Though we all go through the hardships of saving up for that big splurge, the real test of a savvy shopper is how she navigates the cheapie stores and sale racks. Our editors love the thrill of the hunt, especially when that means a complete outfit for a bargain. Our challenge: Find a head-to-toe look at one shop for under $50. That means we could only pick from what was available in-store at the moment, had to figure out a seasonally-appropriate outfit (that means layering!) for chump change, and somehow figure in a pair of shoes as well. Needless to say, it was hard, but we don't call ourselves shopping experts for nothing. If you enjoyed Cheap Challenge Part I and Part II, you'll definitely enjoy our third edition. Click through to see how Connie, Annie, and Shawna fared at Charlotte Russe, H&M, and Rainbow — and tell us, did they succeed?
"Charlotte Russe was my go-to in high school, but I can't say that I've been a frequent shopper since then. Though there were plenty of 'going out' looks available, my personal day-to-day wardrobe staples (read: high-waisted A-line skirts, sweaters, trousers, and boots) were slim. Pressed for time, I did find one outfit that I'm really into, including a sheer, printed button-up with a charming collar, a cable-knit sweater, and a bandage skirt that I could see myself wearing quite a bit this summer. I have to say, if you're into super-tall shoes, the options at Charlotte Russe can't be beat for their price and variety. They had an amazing deal going on for $15 heels, and an in-store promotion (that seemed to be a regular thing) that offered a free $10 for every $40 spent. Cha-ching! Given more time, I would have totally tackled the printed denim section. There were some leopard-print skinnies that had my name written all over them."
"For trends on the cheap, H&M is almost unbeatable (mua-ha-ha), so I was excited to dive in and see what I could pull out of my hat with just $50 per outfit. Turns out, putting together a head-to-toe look for just 50 clams was a lot harder than I had expected. Don't get me wrong, they had amazing things (both in the Versace collab section and elsewhere) but the nicest stuff started around $39, leaving me no wiggle room. Instead, I looked for classic basics, and found them in solid, mix-and-matchable pieces. And sure, pleather may not be an everyday go-to for a lot of people, but it turns out the fabric is just enough to pump up a look and make it feel more high-end than you'd think. I love the chunky turtleneck sweater (a steal at just $10!) and would absolutely wear the end-result outfits to the office, or even out. Confession: I ended up circling back around and splurging on a couple of the more 'expensive' items later on. So sue me!"
"Nothing pumps me up more than shopping to the bumping beats of Rihanna, so it was perfect that I ended up with Rainbow, a high-energy two-level store perfect for finding a fresh, $50 outfit. My strategy was to start with a strong base — a leopard skirt and red denim — to begin each look. The holy grail, as it turned out, was the $3 clearance rack where I scored basic tees to keep my budget flexible. A sign above the rack of jackets boasted 'The Biggest Clearance Sale of The Season.' I scoured the racks and found a fairly believable faux-leather bomber to offset the animal print. Feeling pretty proud, I made my way to the accessories aisle and made out big with some thin bangles, patterned tights, and a necklace, and came up big with what I am calling a snakeskin 'smoking jacket.' I did, however, come up short. As a size-11 lady, it's difficult to find shoes and nearly impossible to find them for less than $15, so I wore a trusty pair that I got at Payless ages ago."