Save Money

How to Dress Well on a Budget: Complete Guide

12 Tips on how to dress to impress while on a budget. Follow this guide & you'll have a wardrobe that looks fantastic & saves money as well
Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Guide to Dressing Well on a Budget

Tomorrows the day of your first big job interview, and you need to dress to impress. Maybe you have a dinner date, and you want to make a fashion statement.

Whatever your reason for dressing to the nines, it’s tough to look good unless you have hundreds of dollars to spend on a new outfit – or is it?

Looking your best doesn’t mean that you need a designer suit or a custom-fitted dress to catch the attention of everyone in the room. Sometimes, the best clothing doesn’t cost a fortune, if you know where to look and what to buy.

Ditch the boutique fashion stores and the high prices, and look for alternatives that don’t drain your bank account dry.

We put together this article to give you ideas on how to dress to impress while on a budget.

Follow these tips, and you’ll have a wardrobe that not only looks fantastic but saves you a ton of money as well.

1. Revisit a Classic

Sometimes, everything you need is already in your wardrobe. Before you visit the department stores in search of a new outfit, take stock of what items you already own. The chances are that you have plenty of outfits in your closet that never see the light of day.

Pull everything out and start auditing your wardrobe. You might find some hidden treasures you forgot about years ago, but look brand new. Look at ways to reinvent outfits and give them a different visual edge.

You could combine belts and scarves with your outfit to give it a new look. Let’s not forget about ironing your clothes as well. Taking an iron to a shirt or dress gives it a fresh appeal that reignites life into the material.

Run a Wardrobe audit

2. Search The Thrift Store

Yes, we said it – check out the thrift stores. You might feel a tinge of embarrassment at walking through the doors of your local thrift store in search of an outfit. However, once inside the store, we bet your attitude will change.

You won’t believe what people throw away or donate these days. Our last excursion to a thrift store resulting in the purchase of a near-new Hugo Boss suit that cost $1,200 on the rack at a flashy department store – and we got it for $60.

Thrift stores get most of their clothing from donations or people that outgrow their clothes and want to get rid of them for a few bucks. As a result, thrift stores have some unbelievable deals on fantastic items that cost a fortune in high-end fashion boutiques.

Thrift stores are great for formal wear, t-shirts, skirts, dresses, and accessories. You’ll also find a selection of near-new shoes with little to no damage that you can pick up for a steal.

Thrift Store
Check thrift stores for bargain clothing

3. Trade Clothes with Your Friends

If you complete your clothing audit at home, and still can’t find anything to wear, then call your friends. The chances are that they have the same problem as you. Take your clothes around to your friend’s house, and help her with an audit of her closet.

Throw everything out of the closet and onto the bed. Sort through the clothing and swap outfits with each other. You might feel like you’re back in high school, but it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon with your friend.

Crack open a bottle of wine and have some fun with the exercise. The chances are that you’ll find more than a few outfits you can swap with each other. The best part about trading clothes with friends is that there’s no checkout line, and you don’t have to pay anything toward your new wardrobe.

While you’re going through your clothes, do the right thing for those people less fortunate than yourselves. Make a pile of clothes you never wear and donate them to charity.

4. Watch Out for Seasonal Sales

Seasonal sales at department stores are an excellent time of the year to find deals on new outfits. Unfortunately, with winter approaching, that string top is not going to be enough to keep you warm on a cold fall evening.

We recommend that you buy next year’s clothing at the seasonal sales, and store it until next year. Sure, you might be a year behind on styles, but we doubt anyone will notice. The best times of the year to shop for clothing are on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and after the New year. You’ll find dozens of offers on winter gear that retailers are desperate to sell before the season ends.

For summer gear, we recommend that you wait for Labor Day sales to pick up your lighter clothing. By sticking to sales to purchase your clothes, you’ll always get a good deal. Sign up for store cards as well. Many retailers offer gift cards or discount codes on your birthday, allowing you to pick up and outfit for cheap.

Best Coupon Apps

Read: Best Coupon Apps to Save Money off Your Shopping

5. Shop with an Online Retailer

Before you head out to the department stores to do some clothes shopping, check online. If you’re out and you find a garment you like, take note of the size, and search for it on a retail site like Amazon or eBay.

We love shopping online with eBay for previously-owned clothing. Sure, you may have to wait a while for the shipping, but scoring a $100 outfit on auction for $5 is worth the wait. There’s only one drawback to shopping online, and that’s that there’s no virtual change room to try on your outfit.

Some clothing may look fabulous in the advert or listing, but it looks terrible on you in person. Be careful before you hit the checkout button, and if you’re uncertain about how it will look on you, instead leave it rather than make a mistake.

Paribus Review

Read: Paribus Review: App to Take Advantage of Savings from Online Retailers

6. Make Your Clothes Yourself

If you have a talent with a needle and thread, then make your clothes from scratch. Designing and manufacturing your clothes is a tremendously satisfying experience, and it makes a fantastic talking point on your date.

You can find thousands of design patterns online. With the money you’re saving on clothes, you can afford to buy some premium materials for your new outfit. Look through Pinterest for fashion ideas, and look through fashion magazines to see what’s trending.

You never know, you could be the next Coco Chanel, and with a little practice, you could even make it your career.

7. Look for Affordable Alternatives to Premium Brands

We get it, you’re staring at that new Chanel clutch, and wishing with all your soul that it would materialize in your hands. Sometimes, we can’t afford what we want. That’s okay; you can find an alternative to that clutch by logging onto or downloading the app to your phone.

This website and app give you access to a community of bargain hunter like you that are thirsty for a deal. The app lets you know of any stores in the area hosting sales and lets you start a hunt of your own as well.

8. Get Smart with Your Shoes

Buy shoes that you can use on different occasions. With corporate wear now blending with casual wear to an extent, you can crossover your styles. It’s no longer a mortal fashion sin to wear sneakers with a suit, and you don’t have to worry about the fashion police noticing you wearing shoes with no socks.

Sneakers with smart trousers

9. Build a Shopping Fund and Make Sacrifices

We all need clothing, and it should be a part of our budget. If you can’t afford to include clothing in your monthly expenses right now, then it’s time to find a way to make it happen. Save up all of your spare change in a jar over the month; it’ll surprise you how much you have after a few weeks.

If you don’t use cash, then inquire about your credit cards rewards program. Most lenders give you a cashback of between one and 5-percent on your swipes. At the end of the month, but these savings away towards your shopping fund.

Another way to find more money in your budget is to cut back on your daily and monthly expenses. How many cups of coffee do you buy during the week? How times do you go out for lunch at the drive-thru? If you cut back on unnecessary daily expenses, then you can put the savings toward a new wardrobe at the end of the month.

Living Below Your Means

Read: The Complete Guide to Living Below Your Means

10. Cost Per Wear Vs. the Price Tag

While we’re discussing ways to dress smart on a budget, it’s essential to understand the disadvantages of cheap clothing. Expensive clothes have a juicy price tag for a reason. The materials in the clothes take more wear and tear than cheaper materials.

Therefore, while you may pay double the price or even triple for good clothing, it lasts far longer. While it’s important to respect your budget when shopping, that doesn’t mean you need to buy cheap stuff. You might buy three shirts for the price of one at a chain retailer.

However, if you buy one expensive shirt, it will probably outlast all three of the others. It’s essential to find a balance between price and quality when buying a new outfit.

11. Try it On

When choosing a new outfit, it’s fun to look at the clothes on the rack and imagine yourself modeling the dress. That’s why change rooms are so important. If you’re in a hurry, don’t buy a garment in a hurry, take the time to try it on instead.

You might find that the outfit you loved in the store window looks hideous when you try it on in the change room. Avoid wasting money on gas to drive back to the mall to return your dress and try it on before you buy.

Trying stuff on before you hit the cash register is a great way to let you match up outfits. Choose clothing that goes with other garments to maximize the number of outfits you can put together using your new clothes.

Keep factors in mind like the cut of the clothing, textures, and colors, as well as patterns. Neutral colors like white, grey, and navy are easy to [pair with almost any other color. Make sure the cut of the clothing isn’t set-specific, meaning that you can pair it with other garments you buy or have at home.

Trying on Clothes
Make sure you hit the changing rooms

12. Focus on Your Needs First

When you go shopping, it’s easy to lose track of your shopping goal when you see something you like calling your name. You went to the mall to buy a dress, and somehow you came back with another pair of shoes you couldn’t resist buying.

When shopping around, don’t dwell on the items you don’t need. Focus on what you went to the store for, and not the other nice-to-have items that might spark an impulse buying decision. The next time you find yourself pulling out your credit card at the shoe store instead of for that dress you needed, restrain yourself.

Buying stuff you don’t need usually results in the onset of a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse, and you’re likely to end up returning the shoes anyway. Save yourself the time and mental strain of giving in to your whims, and stick with the plan when shopping for clothes.

In Closing – You Don’t Need Gucci to Make a Fashion Statement

If you spend some time investigating and implementing the techniques mentioned in this article, you’re bound to find a few that are useful. Becoming a savvy clothes shopper takes some practice, but it’s a skill that will save you thousands of dollars over your life.

You don’t need to wear the big fashion brands to make a statement. Sometimes affordable clothing can look as good as designer stuff. Some people put together get outfits using affordable clothing all the time.

If you have a unique sense of style and finesse, then you’ll find a way to make sense of fashion, and improve your fashion sense.


Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased


  1. Avatar
    Tyson Coolidge Reply

    I like what you said about making sure that you try on clothes before you buy them so that you can ensure that they look nice. My brother has been telling me about how he wants to get some new hoodies for the winter months. I’ll share this information with him so that he can try them on before buying them.

  2. Avatar

    Great article. It is quite difficult to choose dresses in proper budget. We always spend more then our budget. I always face this problem. These suggestions are quite helpful and I would try them next time. Thanks for this lovely post.

Write A Comment