Once the euphoria of graduation subsides, reality kicks in and the "real world" inevitably comes calling. If you're lucky enough to have solid job prospects -- or better yet, an actual offer -- be sure your work wardrobe is ready for the next chapter.
It may seem like a small detail, but presenting yourself professionally is paramount in building a solid rapport with your new employer. Read on for eight tips to get you on the right -- and fashionable -- foot for your new job.
1. Define "Work Appropriate."
Before you load up on expensive suits and closed-toe shoes, determine what "work appropriate" attire means for your employer by asking the hiring manager or human resources department for insight. A financial company likely requires a suit and tie while an Internet company may not mind sneakers. Consider CNN's "10 commandments of dressing for work" for some universal do's and dont's.
2. Hit Up Discount Retailers.
Your work wardrobe doesn't have to cost a lot of money if you know where and when to shop. Stores like Target and Kohl's are great places to find basic tees, camis and cardigans for cheap. TJMaxx and Marshalls are top places to look for discount brand-name clothes where you can find wardrobe staples at up to 60-percent off department store prices. It may take some extra time to shuffle through cluttered clothing racks, but the savings potential is worth the hassle.
3. Learn to Accessorize.
Learn to accessorize basic outfits to keep yourself looking fresh on a budget. It's cheaper to change up an outfit with a statement necklace than purchase a whole new look. For example, a basic black dress with a bold turquoise necklace looks completely different when paired with a wide belt and scarf. I'm a fan of picking up cheap yet trendy costume jewelry from stores like Forever21 or Charming Charlie.
4. Follow the 70-30 Rule.
A general fashion rule is to fill your closet with 70 percent basic items and 30 percent trendy pieces. You'll save money because the classic pieces like black slacks, white button-ups and navy cardigans transition well through seasonal styles. Plus, basic pieces can be easily switched with different items in your closet to create several new looks. A trendy blouse is very recognizable and you may feel uncomfortable wearing it in the same week to work!
5. Make What You Have Work.
Depending on your college major, internship experience or apparel for presentations, you may already own some work-appropriate clothes for your industry. Even if you're short on essentials, mixing and matching can extend your existing wardrobe. A pencil skirt paired with a basic tee and scarf looks classic and professional, and can be transformed into a whole new outfit with a cardigan and statement necklace. Go through what you have and make a checklist of what you need so you don't double up.
6. Go Consignment Shopping.
Your local second-hand store should be the first place you go when shopping for workwear. Though used, consignment clothing items are carefully evaluated for quality and cleanliness. Ultimately, you're getting items that are in tip-top shape for a fraction of what it would cost new. Search your closet for clothes and accessories you no longer wear before heading to the consignment shop and consider selling them for credit towards a future purchase.
7. Use Coupons.
Coupons aren't just for moms looking to save money on their grocery bill. You can save a ton of money on clothes, shoes and accessories by using online, printable and digital coupons. Before you head out, go to CouponSherpa.com to see if there are any available coupons for Kohl's and other stores you love or download their smartphone app for in-store access to savings. You should also like or follow brands/stores on Facebook and Twitter to get exclusive discounts.
If you're really strapped for cash, consider organizing a clothes swap with friends or family to score new (to you) styles for free. You may find it's your favorite new way to shop for clothes and continue organizing swaps well after your first paycheck.
Guest poster Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. Her goal is to teach consumers how to live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. Andrea has appeared on The Today Show, ABC News NOW, NBC Nightly News, FOX, MSNBC, CW and been quoted in SmartMoney.com, Kiplinger Personal Finance and many others.