sometimes it’s just not worth spending a ton of money on something that is being mass-produced by every fast fashion store. On the other hand, if you are in a vintage shop and have found an authentic, quality-made embroidered blouse from the 1960s in mint condition, it could be a one-of-a-kind item worth investing in.

06. Is it a wardrobe staple?

Now, there are times when we have to buy items we aren’t absolutely head over heels in love with. They are vital, however, to a successful wardrobe. Every bold statement piece needs a complementary staple that anchors the whole outfit. Where would your embellished leather jacket be without your plain white tee underneath? Or your bright red midi skirt without your simple black ballet flats? When shopping, make a mental checklist of all the staple items that you need in your wardrobe. This is also where you should start paying attention to quality in order to choose items that will last for years to come.

07. How does it fit?

Have you ever had your heart set on an item only to find out that it’s actually super-unflattering once you try it on? Sometimes it’s a relief because the decision to not buy is suddenly much easier. It’s so important to take a trip to the dressing room—this is where all purchasing decisions should be made. Pay attention to how you feel in the item: Are the pants too short, does the waistband gape in the back, is the fabric itchy, does it hurt to sit down in them? Take a stroll around the fitting room to test out how the item feels, and thoroughly examine yourself in the mirror. If you are uncomfortable in the item or if you are let down by its overall appeal, it’s not worth spending money on.

Photo Credit: The Kitcheners