When To Spend, When To Save: 25 Shopping Tips From ‘Cheap Chica’ Lilliana Vazquez

Lilliana Vazsquez knows a thing or two about shopping. Since 2008, she’s been at the helm of CheapChicas.com, a site that’s dedicated to affordable fashion and everything that comes with it, and she often preaches her brand of frugal gospel on the “Today” show, “The Rachael Ray Show,” and NBC’s “New York Live.”

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Vazquez is also an author, having just released The Cheap Chica’s Guide to Style, which is literally packed—it’s 325 pages—with fashion tips, advice, how-tos, lists, and so much more.

We caught up with the cheap chica to get her advice on one particular fashion conundrum we always find ourselves facing: When to spend, and when to save. Here, Vazquez offers 25 shopping tips that’ll help you decide when it’s worth shelling out cash, and when it’s worth hitting the fast-fashion circuit. Read on!

cheap chica when to spend money on clothes when to save


  • On something you’ll get a lot of wear from. Depending on what you do for a living and how you spend your free time, that could mean a smart suit or a Tumi carry-on if you travel a ton.
  • On nice denim. I love J Brand Jeans, which cost $200—a tough price to swallow. But not only do I wear them on a regular basis; no other jeans make my butt look better, and since I buy them in dark wash, they look good with just about any top in my closet.
  • On things that fit you like a glove. An item that’s perfectly tailored instantly looks expensive.
  • On classic colors. while a wardrobe of black, white. gray and tan may not sound thrilling, neutral shades are timeless and will be just as popular in 15 years from now.  You can spice up a neutral outfit with a splash of color.
  • On outerwear. If chosen wisely, one good coats is all you need for seasons.
  • On quality materials and high-quality construction. A no-brainer.
  • On shoes in universal colors and styles, like a nude pump and black flat.
  • On a handbag in a neutral color.
  • On a nice wristwatch.
  • On quality undergarments.  These create a foundation for the rest of your clothes. If a bra cuts into your back or grapes the front, it’s not fitted properly and will distract from even the most gorgeous outfit. It’s worth it to buy pieces that enhance your individual shape and lay discretely underneath your clothes.


  • On things that get replaced often, like socks and hosiery. Hosiery snags and stretches after a season of wearing, so I toss and replace mine regularly.
  • On trendy jewelry.  With jewelry trends having such a short shelf life, it’s better to relay on discount shops like forever 21 for your flashier pieces.  There are exceptions: I, for an instance, have a weakness of Hermes bracelets, many which have been gifts  from my husband.  Timeless pieces like these are worth the investment.  But the majority of my jewelry pieces are quantity purchases often costing $10 or less.
  • On belts.  I wear belts three to four times a week. I use them to cinch shapeless dresses or to make a simple item look more sophisticated , but I rarely spend more than $10 on one. The thickness, body placement material and color trends change often that they are not worth dropping a lot of money on.
  • On trends. You’ll be glad you didn’t spend a lot on them when you’re donating them to Goodwill after a year.
  • On brightly-colored items. Aside from neutrals and other classic shades, colors come in and out of style quickly, and you don’t want to be stuck with expensive jeans in the color of the season, two seasons later.
  • On sparkle. You know that sequin dress that’s perfect for New Year’s Eve? Well, that’s just about the only thing it’s perfect for.  Special occasion items like that are best saved on since the cost per wear is extremely high.
  • On outliers. Those items that don’t fit into your everyday lifestyle don’t warrant a high price tag.
  • On synthetic fabrics like polyester, rayon, nylon, spandex and acrylics. These aren’t high-quality fabrics that are worth hanging on to.
  • On swimwear.  Your bathing suits get exposed to a lot of abuse from the sun, sand and saltwater.  Instead, buy some basic separates that can be mixed and matched.

Still not sure about an item? Try these 5 other tips from Lilliana:

Wait for sales:  Try prodding the sales associate for information about if and when that item will go on markdown. Then check back often!

Try bargaining: Depending on what type of store you’re in, there may be wiggle room in the asking price. Consignment stores in particular are willing to negotiate—this is one of my favorite ways to score designer deals!

Use a coupon: Many stores send out coupons to customers who are a part of their loyalty programs. Sign up for mailings and e-mail blasts.

Calculate the cost per wear: While you should never spend more than you’re comfortable with, it’s helpful to calculate the estimated cost per wear of an item by dividing the cost by the number of times you expect to wear it.  The more you wear it, the “cheaper” it becomes.

Be loyal: Take advantage of loyalty program savings that high end department stores like Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstroms offer, in which you receive points for every dollar you spend and are rewarded with gift cards when you reach a certain points total.

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