Whether it's for an important interview, a big meeting with the boss, a sales call, or a convention, looking professional when required (which should be always) is a key component to being a stellar employee (or at least looking like one). But not everyone is at a place in life when spending big bucks on designer duds is an option.
Looking the part, even on a budget, is expected and doable. You can fake it 'till you make it and look like a pro for pennies. OK, dollars is more like it, but certainly inexpensively enough that you won't need to put in overtime.
Consider these 4 ways to instantly look professional on a budget. Your confidence will spike, those around you will be impressed, and "dress for success" will be oozing from head-to-toe.
1. Behold the Briefcase
Please, do not clumsily and sloppily barge into your boss' office with a piled-high stack of papers, a cell phone in one hand, and a pen behind your ear. Not only will you look a mess but you will look like you're totally disorganized and frazzled.
Carry your belongings to work, meetings, seminars, and even lunch pow-pows in a sleek briefcase, attaché case, cross body bag, tote, or other sort of business-like bag or satchel. Pick a material and color that is neutral (browns, blacks, beiges, etc.) and try to keep the carry-all to a decent size… you're not moving in.
Steer clear from bright colors, bold prints, or logos from sports teams, and if it's broken, torn, or busting at the seams, it's time to invest in a new one. You can find these on sale at department stores and even bargain stores like Walmart or Target. No one will know how much you spent, they'll just know you spent time getting your important work docs and supplies stashed away professionally.
2. Suit Up
Not every profession requires a suit and tie or buttoned-up business-like attire, but whatever your field's dress code is, dress accordingly. If you are in a field where more formal business-wear is the status quo, you can invest in some nice clothing without going into debt.
As per Alison Gary, editor in chief of Wardrobe Oxygen, as told to Power Wallet, "I recommend a simple black suit; buy the best you can afford with the fewest memorable details. With the suit, a couple [of shirts or blouses] in solid colors will get you through all interviews and provide you with the core for a work wardrobe." This goes for men and women.
Gary suggests shopping at thrift stores, resale or consignment shops, and even EBay to find some excellent deals on what would otherwise be pricy wardrobe pieces. My Star Job adds, "Regardless of the cut and style of the clothing, if it's made from cheap fabric, it is noticeable. Therefore, avoid buying anything that has lint coming out easily, or anything that is too shiny. Generally speaking, the thicker and the more textured the fabric is, the more expensive the garment will look."
Be sure the fit is good and your clothing is workplace-appropriate, even in the most creative of fields. Never show up with stains, wrinkles, or tears and you'll be dressed to impress. And unless you leave the price tag on, no one will know how money-wise your shopping trip was.
3. Fend Off Trends
Fads in fashion come and go and not everyone's into fringe, feathers, or freaky fabrics in an office setting. Trends can be pricy and they are generally not considered professional when you're sticking out like a sore thumb at the Q3 overview meeting. Not to say you can't have your own style, but if professionalism is what you're aiming for, save money and side-eyed looks by forgoing trends.
As per Business Insider, "Fashion trends move in and out faster than you think — don't waste your money on a piece you might regret in a year. Instead, invest in classics and staple items for your wardrobe. A neutral-colored blazer with never go out of style, and neither will a simple dress or blouse."
If you're really seeking some experimentation in your wardrobe, stick to something that won't overwhelm your entire look and won't cost much, such as a modern tie or with some nice accessories.
4. Groom with Gusto
One of the best, least expensive, and most noticeable ways to look instantly professional is by keeping yourself clean, neat, and well-groomed. A stylish yet simple haircut, fresh makeup, a clean shave, well-kept clothing and shoes, and nicely manicured nails show that you've got high self-worth and a professional sense of a decent way to show up to work.
As My Star Job notes, "One of the easiest ways to look expensive is to practice good grooming! You can go au naturale if you are blessed with good skin and nice features. Otherwise, exercise good skin care regime or add on a little makeup. Never allow your fabric to bunch up by the sides or to tuck excess fabrics on the back of your pants. Make sure your shirts taper with your body. Excess materials make you appear frumpy and disheveled, and cheapen your overall look."
Keep a comb and lint brush in your desk drawer for emergency touch-ups and you're all set. Grooming is nearly cost-free yet makes a major impact on your presentation.
Look at you, all professional! Momma would be proud.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.