​How to Be Fashionable on a Budget

If you’re anything like me, you spend more hours drooling in front of boutique windows than you spend actually visiting these shops. My web browser is crowded with clothing store tabs and all kinds of fashion ads dominate my Facebook news feed.

I hesitate to splurge on those sassy denim cutoffs or that buttery leather jacket, and with good reason—my wallet can only stretch so far. But given the fact that we can glean confidence (and self-expression) from our clothing, fashion can easily feel out-of-reach to the less fortunate.

I’m here to tell you that it is possible to be fashionable on a budget. What’s more, I argue that it’s possible to be fashionable on any budget, no matter its size. Here are a few helpful tips.

Know your budget (to begin with).

The secret to maintaining any budget is, well, setting one. It can be hard to be fashionable and frugal if you don’t know what your monetary limits are.

I speak from experience—clothing purchases can easily add up without your notice, particularly if you rely on credit cards (as I do).

Take some time to calculate a reasonable monthly budget for clothes (and accessories) spending. I say “monthly” because it is more strict than “annual” and more flexible than “weekly.”

Calculate your monthly expenditures and income sources; use these numbers to total how much you feel comfortable spending on “fun” things. Then divvy up this number accordingly. For example, I like to allocate “fun” spending to eating out, date nights, alcohol, books, and clothes (non-essentials, in other words).

You may want to use a self-tracking budget tool or app. I like Mint or PocketGuard.

Beeline to the sales racks.

I’m not saying all budgeters should be relegated to the sales racks. But if you start with discounted items, you may end up with more (given your budget). I plumb the sales racks before I look at the regular-priced items to fill my cart up faster with less-expensive items.

The same goes for online shopping too, which can be harder when it comes to imposing limits.

Choose quality, every time.

It sounds counterintuitive, but purchasing a high-quality item designed to last longer can actually be more cost-effective—in the long run—than purchasing a similar item of lesser quality (and price).

I got weary of replacing my cheap shoes every year or two and eventually committed to buying high-quality boots and sneakers that last me at least a decade. The same goes for swimsuits and other wardrobe staples.

If you are able to do so, invest in fewer pieces that nonetheless are of higher quality than less-expensive alternatives.

Familiarize yourself with thrift and consignment stores.

Thrift stores often get a bad rap, but some can be home to true treasures. I regularly stroll my town’s thrift aisles and often find lightly used gems for a fraction of their initial price.

Consignment stores also tend to offer “like new” clothing pieces at discounted rates. The same goes for outlet stores in the U.S. You can even purchase consigned clothing online via sites like Poshmark.

Get comfortable starting with these places first before shopping at non-discounted clothing stores.

Make do with what you have.

This is perhaps every frugal fashionista’s least favorite point. Yet, you may be surprised when you peek into your wardrobe and assess its potential. Try wearing something you haven’t worn in ages—and note how you feel.

Assemble outfits you haven’t yet worn, feeling free to be confident and daring with combinations. You may already have the fashion resources you desire!

Remember: you don’t have to have scads of cash to rock the fashion you dream of. That being said, you don’t need clothes to dazzle, either.