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7 Ways to Have Great Style on a Budget

7 Ways You’ve Never Heard of Before to Look Stylish on a Budget
A budget is subjective. One person’s “save” is another person’s “splurge,” but everyone works within some kind of  financial parameters.

Today, I’m sharing some of my best tips to have great style on any budget. 

Most of our readers are looking for simple and classic style advice, with a few trends, and outfit inspiration that is easy to pull together.
Embracing your personal style, while being smart with your money takes a lot more than shopping sales, it’s about understanding how things go together, and little ways you can create a cohesive outfit with the pieces you already have and love.
If we were having a casual chat, this is what I would tell you to do to look stylish on a budget.

If we were having a casual chat, this is what I would tell you to do to look stylish on a budget.

How to Have Great Style on a Budget

How to Have Great Style on a budget

1. Stop Wearing Old Crap

Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you so you can create a modern, chic style on a budget is to get rid of your old stuff. 

Inevitably, every time I say this, I am flooded with emails telling me about this one fantastic garment that someone is still wearing after 20 or 30 years.

So let me say this, yes, fair enough, there can be a handful of things with real staying power. But that is the exception, not the rule and should not be the expectation for most items. 

7 Ways to have great style on a budget

If you have a Burberry trench or your grandmother’s Chanel jacket, you will most like have it for a lifetime because you’re supposed to. You’re paying for their quality, craftsmanship, and enduring style upfront.

I spent ten years as a personal stylist for very normal people with very normal budgets. I have stood in thousands of closets, and the one common thread (pun intended) is that too many women are holding onto and wearing their old crap.

– An astonishing number of clients would try to keep stained and damaged pieces because they could “put something over it.”

– Even more, they would be physically uncomfortable in clothes too small because they refused to buy the next size up.

– But the most common offense, the real reason I was there, was that they didn’t see when items were becoming dated. 

For Great Style on a Budget Remove Your Dated Pieces

Styles and fashions evolve.

It’s why it is so easy to throw an 80s costume party. The older a piece, the further we get away from a decade, the more specific the look. 

And even though we’re seeing the 90s circle back, it’s not the same. 

So hop in your closet and give it a good edit. 

2. Define Your Personal Style

If you want to have enviable style on a budget, knowing what you like and what you don’t will save you so much time and money and help you make better choices when shopping.

Our preferences and needs change drastically over the years, yet we tend to stay stuck in a particular time when it comes to our clothing.

The best way to maximize your budget is to create a framework for your style.

I used to have new clients create style inspiration boards with pictures from magazines and categories and, as time went by, on Pinterest. (You can see my Pinterest boards here.)

Having a visual of what you like is the most efficient way to make the most of your budget because it gives you a structure through which to filter your choices.

When you get clear on what you like, you start to see those things in other places. 

For example, I’ve always loved the look of Theory.

I love monochromatic outfits, mixing neutrals and textures, and I love fitted blazers with jeans. But I can’t wear head-to-toe Theory because I have to put three kids through college. 

Once I broke down the style elements, I started to see it in other places, and now I can easily recreate those looks with pieces from stores like H&M and Zara. 

Related: How to Define Your Personal Style

3. Keep Your Nails Polished with this Hack

How to give yourself a salon manicure at home

There’s no doubt that polished nails elevate your look in a big way, but weekly manicures add up and are total time killers. While I try to get a manicure every couple of weeks, I can’t always sneak out for one (especially these days).

When I am out of time, I do it myself using this quick hack, and my nails look like I just walked out of the salon. You can see my step-by-step guide here.

4. Match Your Hardware

“Hardware” is anything extra on an item like a belt or shoe buckle, buttons, zippers, chains on a bag; you get the idea. By coordinating your metal color, you create a cohesive look. It’s subtle but has a significant impact.

This means that if you are wearing a navy blazer with gold buttons, don’t wear a shoe with a silver buckle. Instead, wear one with gold, or skip altogether.

Along with keeping your hardware the same, be careful not to wear too much. Hardware will weigh down your look, and it doesn’t look sophisticated when there is too much.

For example, if you are wearing a zipper-heavy moto jacket, avoid pairing it with pieces that have additional hardware.

Also, be careful of pairing heavy hardware with busy patterns.  

5. Work with Neutrals, Texture, and Basics

style on a budget

H&M tweed jacket paired with better basics


For a high style look within a budget, focus your resources on basics, neutrals and pieces with texture, (like the tweed jacket above paired with black basics).

You’ll get more use out of your pieces, but you’ll also look more pulled together. When neutrals are paired together, they create a richness to your look, regardless of how much you spent.

Neutrals are more than just white, tan, brown, and black. Navy, gray, and burgundy also give the same effect.

Patterns can be neutral too. Animal prints, pinstripes, and even textures like tweed (like above) count. Incorporating these and pairing them together will elevate your look in a big way.

If you want to include patterns in your wardrobe, look for more sophisticated prints that feel like a neutral and wear them with modern basics. 

6. Don’t Mix Patterns

Contrary to what most fashion blogs will tell you, mixing pattern takes a great deal of technique and an understanding of color theory, balance, and composition. If you do it haphazardly, you will look like a hot mess.

Instead, pick a sophisticated on and ground it with better basics. 


See outfit details here. 

7. Avoid Clearance Impulse Purchases

No kidding, right?

But here’s the thing.

When I worked with clients in their closets, I noticed they were burning money in specific categories.

For example, discounted shoes from places like DSW or Off Fifth.

I would look at shelves full of marked-down boxes filled with barely or never worn shoes. And my first thought was always, for what was spent, you could have a couple of beautiful, well-made shoes instead.

Don’t get me wrong; I share weekly sales, so you know I love a discount.

You just need to remember only to buy things that work in your wardrobe, will make more outfits (at least 2 -3), and fit your style profile.

Style on A Budget Recap

This is a lot of information! Let’s break it down:

  1. Purge your closet of old, dated, and damage items to make room for updated classic. 
  2. Clearly define your personal style so it’s easier to shop and to create outfits that best reflect you. 
  3. Grooming is high impact and can be low cost. Have your nails manicured with our simple hack is an easy way to look polished on a budget. 
  4. Create a cohesive look by matching your hardwares. Keep gold with gold, silver with silver. It makes a huge difference. 
  5. Work with neutrals, textures, and better basics. Divide your resources so you are investing in workhorse pieces. These allow you to then layer in less expensive and/or trend focused pieces.
  6. Avoid patterns. Most patterns lack sophistication and look cheap – even if they aren’t. Also, skip mixing and matching patterns unless you are really good at it.
  7. Manage clearance rack shopping. Do it, but make sure it something you actually need. 
7 Ways to Have Great Style on a Budget

Related Posts

 Join Megan Kristel for a comprehensive, 3 hour long, LIVE Virtual Workshop sharing personal style and shopping tips for women over 40 on March 31, 2023.


Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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Ellen Kirchdoerfer

Tuesday 7th of August 2018

Love these tips! Very easy to implement. Thanks Megan!


Tuesday 7th of August 2018


I am expecting my first child (due in February) and I don't want to go all out and buy several maternity clothes. I want to create a fun and realistic wardrove capsule for this stage in life. Do you have any recommendations of some staples that I really need to get?

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 8th of August 2018

Congratulations! I'll create a comprehensive post with more detail but a few things to think of: only buy when you need something. It goes against everything I preach, but your body changes quickly and you can't predict in what way. I'm currently 5 months pregnant and ordered a few casual maternity tees early on, thinking I'd get bigger quickly since this is my third. but they are still huge on me. Also, decide what your basics are, a great jean, black pant, maybe a dress and invest in them. Save on inexpensive tops and tee shirts. I like Old Navy for casual maternity. And don't discount just sizing up, you might not need true maternity in every item.

Ordering online is helpful, since there are few brick and mortar options, you'll get more variety.

For special occasion items, I like Rent the Runway. I signed up for their monthly subscription service and really like it. I also get Stitch Fix every few weeks and told my stylist to include both maternity and other "bump friendly" pieces. Hope that helps!


Friday 27th of July 2018

oops wrong email address


Friday 27th of July 2018

Guess its time for me to get rid of 20 year old clothes! Not an easy task! Also difficult to find quality and clothes that I love. However, I live your advise. Perhaps I heed help .


Saturday 2nd of June 2018

Truly an eye opener. Thank you for these tips.

Megan Kristel

Tuesday 5th of June 2018

Thanks Julie!


Thursday 1st of March 2018

At last! About time someone said stop wearing old crap. The only thing I would disagree with is the manicure. Personally I prefer the natural buffed nail as I can never chip those! Beyond that great advice that I seem to have always stuck to myself.

Megan Kristel

Thursday 1st of March 2018

LOL. Thanks Laurie! And I think a natural, buffed nail is JUST as good as a traditional manicure - and much easier to maintain. ;)

Mary Schreyer

Monday 29th of January 2018

Great info to help plan my next purchases. Just spent a year of rehab and now I’m ready to get back to living again. Thanks for the direction.

Megan Kristel

Tuesday 30th of January 2018

Thanks Mary!!! Best of luck to you xx

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