Top 5 Ways to Be a Smart Shopper

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College students are notorious for being poor, which is why it's important to be a smart shopper -- someone who knows how to budget, save money and still look fabulous. If you're looking for ideas on how to make the most of your money the next time you go shopping, here are five tips to help you out:

1. Set a budget.

Limiting how much you spend on clothing is not only good for your wallet, but will prevent you from making frivolous purchases. Your budget could be $50, $100, or more depending on your personal finances, but set a monthly limit on clothing purchases-- and stick to it!

If you have trouble keeping track of how much you spend, try using an online budgeting tool like Mint, which will alert you when you're about to go over your monthly spending limit.

2. Buy what you need, not what you want.

Before you purchase something, ask yourself if you truly need the item or it's just something you want to buy. Every few months, look through your closet and make a list of items that you need -- like wardrobe staples -- so you can easily differentiate your needs from your wants. Take that list with you when you go shopping to keep yourself from making unnecessary purchases.

Of course, it's okay to buy some items just for fun every once in a while, but make sure you'll actually wear these clothes and you aren't getting them just for the sake of buying something.

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3. Buy clothes on sale.

Have you bought an item for full price, only to spot it on sale a week or two later? If so, hear me out on this: when you see a full-priced item you want, wait until it goes on sale to buy it. It may seem like a pain, but waiting for the price of full-priced items will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Also, it's a good idea to sign up for the e-mail lists of your favorite retailers or check out CF's weekly Coupon & Sales posts, so you'll be in the know about great sales and discounts that can save you even more money.

4. Choose quality over quantity.

Always opt to buy higher quality items over cheaply made clothing. Even though high-quality items are more expensive, they will end up lasting much longer. Saving up your money for a $70 cardigan is often a much smarter financial choice than blowing the same amount of money on three inexpensive tops that will fall apart after a few wears.

Additionally, learn how to calculate the cost-per-wear of clothing before you buy. You can do this by dividing the price of the item by the number of times you expect to wear it. For example, if you buy a trendy top for $20 that you'll probably only wear twice, it will cost you $10 each time you wear that top. However, if you purchase a $100 pair of jeans that you're likely to wear 50 times, the cost-per-wear is only $2.

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5. Buy what fits.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but buying clothes that fit well is an important part of shopping wisely. Although it seems like a hassle, it's crucial to try on clothes before you buy them. In the dressing room, make sure to move around (i.e. sit down, lift your arms) to ensure that the clothes fit properly. If the item is uncomfortable in the fitting room, it won't be comfortable at home.

On a similar note, buy clothing that actually fits you, despite the size on the tag. Don't try and squeeze into a dress that is too small just because it's the "right" size. Clothing measurements vary from retailer to retailer. You may normally be a size 6, but at certain stores, a size 8 or even a size 10 may be a better fit. Also, remember to buy clothes that fit you now, not clothes that will fit once you "lose five pounds."

What do you think?

Do you think you're a smart shopper? Do you set a budget for yourself when shopping? Any other tips you'd like to share? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think!