Dancing Thrifty

Like many in this economy, I am trying to find a way to keep affording to participate in this sport. As a college dancer, I've had to be especially creative in some aspects, from bleaching old poodle socks, to not being too picky about wig color. After having a few years of experience under my belt, I feel like I can finally share some things I do that allow me to Irish dance on a budget:

1. Sock glue vs. Elmer's glue stick.
  • A tube of sock glue costs $10. Glue sticks, if bought during the back to school sales cost 50 cents (or less!). They work just as well for holding up those socks at a fraction of the cost.
  • Note: I have used the purple sticks that dry clear, and it does not show through or stain my socks since they're washable.
2. Buying a headband vs. crafting your own.
  • I have made three headbands on my own now, and it's easier than one might think. You don't have to be super crafty, or you could easily pass it off as a project for your daughter to do. (Think of how proud she'll be when she tells her friends that she made her own headband!) For me, I had plenty of ribbon and fabric sitting around my house. It beats the $20+ I would have spent buying one!
  • Materials: Headband (can be bought at a dollar store), ribbon or fabric for the background, ribbon to decorate (optional), rhinestones, hot glue gun/ GemTac/E6000
  • Procedure: Line with ribbon/fabric to match your dress and customize with ribbon/stones.
3. Buying used vs. buying new (shoes)
  • Buying new top of the line shoes is fine and dandy, but can get expensive quick ($120 for hard shoes, $65 for ghillies) Buying used shoes might be the way for you to go, especially if your feet are still growing, and you'll be in and out of them in a year. As an added bonus, someone has done the breaking in process for you!
  • My dance school is lucky to have Irish dance yard sales twice a year, so that is my opportunity to see if there are shoes there that fit my needs. There's a lot that can be said for some shoe polish and TLC! If your school doesn't have something like this, offer to try on your friend's old shoes and buy them from them for a discount.
  • Dance.net is also a good resource to look at. People are out growing and selling used shoes all the time!
  • There is also the Voy shoe exchange, and though I've personally never used it, it seems like there are lots of listings.
4. Buying used vs. buying new (dresses)
  • Dance.net and Dance-Again are invaluable sources here.
  • If you have to have the latest styles, many dresses are being worn only and handful of times before being sold due to growth spurts or retirement at a fraction of the cost. The market is currently flooded with many different styles and sizes. It may take some searching, but you will be able to find something to fit your needs if you are patient.
  • Look for dresses not from a big-name designer, but those people who make them for fun in their life. They tend to be cheaper, and often, just a nice. Dance.net is a good source for these (where I have found all of mine in fact, and I've never spent more than $400)
  • Look for styles that are classic that will stick around for a while, rather than cutting-edge designs that will only be around for a year or so. That way, you can keep your dress for a few years before updating your look.
5. Rhinestoning all at once vs. in shifts
  • The rationale behind this is buy what you can afford now, and add more before the next feis or major. Stone the key parts of your dress first, and add more to embellish as your budget allows. See my evolution of rhinestones here.
  • In general, I buy all my rhinestones at local craft stores, or eBay.
6. Bleaching older poodle socks
  • I have collected many many pairs of socks in my few years of dancing. In general, I have one pair of socks I save for feiseanna (they currently sparkle), but a few years ago, my year-old "white" feis socks just weren't white enough, so I bleached them because I didn't want to waste money buying yet another pair.
  • To bleach socks: The ratio is one gallon of water to a half cup of bleach. Leave set for two hours, take socks out and rinse, then wash as normal. This is something to do one or two days before feising.
7. Wig tips:
  • I have dark brown hair. I have had wigs that vary from dark brown, to black, to reddish brown, to dark brown with lighter brown highlights. For me, it has come down to seeing wig styles I like for sale on dance.net, and purchasing them used for anywhere from 25-50% off.
  • My biggest tip here is don't be picky! You can alter your pouf color to match using hair spray, talc, or even mascara if you're desperate.
8. Make up tips:
  • With so many different products available today, it would be very difficult for you to not find cheaper options to create a look to go with any dress. I do most of my make up shopping at Target. They have a wide selection of brands and products to fit any wallet.
  • Check what you already have before buying custom dance make up. Don't underestimate the smoky eye--it can go with nearly any dress.
  • Many dance schools ask dancers in the same team to have a uniform look. If your dance school requires you to buy make up from brand name stores, ask to borrow your friend's and match the colors at your local drugstore with less expensive brands. You will save lots of money doing this, and you will keep with uniformity.
  • My make up must haves: foundation, bronzer, eye shadow and liner, volumizing and lengthening mascara, and lip stain
9. Tanning tips:
  • To get those fantastic legs, you don't need to shell out money for tanning bed sessions ($5/session) or a spray tan ($30). You don't even need to buy the most expensive tanning potion out there. I have been using Loreal Sublime Bronze in Deep Natural Tan that I found on the shelves at Wal-Mart for $8.48. I find it gives me an even tan (and it even sparkles!). With these less expensive self-tanners, you may have to put on more coats (say, once a day for a week), but you can get just as dark. You may also have to see what product works best for you because everyone's skin is different.
  • Bonus: To save on tanner (and avoid streaks) with lotion tanners, mix in a pump of regular body lotion.
10. Feising:
  • Really look and see which feiseanna are the most important for you. I try and do at least one, maybe two right before a major. If you are feising for feising's sake, cutting out one or two will save you $50-100 of entrance fees, not to mention travel costs.
  • Shop around to see if there are cheaper hotels nearby. This is more for the Oireachtas and other larger competitions (that don't require you to stay in the block). It also depends on one's own preference of hotel amenities (and sometimes cleanliness). Sometimes, it requires a bit more driving, but ultimately, you will save a little of your precious moolah.
There are some aspects of the monetary side of dance that just cannot be cut (tuition, feis fees, travel costs), but hopefully now you have some ideas to ease your financial burden.

Goals: Get rest, tan, make a packing list
Days till Os: 11 days, 10 hrs


  1. Another good tip I've found for saving money on makeup happens to be to make your own!

    I've made enough blush, lipstick and eyeshadow to last me for ten years of heavy feising - all for less than $5 total, tools included. And what's more, not only is it more eco-friendly and healthy to make your own makeup, but it's incredibly easy to match eyeshadows to your dress (without them looking crazy) and your blush and lipstick to your skin.

    It may sound a bit overly DIY, but trust me, it's fun and saves a ton of money!

  2. Claire, that's a fabulous idea!

    Are there any books our websites you recommend for recipes and supplies?

  3. I really like http://www.tkbtrading.com/ for supplies - just watch what you buy, as some of what they sell is less than ideal by my ingredient standards.

    As for books, I honestly haven't found a single one I trust. They all seem to recommend ingredients like bismuth oxychloride (a known skin irritant) and talc (known to be contaminated with carcinogens) and carmine (squashed-up bugs - no, not kidding!).

    However, I'm working on writing a guide to making mineral makeup that's vegan, eco-friendly, and totally safe. I'd be happy to let you post it here on your blog, if you're interested!

  4. Creating a guide, now that's a good idea! Maybe that's more in Feisonista's realm though. You should email her!

  5. Good idea. :) I'll do that.


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