How To Look Great On A Budget

Some of us love to shop and others not so much, but we‘ve all got to wear clothes. Why not look great while not breaking the bank?

Here are 10 tips to getting the fashion wardrobe you want while staying on your budget.

1. Take inventory of your closet quarterly

The change in seasons is the perfect time to take stock of what you have in your wardrobe. You’re going to be rearranging your closet anyway, so why not assess each item as you do? Is it in good condition? Are you still excited to wear it? Is it still stylish or is it out of date? Does it feel fashionable or frumpy? Your responses will help you decide what to do with it.

2. Clear out the clutter

As you’re going through your clothes, shoes, and accessories, organize them into five piles: Save, Sell, Dump, or Donate. Hold on to only those items that still make you feel fashionable when you wear them. Some may need mending or updating; those go in the Needs Work pile. Maybe a button came loose from a favorite blouse, or a heel needs to be replaced on one of your boots. These are easy fixes that don’t require a lot of money.

3. Evaluate the essentials

There are certain items that every woman needs in her closet, no matter where you live. These include:

  • a little black dress
  • a classic button-up white shirt
  • a pair of good jeans
  • a rainproof coat (trench coats)
  • a pair of dress pants (black is best)
  • a suit (either pants or a skirt and a matching blazer)
  • a basic everyday bag (in a neutral color)
  • a classic sweater (a V-neck, scoop neck, or cardigan that you can throw over your shirt when the temperature dips)
  • a pair of black pumps
  • a pair of boots (flat or heeled, dressy or casual, depending on your lifestyle)

If you’re missing any of these, put them at the top of your shopping list.

4. Build around the basics

Spend your money first on the essential building blocks of your wardrobe, like those listed above. These items should last for years, so it’s worth spending a bit more on them. In addition to the fashion fundamentals, there may be some pieces that you decide to buy or replace each season or every few seasons – from a winter coat (unless you live someplace warm) to a pair of boots to a swimsuit. As you shop to expand your inventory, think about additions that will pair well with your essential items (a top to wear under the suit, for example, or a wrap to wear over your black dress).

5. Mix & match

Each new item of clothing or accessory that you purchase should enhance your existing wardrobe. Before you buy anything new, ask yourself how many different outfits you could make by combining this new item with the clothes that are currently in your closet. Unless you’re buying something for a special occasion, like a wedding, you should be able to come up with at least four fabulous outfit combinations you could put together immediately after buying this item.

6. Know what’s trendy versus timeless

Once you’ve got lots of basic items that you can mix and match in your closet and hold on to for a while, you can start adding flair: fun clothes, shoes, and accessories that look cool now but may be past their prime by next year. Set aside a little money to spend on those trendier items that can freshen up your closet for the season. There’s nothing wrong with following fads. Just remember that they don’t last long; that’s why they’re called fads. So spend accordingly.

7. Don’t knock knockoffs

Within weeks of the major fashion shows, stores like H&M and Zara are already selling copies of the latest designer trends for discount prices. Since these styles probably won’t last more than a season or two anyway, it’s smarter to spend less on them and save more for those classic pieces that you can keep in your closet for years. These stores do a great job of capturing the look of the moment for less. They’re also great places to pick up simple T-shirts and trousers and accessories to mix and match with your better-quality basics.

8. Get luxury for less

You don’t need to drop a lot of money to own designer brands. Look for discounted merchandise at sample sales or used on eBay. Or see if your favorite designer is offering a less expensive line. Superstore and H&M have both paired with well-known designers. Many upscale retailers also have discount outlets that are often clustered together in outlet shopping centers. You can get some great bargains on luxury brands.

9. Share and swap

If you’re sick of your clothes, or you want a new look for a special occasion but don’t want to spend a lot, ask your similar-sized friends if you can “shop” in their closets. Or organize a swap. Each person brings a few good items of clothing that they’re ready to replace, and then you swap items with one another. Your friends often have a different sense of style, so it’s fun to try on the clothes that they brought. You might not have picked them out yourself in a store, but they may look great on you. Plus, this way you know your clothes are in good hands (should you ever decide you miss them), and you’ve got new clothes to spruce up your style without spending a cent. Sharing clothes with your friends is also an easy way to give your wardrobe a boost without spending money.

10. Avoid deadline or emotional shopping

If you wait until the night before a big trip to buy last-minute outfits, you’re sure to overspend. You’ve likely convinced yourself you need certain items, and as the clock ticks, you’ll become more desperate to have them regardless of the cost. Same goes for dates, weddings, or any special occasion. If you’re short on time, consider borrowing a few items from a friend instead. Or wear something you already have in your closet but buy a new wrap or a necklace to update it. Always have a backup plan so you don’t get stuck spending too much.