The short and boring answer is that I save up for certain items, and buy secondhand. That makes for a short and boring blog post though, so here are a few more details! ;)
For the most part, I saved money for months-years to buy the nicer/more expensive items I own. When I was working full time, I used to put $10 of every bimonthly paycheck into a separate savings account. Now I put $25 of my monthly blogging income into that same account. Every year around my birthday, I used this money to buy myself something a bit more expensive than my normal budget allows for - a pair of Tory Burch shoes for my 27th, a Burberry coat (that one I added money from the sale of a Burberry coat I found at Goodwill) for my 26th , and my J.Crew Schoolboy blazer for my 25th birthday. This year, for my 28th, I bought myself the Mulberry bag you see above. I aim to buy items that are classics, and will be used or worn for years.
While I could probably buy higher end items more often, I choose not to for several reasons. My lifestyle doesn't really need many nice things. I spend most days in the hospital seeing patients - this is probably not the time for luxury handbags. I also have other financial goals - in the past it was to get out of debt, and now it's to save up for a down payment for a house. That's just more important to me than another beautiful bag every other month. So while I love those beautiful bags/coats/watches, saving up for one item a year is my way of compromising.
This is also where I put my disclaimer that I live in middle America (no ridiculous high rent), live in a very small house in a small town, I have no children, and no huge expenses. I'm just sharing a small part of my finances and how I save for items!
My purse costs $1500 retail. I'm not comfortable spending that much on a bag right now, so the way of getting the item without spending the full amount is buying it second hand - via eBay, consignment stores, or online second hand stores. I got my used bag for right around $300, a fifth of the original price.
I personally mostly use eBay to buy second hand. Buying via eBay can be a bit risky, but as long as you stay smart about the process, you can find some really great items! Adina breaks down her process a bit more, and mine is very similar. The seller for my Mulberry bag had great feedback, had up close pictures of everything, and details about the bag. While I have spent some time looking at Mulberry bags in the store, I wasn't sure exactly what to look for when it comes to spotting a fake, so I just googled it. There are so many knowledgeable people on the internet who will show you just want you want - just search "Bag name + authentication". For my authentication process, I used this, this, and this website. I went through every checkpoint both from the pictures on eBay, and then even more thoroughly when I had the bag in hand. If you buy from eBay, buyers are usually protected from fraud, so if you end up finding out the bag you bought is a fake, eBay will work with you to get your money back. You just have to do your research!
You can also try Etsy - that's where I got my vintage Coach crossbody for $50 (retail: $295). I personally don't have any favorite vintage shops to share at the moment, but I know some of you guys are avid Etsy buyers, so if you have a favorite, please share with the rest of us! Mine was a little banged up, but with a little love (details found in this post), it looks basically brand new.
The other option are consignment stores. This isn't really an option for me in non-internet life as I live in middle America with very few consignment stores near me, but for those of you in larger cities, this is a great way to see the items in person first. For those of us in less populated parts of the country, online consignment stores like The Real Real work well. They do the authentication for you, and they often have 20-30% off sales going, making getting a deal even better.
I have loved the Mulberry Bayswater bag for years now, and am so excited to finally have one of my own. It means more to me now because I know how long I had to save up for it. I hope that answers a few of your questions on how I afford nicer items while living on a smaller budget!
Sweater: BB Dakota c/o Shopbop [exact - fits true to size!]
Tee: Everlane [exact]
Pants: Paige [exact]
Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington [exact]
Bracelet: gift from my friend Lizzi [similar]