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IF YOU KNOW HOW TO SHOP SMART, A NEW AND STYLISH WARDROBE CAN BE GOTTEN WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK.

During these rough economic times, most of us don’t have a large shopping budget for clothes. Although you might not be able to impulse shop as much as you’d like, it doesn’t mean that you can’t update your wardrobe. By following these tips, you can be stylish without going into debt.

Take inventory of your closet

Before you shop, you’ll need to know exactly what you own. Clean out your closet, sorting into three piles – keep, trash and give away. Don’t keep any clothes that you haven’t worn in the last year. Take the giveaway pile immediately to the nearest donation center or consignment shop.

Once your closet has been cleaned out, you can easily take inventory. Take note of which items you can mix-and-match to extend your wardrobe. You should now have an idea of what types of garments you need and any obvious gaps in your workday or weekend wardrobe.

Invest in classic pieces

Don’t splurge on trendy items that will be in style for only a season. Spend your money on classic pieces that you can wear year in and year out. For men, the classics include a dark business suit, leather shoes and button-down shirts. For women, classic pumps, a little black dress and a leather handbag will stand the test of time.

Shop the sales

Obviously, you should never pay full price if you don’t have to do so. Head to the Web sites of your favorite department stores and brands. Sign up for their e-mail lists to get alerts on the latest sales and discounts. Keep in mind that you can still wear designer labels when shopping on a budget. Many designers offer a line that is priced down for the masses with the same quality you’d expect from a higher-priced line.

Register for sample sale sites

You don’t have to head to the streets to find deep discounts at designer sample sales. In the last few years, sample sale and flash sale Web sites have emerged. Register on such Web sites as Gilt Groupe, HauteLook, ideeli and others to get apparel and accessories for men and women at up to 80 percent off retail prices. With these sites, sizes and quantities are limited. Regularly check your e-mail to learn what time the particular sales are starting and ending.

Buy vintage clothes

At thrift stores, vintage shops, estate sales and other locations, you can find vintage clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories at a fraction of the retail price. Clothes from decades gone by are unique and often handmade. Another advantage of shopping for vintage clothing is that you can normally negotiate the price Be sure to check for mold and mildew, permanent stains, large rips and other damage before you buy.

Don’t make the commitment – rent it

For special occasions, consider renting a dress, suit, handbag or jewelry rather than buying it. Renting is a great way to wear the latest luxury items without spending a small fortune. You can rent for a few days, a week or even several months. In addition to local formal shops that may rent clothes and accessories, you can also rent handbags, jewelry, sunglasses, watches and other apparel from sites such as Avelle.com.

You might need to be a little more prepared and cautious with your spending than before, but that doesn’t mean shopping can’t still be fun. With bargain hunting, half of the thrill is in the hunt for the perfect piece. By keeping watch wherever you go, from department stores to flea markets, you are sure to find some affordable treasures to update your wardrobe.