As a medical student working a traditional retail or similar job is near impossible. I have been reading and researching and there are ways to get discounts, gifts cards and the works but not all are available or valid here in Puerto Rico so that makes the whole money situation a little complicated.
On a personal note, I have been living off loans and trying not to max them out (I have been able to do this successfully). I must warn that this does comes with times of struggle, for which I am grateful for my wonderful husband.
How do I deal with the money I receive from loans? I divide my disbursement into monthly priorities: bills, rent, and food come first. Then school materials, exams/review courses, and books which are variable each year. And then the rest is what I have available for shopping and going out with friends and my husband. That means my shopping money is very limited.
Now I have had good and bad experiences shopping at discount stores like Burlington, TJ Maxx and Marshalls, and after a bad one during a professional assignment I took a personal oath to buy only good quality clothes even if they are a little more expensive. Combine that with the limited budget and you can see where the struggles begin.
I have a few favorite stores to buy from when I need dressy, business, and professional clothes. And they are fairly well known but their items can become quite pricey so sometimes buying just one item can be ground for controversy. Especially if I go in-store because everything here tends to be more expensive than on the mainland because of double taxes at the piers and sales tax is 11.5% which is just ridiculous when shopping.
My Favorite Stores:
- White House Black Market
- Banana Republic
Now I bet you are wondering how in the world I can “bargain” shop or shop on a budget at those stores and the answer is simple. ONLINE SHOPPING.
Why? Well for starters I don’t have to pay sales tax (now this depends on your state or territory laws for online shopping). Second I go straight for the sale tab and sort everything using Price Low to High. I tend to set a budget for myself usually $20-$30 and think of what essential pieces I am in need of.
~Side note on Essential Wardrobe pieces~
Everyone knows there are several essential pieces to every business and professional wardrobe which become very important while being a medical student, especially for office visits and third year rotations. The idea is that you have classic pieces that can be mixed and matched among themselves to give you numerous outfit options while not breaking the bank shopping.
When I was looking for blogs to follow for inspiration for starting this one I found this amazing blog Franish in which she has tips for shopping on a budget and also how to build that perfect, harmonious wardrobe we dream of, among many other things.
I am planning on doing a post about my list of essential pieces for a perfect wardrobe soon.
~End of Side note~
Now I won’t sit here and write about how awesome and perfect this strategy is because it does not always work the way I want it to. Sometimes I have been tracking a specific piece and when they lower it to that price it is sold out, or it is unavailable in my size. But that is not the end of the world, at least for me. You need to be realistic in that this is a possibility with searching sales.
Often times I do end up finding gorgeous, amazing pieces in that price range in my size with free shipping and I am a pleased woman. A very important thing to keep in mind is be ready to have to exchange things if you have never shopped there before. You could go in-store and try things on, preferably items that are a particular style so that you can track them online and not be worried about fit.
Now another trick is to subscribe to all the rewards programs for these stores because you get benefits and discounts all the time. I receive some over the mail and email, and others are predetermined by my status in the rewards programs. For example, WHBM Rewards have four levels Basic, Silver, Gold, and Platinum and each level has certain benefits (Silver members get 5% off, Free shipping, $10 Birthday reward FOR LIFE and more. That means once you achieve this status it is forever and you always get a discount and those benefits.
There are some options if you prefer shopping in-store:
Let’s say you were window shopping and you saw an item you fell in love with, tried it on and could not get out of your head. You have several options, look for it online and see if it is available or if the price is the same, wait to see if it goes on sale and risk loosing it, or buy it and hope it goes on sale in the following week so you can get price matching.
Now having worked in retail I know this is real and it sucks for the store but it is an option, although not a very savvy one. This is like a financial investment. You run the risk of it not going on sale and not being able to recover the money. So I would only recommend this as a last resort and only if you do not need that money for something of higher priority.
Now I am going to talk about another alternatives I have read and heard about but have not been able to actually use because most of these do not ship to Puerto Rico and well that leaves me still wondering if and how it works and how worthwhile it is.
This is from their site:
“Acquired by Nordstrom in March 2011, HauteLook is a place where you’ll discover thousands of the top fashion and lifestyle brands at amazing savings. Each day at 8 AM Pacific, shop new sale events featuring the best names in women’s and men’s fashion, beauty, and home décor at up to 75% off. Membership is free and everyone is welcome.”
I learned about this through my cousin who studies over in Massachusetts and I remember surfing their site and loving how it worked but when I went to checkout shipping to Puerto Rico was not an option. I remember being super disappointed and I admit I have not tried to see if that shipping policy has changed but I promise to check it out again and give a little update. When she was telling me about this site I was so excited to shop for designer and top brands at discounted price. So if that is your thing and they do ship to your area I think this too is a great alternative to shopping on a budget.
All of these are great ways to acquire good quality clothes that will last and complete the look of a professional woman you have always dreamed of.