How to Dress Super Chic on a Budget

how to dress chic on a budget

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I don't know about you, but I don't like looking like I'm on a budget.   

While saving money and keeping my wardrobe fairly sensible is important to me, it still brightens my day when I pass by a mirror and appreciate the outfit I put together.  

It makes me feel upbeat and confident, especially on those rough days when things don't go my way.  

That being said, I'm no fashionista.

I like my wardrobe simple, easy, and pretty. And with a toddler at home, I prefer to keep everything as machine washable as possible! 

It has certainly taken me a few years to find the perfect combination between looking put together, staying on a budget, and making the whole process easy.

I don't particularly enjoy shopping or putting outfits together in the morning, so the "easy" criteria is a must for me. 

Today I want to share with you what my process looks like so that you can start planning your own chic and affordable wardrobe as well! 

how to dress well on a budget-min

1. Be Okay With Having Less 

I know. I'm starting with the not so fun one. 

But this tip is so important! Part of keeping your finances strong in any area is simply by buying less.

Even if you are getting your clothes from ultra cheap thrift stores, frequent shopping will still add up.  

Not to mention, you might find yourself on an episode of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo as you try to declutter entire rooms full of unworn clothing if you don't! 

I think it's so important that we find ways to feel okay with just enough.   

Just enough clothes to dress for most occasions, just enough home decor to live well, just enough beauty products to get the job done. I think there is something to be said for pushing away the desire for excess.  

how to dress chic on a budget


It's a normal human trait, and something we all struggle with from time to time. Yours might not be shoes or makeup. Maybe it's books. Or home decor. Or stuff for your kids.  

I don't like shopping very much anymore, but that wasn't always the case. Over the years I've gotten a lot better at figuring out the hidden reason behind why I bought more than I needed.

Usually it has to do with some form of anxiety that retail therapy temporarily soothes. 

So before you makeover your wardrobe and start purchasing new clothes to hang in your closet, take a little time to sit with a cup of coffee and reflect.


2. Dress Well On A Budget By Creating A Capsule Wardrobe 

Sticking to a capsule wardrobe has been a game changer for me.

Not only has it helped me save money, but it  has also simplified my closet so that I can pair just about any top and bottom together. 

This makes getting dressed in the morning super easy, because all I need to do is pull out a top that is warm or cool enough for the weather, and pair it with a bottom.

My shoes follow the capsule wardrobe style as well (black or nude), which makes almost any choice acceptable for the clothes I've picked out.

how to dress chic on a budget

So what exactly did my closet look like before I decided on a capsule wardrobe?

It. Was. A. Mess.   

Even though I had probably 100 clothing items or more, I always felt like I had nothing to wear. 

I'd pull out a cute patterned top I had, and quickly realize that all of my patterned skirts would clash with it.  

Maybe I'd pull out a cute blue blouse to pair with my favorite jeans, but then realize the only flats I had were mauve and didn't work together at all.

Leopard print handbags clashed with orange tops, and springy scarves looked out of place in the fall.  

It didn't take long after seeing the capsule wardrobe trend going around on Pinterest for me to realize that I had made a fatal wardrobe mistake.  

I had absolutely no plan for my wardrobe, and I bought pretty much anything I thought looked cute on its own. It was a disaster.   

Not to mention, I spent a good chunk of change on all these clothes that I was never wearing.

How to Start A Capsule Wardrobe 

The capsule wardrobe changed everything for me. Now I pretty much only buy three colors: black, white/cream, and blush. Those are the colors that look best on me, and they all go together seamlessly.  

For shoes, I buy black or brown.  

The big game changer here is that I rarely buy patterns. This has been an absolute lifesaver for me.  

Sure, I do have to turn down some cute pieces sometimes. But knowing that my outfits will always coordinate with each other, and that I'm not buying more than is necessary, is worth it to me.  

Of course, there are a couple of exceptions.  

My Capsule Wardrobe Secrets

First, I still buy jeans. Thankfully, my jeans go with all three of my capsule colors so it works out really well.  

Second, I allow myself to buy patterns if the piece is a full outfit (ie. dresses and pant suits, but I don’t wear pant suits)  

Because I keep all of my jackets and coats in the realm of black, cream, blush, and denim, I can pretty much guarantee that all of them will fit with any patterned dress I buy. 

Since dresses are single pieces, I don't have to worry about them clashing with a top or a bottom.

All I have to do is throw on a pair of shoes and maybe a scarf, and I'm good to go. 

Of course, I'm not suggesting that you choose the same colors for your capsule wardrobe as I have!

This is one of those things where you really want to get a few second opinions on the colors that look best with your hair and skin color.  

Then, just get started by getting rid of your patterned pieces and the things you no longer wear. After that it's as simple as filling in the gaps with capsule approved pieces.

how to dress well on a budget


3. Buy Quality Staple Clothing Items   

My third piece of advice to help you dress well on a budget is to spend a little extra money on your staple items.  

So what are staples exactly?  

Staple clothing pieces are the ones that you wear over and over, week after week. 

This might be jeans, a nice coat, or blouses for work that you pull out of your closet on the regular. 

If it's something you wear often, you will actually save money in the long run by buying a high quality version upfront and wearing it for several years before it needs to be replaced.  

If you wear camis daily for example, it would be better to spend $80 on a cami that will last you five years, than spend $25 on a cami that will last only a few months before fraying. 

How to Find Inexpensive High Quality Clothing  

This isn't to say that you have to spend lots of money to get high-quality items. Nope, you definitely don't!  

I have found super high quality pieces on Nordstrom clearance racks and sites like Lulu's that are more mid priced and have lasted me for years. 

I've had my favorite winter coat for three winters now that I bought from Macy's for only $100.

Sure, it wasn't a cheap coat. But it's a beautiful coat that is extremely warm, and it still looks as new as the day I bought it. To me, that is certainly a frugal win! 

Thredup is my favorite place to shop online for clothing. They're the largest online thrift shop in the world, and all of their pieces are in excellent or new condition. 

I love finding pretty outfits on Pinterest, and then purchasing similar items on Thredup. It took me about 10 minutes to find the photo and all of the Thredup items below, and you can see the whole outfit only costs $50! 

save money on clothing women


4. Thrift Clothing Pieces You Won’t Wear As Often 

Now that we've talked about your clothing staples, let's move on to the stuff you don't wear as often.  

You know what I'm talking about.

The blazer you know you're only going to wear four times a year, or the Christmas dress you really want to have but you know you won't wear past the holidays.

how to dress chic on a budget

These are the perfect items to source from local thrift shops if you want to look chic on a budget.  

My love of thrift store shopping started as a teenager.

My best friend and I were pretty broke as most teenagers are, so we made it our mission to put together the best outfits we possibly could for only 10 bucks. Little did I know that these years would serve me very well. 

Now I routinely find brand name and ultra high quality pieces in thrift stores for under $20. My favorite DKNY blazer that fits like a glove? $12. The blush scarf that's gotten a million compliments since I bought it? $3.  

My #1 Tip for Successful Thrift Store Shopping

There is, however, a secret to successful thrift store shopping. 

Are you ready? 

The secret happens to be my number one rule when I go, and that is… 

Only buy it if you absolutely, for sure, 100% LOVE the item!  

I can't tell you guys how many times in the past I've brought home items I wasn't totally sold on, but thought, "It’s only five bucks, so why not."  

Don't be me.   

This is a great way to waste money and end up with a closet full of things that look really mediocre on you.  

Now each time I go shopping, I asked myself if I really truly love the item before I buy it. If the answer is no, I put it back.


5. Shop For Inexpensive Accessories to Dress Up Your Outfits  

One of the easiest ways to dress well on a budget also happens to be one of the cheapest. Yay!  

Accessories like scarves and jewelry can take a very basic outfit and quickly make it look amazing.  

All of the scarves in my closet have been gifted to me or were picked up at a thrift shop for $2 to $3. Most of my jewelry pieces are ones I've had for years, and I re-wear them over and over.  

dress well on a budget

I did purchase a pair of gold hoops while in France this last summer. They were affordable, high quality,  and something I admire each time I put on.  

There's a certain air of Marie Kondo spirituality that goes into curating a great wardrobe.  

When you do it right, you choose items carefully and thoughtfully and slowly build your wardrobe over time. Not only is this good for your budget, but I honestly believe it's good for our minds as well. 


6. Tailor Your Thrift Store Finds 

Another way I've found to save money on clothing and dress well on a budget in the meantime is to have your clothing tailored.  

Let's say, for example, that you find the perfect dress at a thrift or consignment shop. You know it is something you would wear for years and years, the fabric and stitching is high quality, the price is perfect, and... it's just a couple inches too long for you.   

Buy it and have that shiz tailored girl!  

You'll look like a million bucks, and you'll still come out ahead budget wise.


7. Use Shoptagr to Get More Expensive Pieces At A Discount 

Here's one of my favorite little secrets I use to get more expensive pieces I really want at a cheaper price. 

And note, this tip can be used for much more than just clothing! You can use it for pretty much anything you buy online.  

It's this little browser extension called Shoptagr. 

Shoptagr allows you to essentially tag an item online, and it will send you an email when the price has dropped.  

How cool is that?  

shoptagr save money

For clothing in particular, you can expect the price to drop at the end of the current season you are in.   

Sure, the season maybe mostly over when the item goes on sale, but maybe not!   

Clothing prices will drop for a lot of reasons, including them becoming out of season, out of stock, or the retailer simply needing new styles to feature.  

If you find something that's a little pricier but it would fit perfectly into your capsule wardrobe, consider using Shoptagr to notify you when the price drops. A little patience can really pay off! 

8. Use Rakuten and Honey When Shopping Online 

My last but no less important tip is to use Rakuten (formerly Ebates)  and Honey when you shop online. 

Both of these extensions are completely free, and they routinely save me between 10% and 40% off my cart at checkout when I shop at just about any retailer online. 

honey money saving review

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We live in an age where there are so many great ways to save money on clothing and still dress well, and for that I am grateful!   

Let’s recap my best tips for dressing chic on a budget: 

  1. Be okay with having fewer clothes. 
  1. Stick to a capsule wardrobe where everything mixes and matches. 
  1. Buy high quality staple clothing items that you will wear over and over. 
  1. Thrift the pieces you know you won’t wear as often. 
  1. Shop for inexpensive accessories to make the most of a simple wardrobe. 
  1. Tailor your thrift store finds when they are an almost fit. 
  1. Use Shoptagr to get notified of discounts on pricier clothing items. 
  1. Use the Rakuten and Honey extensions to get discounts at online checkout. 

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