by Susan Mathieson

Quite often, we SA Pros remind ourselves (and others) that we are not in this business for the pay. That we do what we do because of the impact we have on the students we come in contact with. Sometimes I say it because I am truly feeling that way, often after a successful leadership conference or a heartwarming philanthropic event. There are also times, say when Sallie Mae comes ringing, that I say it because I need to convince myself that sticking to this budget is worth it.

As job searching is in full swing, I started thinking about one of the biggest struggles I faced as a new professional. For me, it was learning how to stock up on professional, yet trendy, gear while still sticking to a very strict budget. It’s not always easy, but here is how I have managed to make it work! 

1. I follow a ton of fashion bloggers – basically to the point that they are all I see on my Instagram feed. By doing this, I am able to stay up on current trends and get inspiration for new outfits. I often already have the pieces in my closet and I never thought to style them in a certain way. Fashion bloggers also share where they bought the pieces and often alert you when they are on sale.

2. I am always doing my research! I have made a vow to never over pay for anything, so that means I need to know what the average price for something is and how often it goes on sale. If I have an awards banquet coming up, I start looking months prior so that I can find the perfect cocktail dress at a great price. 

3. This is probably my favorite because it is absolutely free! I love getting together with friends and family after a closet clean out to do a clothing swap. There are so many times I have bought a top and realized after wearing it once that it didn’t fit how I hoped. When that happens, I make a pile of things to bring home and my sisters and I swap for new clothes to love! I was able to score a jacket that I wore on New Years Day from my sister – that I absolutely love! 

4. I am always shopping the end of clearance sales. This is a fantastic way to stock up on the basics and spend next to nothing. I suggest staying away from the trendier items since you never know if it will still be “in” next year, BUT it’s safe to say that a LBD or a neutral cardigan is never going out of style.

5. Lastly, I always make sure that outfits can be versatile. To save some dollar bills, I also look for clothes that I can dress up and wear to the office, as well as dress down and wear casually. For example, I bought these tops on an outlet shopping trip for 10.00 and was able to wear it with a skirt for work and then pair it with shorts for a concert with friends! 

In student affairs, I have learned to do a lot with only a little and have translated those skills to my closet! I have learned how to take a very limited clothing budget, and make it work to stay professional, yet fashionable!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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  1. Susan, I am envious of your trendiness and you're niche for style. Can you provide examples of places you shop. You talk about not over paying, so I am curious.

    Thanks :)

  2. Christine,

    Thank you so much, I am flattered!! I do a ton of outlet shopping to save on money (and always try to snag a coupon on top of it), but my favorite places are LOFT, Banana Republic, J Crew (the clearance section) and New York and Company. I also find a ton of great deals at TJ Maxx! For shoes - I always shop clearance at department stores, my personal favorite is Belk!

    Hope that helps a little :))


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