12 Ways to Look Great on a Budget

I know that we all want to look like a million bucks, even when our shopping budget isn't nearly that...generous. Here are some of my favorite tricks and tips I've picked up over the years on shopping smart and looking fabulous, without spending your entire paycheck. We've all heard the "shop at Target, H+M, and Forever 21" advice countless times, but these take that advice a little above and beyond. 

  1. Look polished.  Learn how to give yourself a great manicure (and pedicure, too) and the next time you get your hair cut, ask the stylist to teach you how to do a perfect blow out. Looking polished isn't something that has to cost a lot (or anything, if you already have the necessary supplies) but it goes a long way in boosting your self confidence, which will make you carry yourself better, and can make even the most bargain-y dress look amazing. 
  2. Accessorize. Even if it is just a few bangles from a street vendor, accessorizing really can take a look to the next level and make that $20 outfit look like it cost WAY more. 
  3. Switch it up. To me, one of the quickest ways to make a less expensive dress look like a really nice dress is to switch out the boring fabric belt (or cheap plastic one) that the dress came with for a great leather (or other funky material) one. You can find great belts on sale at a lot of places- one of my personal faves came from the Gap, on sale for just $3 from around $40. Another great place to look for belts is the thrift store- it's easy to find a "vintage" looking men's belt on the cheap! 
  4. Shop your closet. Yes, we've all heard this a dozen times. I'm going to take this a step further, though. Invite a friend over for the afternoon (you can make a day out of it, and return the favor!) and have your friend look at your wardrobe. Sometimes, we look at our pieces as the "same old things" but with fresh eyes, you just may be able to come up with lots of fun new looks. Additionally, you can even take pictures to both help you remember those outfits (for when you're trying to get ready in a rush) , and see which ones are the most figure flattering. 
  5. Consign, consign, consign. After you shop your closet, chances are, you'll find a few pieces that are in excellent condition, but that you've never worn for one reason or another. Take those to your local consignment shop-you may be able to make some of the money back for those items, and voila, more money for stuff you'll actually wear. 
  6. Make a list. I can't stress this enough. One of my favorite things to do is to make a written list at the beginning of the season of things I really want to buy, and that my closet is currently lacking. If something is super trendy, I try to buy it on the cheap. If it's a classic staple that's missing, I'm willing to spend more for a lasting piece. 
  7. Buy less. Simple concept, but it can save you a bundle. After you make that list, try your very hardest to stick to it. You're a lot more likely to love your wardrobe with the pieces you really wanted, rather than a bunch of things you just randomly bought in the meantime. 
  8. Fit is everything. Yes, this isn't necessarily a way to save on clothes, but, let's face it. You won't wear clothes that don't fit, or are super unflattering. I know how tempting it is to buy clothes to fit the size you want to be, but do yourself a favor, and find clothes that fit the body you have now. Clothes can always be taken in, but there's no use in looking like you actually gained weight, especially when you're trying to lose, just because your clothes are too tight. Remember: no one ever sees the size tag except you! 
  9. Maintain, maintain, maintain. Take care of the stuff you do have. Yes, it may be more expensive to take that silk dress you got at 75% off the original price to the dry cleaner, instead of washing it in the sink, but if it gets ruined, the money you spent (even if it was a bargain!) goes straight down the drain (or into the donation pile).  Same goes for shoes. Take care of them. Nothing looks tackier than heels worn down to the metal inside the shoe. And that noise when you walk is similar to nails on a chalkboard. SO not chic. Take them into a cobbler or shoe repairman, and your heels will be good as new for about $10. 
  10. If you crave designer clothes, but can't stomach the price tag, shop sample sales. If you live in NY, Chicago or LA, Racked is a great online resource for seeing which sample sales are worth fighting the crowds for, and which are a waste of time. If you're like me, and don't live in one of those cities, Gilt Groupe, Haute Look, and Rue La La should have a bookmark home on your computer! 
  11. Buy stuff from chain stores only on sale. Yes, this sounds like such a simple thing, but here's a little trick I've figured out from years in the trenches  of shopping experience. Stuff at stores like Gap go on sale so frequently, it makes no sense to pay full price. Many stores have 30% off days, and it seems like Gap.com has a 30% off sale going at least once a week. So check online before you buy in store. If it's a bigger ticket item, the $5 or $6 shipping is a small price to pay when you're saving a ton. Places like Gap are great for buying closet staples, and buying them on sale frees up more of your wardrobe to buy splurge trend items. 
  12. And last but not least, only buy what you love. If what you love is a $10 striped shirt, or a $200 dress that you have to save for months to buy, you'll be so much happier with that item than 20 random ones. It's worth saving for something you adore, and something that you can pull out of the closet at a moment's notice and know you'll feel amazing in that outfit. 
What are your favorite ways to shop on a smaller budget? 


  1. This is so awesome! Thank you! I'm all about investing in great pieces here and there, and mixing 'em up with a few fresh layering basics every season. :)

  2. I love this list! Spot on :)

  3. I totally love your list! I agree on all points! It's very nice to find new combinations on clothes you really have. I always dreamed of photographing all my clothes and make combinations to remember but never find the time :P
    And I agree with your last point, you have to buy things you really love!


  4. Great tips! I cannot agree more with everything you said!!! Thanks for this post!



  5. I like the idea of making a list.... I've never tried that before!

  6. Number 6. Make a list - Most definitely my favourite thing in this whole wide world. Makings lists of things I want and after a month crossing all the ones I have bought. I LOVE it.

    Number 8. Fit - This is something that bugs me insanely. People who wear their size 6,8,10 clothes and look like sausages. Who cares about the frigging label!!!



  7. What a great post! Agree with everything. x

  8. Thanks for the tips - a great list! I've just spent a weekend cycling and climbing, so not feeling great, but I'll use some of these tomorrow!

  9. Great tips!! I try to do all of what you listed, and I do pretty well. M friends and co-workers always say I'm good at bargain shopping. And I also consign my clothing and use whatever credit that is in my consignor account to buy new pieces that I really need!!

    It all works out - especially for someone who has a shopping problem!

    Great list :)

  10. Good advice, though, for me this is hard right now. I pretty much am only buying new clothes when I drop a size...losing weight can be a pain, but it's worth it. It just sucks that it can be pricey to change up clothes even when you budget shop.

  11. what a great list!!...I wish I didnt live in the sticks so I can go to sample sales xxx

  12. Great post! You've managed to give practical tips that one can actually follow (unlike many magazine articles nowadays). Well done, darling :)

  13. Wonderful post! You hit the nail on the head for sure when it comes to building a wardrobe on a budget and working with what you got!

  14. Love this post thank you so much for sharing! So many good ideas here!
    Monique xx


  15. Can I add one more?
    Learn how to sew! Fabrics are not as expensive as the clothing, and you will be able to make something no one will ever have. :)

  16. Learning to sew is a great idea! And so is shopping vintage, which was one I accidentally left off the list!

  17. Great list! I need to take some of these into consideration. I'm the worst about getting in clothing ruts.

  18. My problem is I lack patience. This season I have absolutely no money due to some life changing decisions, so I simply cannot shop, just can't afford anything. As much as I hate the sales, I'm already counting the days. I really must learn to wait for the discounts.
    Really liked this post xx

  19. What a great article. It seems like most of this should be common sense, but it really isn't! Or maybe it is, but just hard to stick to.