Home Personal FinanceLive With Less - Without Feeling Like You Are Staying “Trendy” On A Budget

Staying “Trendy” On A Budget

by Phia @ Freedom 101

Full disclosure – this post is all about how to minimize your clothing, make-up and personal care budget, while still remaining “trendy”!

If you aren’t into that stuff, or you don’t have a significant other whom you might be able to pass some tips onto who would be interested, you may find this post is NOT a good use of your time 🙂

With that disclaimer out the way, let’s move on to some context for my “trendy” resume.

I spent the vast majority of my teenage years, even into my early twenties in a relatively un-trendy, unfashionable state. I either didn’t care, or I didn’t know any better – frankly, I think it was a combination of the two.

Keep in mind, I played competitive women’s hockey for a good portion of that period, and suffice to say that fashion/make-up was NOT a priority in the women’s hockey circle. In that regard, the stereo-types were entirely correct.

When I wasn’t at the rink sweating it up I was scrambling to get to one of several part-time bussing/hostessing/waitressing, skating or snowboard instructing jobs that I had. In the restaurant industry, my fellow co-workers looked much more put together. Their make-up was done, hair polished. I struggled to keep up.

These polar opposite influences set the stage for a lot of incorrect make-up applications, and poor attempts at styling my hair. Not to mention, I wasn’t exactly making a ton of money, so I only ever bought clothes if I could get a massive deal.

That resulted in a lot of ill-fitting clothes and me never setting foot in a hair salon. Photographs from that time frame of my life are not the greatest (thank god Facebook wasn’t a thing back then).

Fast forward a number of years later, and my life had taken a hard left turn. I had suddenly secured myself a real, adult type job, A GOVERNMENT job! Complete with pension, benefits and all.

While many of the more senior people I worked with lamented at how anyone could possibly survive off my junior probationary period salary, I was in HEAVEN. It was more money than I had EVER made before (by about three times). In fact, it was more money than I had really even thought was possible for my age and level of post-secondary education (by which I mean none).

I thought I was rich.

I felt like I was becoming a full-fledged adult. I was wearing clothing I hadn’t purchased off the discount rack, I was actually getting my hair cut by a hair stylist, AND my make-up was starting to look like I knew what I was doing. And lo and behold, my spending habits started to incrementally rise.

Lifestyle creep was happening, very slowly, because I still hadn’t quite registered this idea of making a salary, and my frugal roots run deep. But it was happening nonetheless.

Fast-forward another 5 years, and I had turned myself into an actual trendy person! I went to the hair salon every other month, I bought myself nice designer clothes (albeit I still waited for these to go on sale), I wore heels and expensive accessories at work, occasionally I even got my nails AND eyelashes done.

All in all, I was a rather polished version of my former hockey playing, sweat pant wearing self. I was still relatively frugal, but I had figured out what felt like “frugal” ways to make myself look the part of a successful career woman who was steadily climbing up the ranks.

It wasn’t until Mike and I started to really gain momentum at paying off our mortgage that I started to look for ways to cut the sneaky tides of lifestyle creep.

Did I really need all that work jewellery, or the expansive wardrobe. How many pairs of heels were too many? Why did I have a drawer full of pricey make-up that I generally only used 4-5 items from?

I started to go about the business of downsizing – big time. Clearing clutter, minimizing my wardrobe, and scaling my “beauty” regime to a just the basics approach.

Nothing hit home quite like trying to re-sell bags upon bags of STUFF. Stuff I had realistically spent thousands of dollars accumulating. I had exchanged hours upon hours of my life earning the money to make those purchases, and in turn, they were producing a zero return on investment.

And now here I was – trying to recoup tiny fractions of what I had spent. Cringing at every article of clothing that went out the door with the price tags still attached. Wincing at each “steal of a deal” piece that I had eagerly scooped up, but rarely wore because it didn’t actually fit me all that well. Inwardly groaning as I tossed out piles of accesories, when really I only wore a couple of go to pieces.

Every item drove the point home just a little bit sharper.


After all – that money was a direct representation of time invested. Money wasted = time wasted. For someone that had spent years burning the candle at both ends, feeling like all I did was eat, sleep and breath work, being slapped in the face by the fact that I was actually wasting that time was something I just couldn’t abide.

For everything I sold, I MAYBE got 10-20 cents on the dollar compared to what I had originally spent. For stuff I had barely, if at all, gotten any use from.

Putting that into perspective, that equated to me working a lot of hours where I was getting paid for merely 6-12 minutes of said hour, and working the rest out of the sheer goodness of my heart. Ouch.

I have gone through this same process of combing through absolutely everything I own at LEAST once a year since. I do it to this day because it keeps me accountable. I’m happy to say the outgoing stuff is now pretty minimal – but I am a much harsher critic now then I ever was before.

What stays in my house better be bringing me a lot of use or value, or out it goes, along with a mental reminder not to make the same consumer mistake again.

But with all that said, I still enjoy looking like a “put together” mama. I like to feel good about what I’m wearing and how I present, but for me, that no longer means designer clothing or expensive jewellery. It just means dressing true to myself and being comfortable in my own skin.

To help me do exactly that – I’ve figured out a few handy hacks to keep me looking stylish, without breaking the bank.


Shifting to the minimalist’s wardrobe has been the BEST move I’ve made when it comes to clothing. First off, I have a ton of room in my closet to see what’s actually in there! Secondly – I only ever buy pieces that I absolutely love, that are timeless, AND that go with essentially everything else in my closet.

Even if I sometimes splurge on an expensive piece or two, I still spend dramatically less money on my clothing by simply having less and being selective.

I’ve also created a personalized color scheme, so I can mix and match with ease, and if an item I’m looking at doesn’t come in that color scheme, I pass.

Also – on the rare occasion I do go shopping, I go with a list of item’s I actually require, rather than just browsing the racks for what looks good. This way I have a dedicated list when I go into the store, and I don’t get side-tracked by the unexpected and sure to be short-lived return of hammer pants, bell bottoms, or coveralls.


This was a tough category for me. I loved my shoes and accessories. Admittedly, I still have about 4 pairs of heels that I used to wear to work. Give me credit though – there was a time when I had about 25 pairs of “work” shoes. They were essentially all the exact same pump, in a VERY wide array of colours. I LOVED them.

But – I rarely (if ever) wear heel’s these days, so into the donation bin they went. My last pairs are slowly getting whittled down. Each time I do a clear out I convince myself to part with another pair. The thick layer of dust collecting on them helps give me a much needed push.

I also really liked “work” accessories. Particularly watches and sunglasses. I’ve paired down to 3 watches and 2 pairs of sunglasses, also big strides for this lady.

The key that helped me get rid of everything was to identify what was my go to piece, or my go to pair of shoes. If it didn’t rank in my top 3, chances are I rarely wore it at all, and really, would I even miss it if it was gone?

The answer was a resounding no. In fact – life, and style, is just plain easier when you only have your “go to” items. AND you always feel fabulous, because you end up wearing only those things you LOVE!

These days, I refuse to buy a new pair of shoes, sunglasses, etc unless the pair in current use has bit the dust. IE: I am literally THROWING them into the trash bin because their life has been used up entirely.

I also try to buy EVERYTHING in this category (except sunglasses) on Craigslist. It’s amazing how many people order shoes online that end up not fitting them. I regularly get brand new shoes for me and my kids by just checking Craigslist when our old pair kicks the bucket.

For sunglasses – I never buy these, here’s why. I have a slight prescription. The kind where I don’t really need to wear glasses, but an optometrist will happily prescribe them for me. This makes me eligible for bi-annual eye wear as part of my benefits plan. Every two years I’m covered for a substantial portion of the glasses up to a set amount, BUT often these plans will cover glasses but NOT sunglasses.

To combat this, I ALWAYS shop at stores that offer the two for one option. Here in BC, that’s PearlVision. They are awesome. I get a pair of regular glasses at as close to the full maximum cost my plan will cover, then find a slightly less expensive frame, and have them put in prescription sunglass lenses.

Not only are the lenses much higher quality then you’ll generally get in fashion sunglasses, the whole pair ends up being free, while I pay for a small percentage of the prescription glasses (which I can then choose to sell on Craigslist since I rarely wear them anyway, and my old ones have a ton of life left in them). If you are eligible for this type of benefit, USE IT! Take the time to find a store that offers the 2 for 1 deal, and you’ll never need to buy sunglasses again.

3 – Make-up 

Make up is really friggin expensive these days. If you feel so inclined, it’s incredibly easy to spend a few hundred bucks on make-up every month or so. But that’s a lot of dollars, and are we really getting the value?

I applaud women who are comfortable with zero make-up, but for me, I feel naked without my basics! So I’ve spent a decent amount of time contemplating what exactly makes me feel polished, without being over done. I’ve boiled it down to toner, face cream, mineral powder, a brow pencil and mascara. And that’s about it.

Because of that, I’m always on the hunt for the best value product in each of those categories, that works with my skin type. So whenever I need to replenish those five items, I book an appointment at Sephora for a make-over.

They do a full skin care regimen followed by full-face make-up application (I also try to schedule these when I have an event I’m going to!). They ask you if you have any particular area’s/product’s you are interested in, and then they go to town with their current recommendations.

The whole thing is free if you buy $50 worth of product (which is about what it costs me to replace most of my make-up items in the first place). If I find a new product I like more – I grab a sample, and if it proves to be a better value product in terms of regular day to day wear, I swap one of my oldies for the new one.

It’s a cheap, fun way to try out new stuff AND feel pampered. All for what you would have spent on your usual make-up refill anyway.

4 – Hair

I’m a blonde, but I still like to get regular highlights thrown into my hair to keep it from looking blah. But highlights can be expensive, so to stretch out the time between appointments, I have a few tricks that keep things fresh.

I avoid shampooing my hair too frequently. While this sounds gross – washing your hair too often is actually quite bad for it. It rids your hair of its natural oils, which makes your scalp go into overdrive trying to keep up. If you tone down the frequency of washes, your oil production will level out, your hair will be healthier, and your color treatments will last longer. You’ll also use much less shampoo and conditioner overall, and that stuff can be expensive all on its own!

The second trick has a big up front cost, but it’s lifetime returns are massive. About a year ago I splurged on a Mason & Pearson hair brush. I had researched hair brushes EXTENSIVELY, like analysis paralysis kind of extensively. And on multiple occasions. I even waited about two years to pull the trigger because I just couldn’t quite get my head around spending a couple hundred dollars on a hair brush.

BUT – it was totally worth it. The company is old school and based in England (In fact, I think my Nana actually had one of these brushes when I was little – I SO wish I had snagged hers!). They are made from boar bristle or nylon (or a combination thereof) depending on your hair type. I chose a combo brush and it has been amazing. First off, as a former near daily user of styling tools, I almost rarely use heat on my hair anymore. That’s because this brush gets my hair straight, shiny and smooth, just by brushing it out. No flat iron or blow out required.

Seriously – it’s that good.

While the price tag is high, it’s quickly recovered in both the overall health of your hair and the consequential lengthening of time between pricey salon visits. Guys – if any of you are still reading this post, this makes an EXCELLENT gift for your other half!

Bottom Line

While there are a million EXTREME and wacky ways to drive down your beauty/wardrobe costs, you really don’t have to be extreme to save money. A series of small changes can also equate to major savings, without any noticeable “sacrifice”.

These are just a few, of many, simple tricks that can help to keep your budget in check while still looking like your fabulous self!

If you have any simple and effective tricks you use to keep your self-care costs low, please leave a comment below.

As always, thanks for reading! If you’ve been enjoying the blog and our content, please consider nominating us for this years Plutus Awards! And don’t forget to check back next week when we will jump into a four part handbook chalk full of ideas on how to teach your younger kiddos’ about finance! Have a great week!


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Christine June 10, 2019 - 8:25 am

Hi Phia! Great post, I’ve been on a capsule wardrobe myself now for the past year and a half. I’ve followed Project 333 and now I only by clothes I need and evaluate every 3 months, purging and storing for next season (although what goes into storage must “spark joy” haha). While pregnant, I was revisiting every month as I outgrew a lot of things and needed bigger sizes.

My guilty pleasure has been skincare products where I’ve been trying to buy clean , organic whenever possible but the popular brands will charge anywhere from $80-$150 for a small bottle of face oil, serum or lotion.

And then I found Deciem!!! A Montreal based company with a few shops in Vancouver and a great online presence. I’ve tried several of their products and love all of them – very high quality ingredients and the prices are mind blowing ….I think everything I’ve bought there (full sized) is less than $10 CAD. Seriously.

Another thing for me that I’ve reduced is the amount I spend on hair products, body wash, etc. I used to buy designer brands like Aesop and Oribe but realized especially with Aesop I like their packaging more than the product. So I’ve kept their bottles and filled them up with pantene pro v which has actually been better on my dry curly hair than anything else I’ve tried from expensive brands in years.

Thanks again for this post – loving these tips and tricks!

Phia@Freedom101 June 10, 2019 - 1:28 pm

Thanks Christine!! I am definitely going to have to check out Deciem – that is such a great tip! They sound like a company right up my alley and that price point is amazing!

I also agree that I am often drawn to product packaging, and then sticking with them out of habit, sometimes at the cost of ignoring the reality of the product performance.

I have been cycling through a bunch of brands of hair care trying to find one that works for me, when in reality they have all had pretty par performance with just using a good old Dove or similar! I will have to try that trick of putting some into my favourite brand of pump bottles!! Love it!

Thanks for reading!

Chrissy @ Eat Sleep Breathe FI June 12, 2019 - 8:17 pm

I totally forgot I had a boar bristle brush until I read this post—and I immediately went to use it again. It really does smooth out my hair nicely. Why did I ever stop using it? Thanks for the tip Phia!

For shampoo, can I share a really cheap, effective alternative? This shampoo bar from Well.ca: https://well.ca/products/the-soap-works-shampoo-conditioner_11070.html lasts me months, and goes on sale for less than $2/bar! Can’t get any cheaper than that. Plus, the only ‘packaging’ it comes with is a UPC sticker. I love it!

Some people seem to have bad experiences with it, but for me it’s made my hair softer, shinier and healthier than any other shampoo I’ve ever used.

Phia@Freedom101 June 13, 2019 - 7:25 pm

Happy to help out 😉 and thank you for that tip on the shampoo bar! I have heard from a few people lately that they swear by them. Definitely going to have to give it a try (also, way nicer to travel with than tiny bottles or resorting to hotel shampoo!)


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