How to be Fashionable on a Budget

I must say, I enjoy fashion and dressing well. Certainly, there are different perspectives and opinions on what is fashionable, but generally, I think people are considered fashionable when they are wearing the latest styles and trends.

If you were to open a copy of a grocery store fashion magazine (GQ, Vogue, etc.), you’d come across what’s hot and hitting the streets in fashion today. But, you’d also notice the prices are astronomical. Who can afford the thousands of dollars these clothes cost? Perhaps those walking down the red carpet, but that’s not reality for most people!

So, if you enjoy being fashionable, but don’t have the cash, how can you wear the latest styles? I’m certainly not a fashion expert, but I think you can dress well and not spend a lot of money doing it. After all, the key to dressing fashionable doesn’t doesn’t have to be about the brands you buy, rather, it’s more about how you shop. Try these tips on for size!

1. Know What’s Fashionable

You can’t really guess when it comes to knowing what clothes are stylish or fashionable. What you might think looks good might very well be something that high kids in high school were wearing back in the 80’s? So, how do you stay on top of the latest trends? Subscribe to a fashion magazine. Again, you’ll see the most expensive clothes and fashion, but it’s the ideas you’re after and not the brand name! Look at the colors, the types of shirts, pants, accessories, etc. Figure out what you like best and then consider the next tip…

2. Shop in the Right Place

If you live in a large metropolitan area you’re probably accustomed to certain malls that have department stores and other shops with all the major designers. You’ll find the latest styles and trends you saw in the magazines in those stores listed at the top retail prices. But, that’s not where you’re going to shop! There are plenty of stores such as Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, Ross, etc. that sell great brands and styles with big discounts. The trick in buying fashionable clothes in these stores is to visit them often. Set aside clothing money in your budget each month and visit your favorite discount clothing stores 2 – 3 times per month. Also, ask when these stores get new shipments and plan your visits the day after the shipments arrive. You’ll get the latest arrivals at the best prices!

3. Shop at the Right Time

Certainly you know that summer clothes are most expensive in summer and so on. It’s best to shop off-season as much as possible to save money. While you might not buy the latest styles as soon as they hit the stores, you’ll save tons of money by shopping off-season. And do styles really go out that quick for the typical crowd of people? Let’s face it, most of us aren’t modeling in New York City each week. The rest of America are months behind and can still dress fashionable!

4. Check With Your Stylist

If you’re married you may not realize it, but you have a personal stylist. You may not realize it but your spouse (especially wives) can help you dress fashionably well. I lean on my stylist all the time and she helps me when I go shopping to make sure I’m not purchasing some ridiculous looking shirt! Guys, let’s face it, most women have a better read on style than you do, so pay attention to what your wife says before updating your wardrobe.

Do you enjoy dressing well and being fashionable? Are you able to do so on a budget? If so, let us know your tips in the comments!

Photo By Yogma

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  1. Jason

    Your comment about what someone thinks is fashionable might be what high school kids wore in the 80s made me laugh. I was at a department store with my wife last weekend and saw clothes on display that I’m pretty sure I saw on Saved By The Bell first. So the stuff we wore in school in the 80s is being worn in high school today too!

    Solid colors will *always* be fashionable. My “fashion on a budget” involves one pair of nice jeans, brown pants, black pants, and several different kind of solid color shirts. Some for casual, some for evening, some for more fancy.

    Something else I’ve done is buy a tie I really, really like. Then I buy two or three different colored shirts to go with it.

    Last tip: I never shop without first going to the red-tag area. I always, always, always start a clearance. Without fail I find a couple good items for not much money. My favorite recent experience was buying three shirts, a light jacket, and a pair of jeans for $17. New. In fact, I’m wearing one of those shirts and the jeans right now!


  2. Elizabeth

    Good points, but as a woman I find it’s not quite so easy 😉 Ultimately, you have to dress your body, not necessarily to the trends. For instance, I buy a lot of classic pieces that will last a long time, but can pair nicely with a trendy item or accessory. For instance, a flattering pair of black dress pants will take me far with a trendy top for going out or a classic white blouse or shirt with a trendy necklace or scarf for work. I spend on the pieces I’ll get the most use out of.

    For me, saving money has to do with skipping a lot of the trends. If the colour and fit don’t look good on me, why waste money buying something just because other people say I should? I often don’t wear the trendy colours for spring because I look terrible in pastels. I’d much rather wear a colour that flatters my colouring, and it doesn’t matter what year I wear it in.

  3. Pamela

    Maybe it’s just because I couldn’t be fashionable if Isaac Mizrahi dressed me himself each morning but I find the best way to be fashionable is to live somewhere where no one else is fashionable. My town of grown-up hippies still trades in tie-dye. It’s a cheap and easy way to dress how you like.

  4. Mary

    @Pamela — Good point! I don’t have too many fashionistas in my social circle, so that definitely takes the financial pressure off. (Same goes with home decor!)

    I save cash by keeping a list of items I need so I’m not falling for impulse buys.

  5. Mark

    Thrift stores and second hand shops are also a great way to stay fashionable on the cheap. A few other sources are garage sales, flea markets and swap meets.

  6. Jon | Free Money WIsdom

    Good article! Everyone should be able to dress nice on a budget. You just have to take a hit to your pride and shop at the lower end of retail stores like Ross and Marshalls. During college, I used to be asked where I got my clothes. People wouldn’t believe me when I told them I got everything at 60% off retail at places like Nordstrom haha. I’m a big believer in living rich but not spending the money required.

  7. Jurrell Kemp

    Great post Jason I am one those people who like dress nice but don’t too much care if they are designer or not and I work from home so I go out but not that much. I find it easy to keep up with the latest trends by simply talking to those I love such as friends and family or just simple visit a fashion blog that tells you the latest trends and where you can get “the latest look” for a reasonable price.

  8. Lea Sadler

    Two things:

    It’s also good to lean away from being “stylish” to develop your OWN style.
    Ebay and your local thrift store can also be awesome places to pick up fashions at a serious discount. You can also set up (or have your stylist set up…) clothing swap parties for your family and friends. That way, no one has to spend a dime, and everyone can pick up something new…or more in their size, depending on the reason for the shop!

  9. Like Lea mentioned above, I’m going to try to do a swap party with my friends. I know I’m not the only one with clothes and accessories and purses that have not been used for a while. Also, I tend to shop at Ross and TJ Maxx and secondhand stores like Plato’s Closet (brand name clothing for like, $6-$10 a pop) and thrift stores.

  10. Linda

    Great article Jason! I’d love to add that having great style doesn’t necessarily mean you wear the latest fashion. If you can find your style (what suits you best) you can keep current by mixing and matching pieces from thrift stores, old items that you’ve held on to, or something from your spouses closet and keep a cool look about you. It’s all about creativity.

    PS: Nice meeting you yesterday. 🙂

  11. Nancy

    I have 3 young adult/teenagers and I’ve raised them to be thrifty. They are some of the best dressed girls around, and almost every piece of clothing they wear is second hand. This is the rule we live by; If it’s from Goodwill/Salvation Army, I pay 100%. If it’s from a thrift store, they pay 50% and I pay 50%. If it’s from a retailer, they pay 100%. It works well for all of us.

  12. Being fashionable does not mean that all you need to wear are all classy clothes that are expensive. Being fashionable means being creative in what you are wearing; by creating designs from old clothes and many more.