Stylish outfits make you feel confident and cute. They let you express your personal style sense.
They also come with hefty price tags, especially if you have an eye for designer clothes. What do you do when your clothing budget doesn’t match your eye for fashion?
First, figure out what type of clothing budget you’re working with. A general guideline is to budget up to 5% of your net income, of what you actually bring home, for your clothes. If you have a smaller income or have other more pressing budgetary needs, your clothing allowance is naturally going to be smaller.
A smaller budget doesn’t have to dash your dreams of dressing like you’re ready for the runway. Smart buying decisions and wardrobe building gives you the look you want while staying within your budget.
Try these tips on how to be stylish on a budget.
1. Start With What You Have
You may be tired of your current wardrobe, but you likely have some pieces you can use to build a new look. Finding a new way to wear old pieces or pairing them with something new can make them seem more exciting.
Go through your closet and try on clothes to see what fits, what you like, and what fits your current style. Get rid of everything else to make room for new clothes.
Take an inventory of what you have left. Do you own 10 cute sundresses but nothing for cooler months? Maybe you have plenty of blazers but no bottoms to pair with them.
Assessing your current clothes helps you figure out where to spend your money. Look for the gaps in your current wardrobe to see what you need most.
Note the colors and patterns of the pieces you’re keeping. This helps you add new clothing pieces that work with those items to build complete outfits for less.
2. Pinpoint Your Style
Based on what you’re keeping and your personal preferences, decide on your overall fashion style. You don’t have to stick to one style rigidly, but having a general idea of the clothes you want to wear helps you piece together a versatile wardrobe. You’ll also save money by picking pieces you love instead of wasting money on things you never wear.
Consider trendy looks, but don’t forget your core look. Fashion trends change quickly, so buying too many trendy pieces can make your wardrobe outdated fast. Focus on timeless pieces you’ll wear for more than a few months that still fit into your fashion style.
3. Buy Versatile Pieces
Buying a few quality, versatile pieces makes your wardrobe more flexible. Focus on timeless pieces that you can wear in multiple ways. A black blazer can go with jeans for a casual look, trousers for the office, or a dress for a nighttime look.
Solid-colored pieces offer the most versatility in your wardrobe. Patterns can be tricky to mix and limit your options for a piece.
Pick clothing items you can mix and match with one another. You don’t have to buy as many pieces, but you can create multiple different looks by switching up how you pair the pieces.
4. Splurge on a Few Items
Basic layering pieces don’t need to come from a high-end boutique. Save money on those basic pieces to build the foundation for your wardrobe. Those savings give you more room in the budget for a few splurges.
A few key high-end pieces stand out in your wardrobe. They instantly make your entire outfit feel more valuable. Pair those key pieces with your more affordable core pieces to keep your clothing budget balanced.
When choosing your splurge items, consider your style. Pick pieces that are worth it to you and that truly fit your fashion sense.
If the new Air Jordans are your thing, make a new pair your big splurge. Maybe you really want a pair of designer jeans or a leather jacket. Make these splurges planned purchases rather than impulse buys to ensure they’re truly pieces you love and will wear enough to justify the spending.
5. Build Your Wardrobe Slowly
A massive shopping trip to fill your closet is a nice dream, but it doesn’t work for most budgets. Aim to add a few pieces to your wardrobe each month based on your clothing budget. When you choose versatile pieces, you can get several new looks each month even if you only buy a few clothing items.
6. Shop the Sales
Holding off to buy the clothes you want can save you money when those items go on sale. If you like shopping online, add all the clothes you want to your virtual shopping cart. Check in periodically to see if the prices drop on those items.
Sign up for notifications and newsletters from your favorite stores. You’ll get emails and alerts when those shops have sales.
Clearance racks can also land you significant discounts on clothing that’s in perfectly fine condition. Sizing is often limited on clearance clothes. If you find something you love in a size that’s a little too big, have it altered for a perfect fit.
7. Try Flash Sale Sites
Sites such as Beyond the Rack, Zulily, and HauteLook offer flash sales with significant savings on brand name clothing. Sales typically last only a few days and often with limited stock. Frequent these sites to find fashions that fit your budget.
It’s sometimes challenging to find the right size on these types of sites. Brands often vary in sizing so look for size charts and know your measurements.
Check return policies and costs in case items don’t fit. Those expenses can add up. Some sites may not offer returns, which means you’re stuck with clothing that doesn’t fit well or that you don’t like.
8. Consider Secondhand Fashions
Snag designer clothes that other people don’t want by shopping at high-end consignment clothing shops. You can find many classic pieces that are still very much in style. While higher-end consignment shops usually have high standards for clothing they accept, it’s still a good idea to inspect clothes carefully for ripped seams, stains, or other blemishes.
Build Stylish Outfits
Putting together stylish outfits on a budget takes a little more time and thought. Waiting for discounts, buying through alternative sources, and building off what you already own lets you show your trendy side without going into debt. Check out more of our blog posts to learn about the latest fashion trends to help you choose the best pieces for your budget wardrobe.