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 is working within some financial parameters. Today, I’m sharing some of my best tips to have great style on any budget. 

Creating a classic wardrobe that feels sophisticated yet comfortable is a lesson in nuances and simplicity. It’s also ever-changing. You will forever be editing and updating your wardrobe.

Keeping your wardrobe modern is my goal.

Most of our readers aren’t looking for crazy trends or head-to-toe designer looks.

Instead, they want to keep it simple and classic with the occasional trend thrown in, and most of all, easy to pull together.

Looking great while being smart with your money is more about exercising a deft hand in how you dress and what you buy rather than bringing more into your closet.

If we were chatting over a glass of wine, this is precisely what I would tell you to do to look stylish on a budget.

How to Have Great Style on a Budget

7 Ways to have great style on a budgetBONUS: Download our FREE Wardrobe Building Checklist to See Everything you Need for a Classic and Chic Closet Full of Clothes.

Stop Wearing Old Crap

Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you so you can build 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.

These are exceptions not the norm. 

And, of course, you will wear your Burberry trench or your grandmother’s Chanel jacket 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 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 is, the further we get a way from a decade, the look becomes more specific. 

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

We are starting our Spring Wardrobe Challenge in just a few weeks. If you are ready to finally pull your wardrobe together, stay tuned for our announcement with all the details in tomorrow’s post! 

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 will help you make better choices when you are shopping.

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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 love 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 elements of the style, 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. 

Here’s an example of texture rich, monochromatic outfit I recently wore with an inexpensive sweater from H&M and a clearance skirt from J.Crew Factory.

High Style, Low Cost

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

🎉How many unknown outfits are hanging in your closet?? . 🥂For date night I gave myself 2 challenges: . 1. Find an outfit I didn’t know I had, . 2. No jeans! . 🤚🏼So many of us go to jeans all the time. . I know I do because my life is super casual and jeans just fit me better. . I’m THRILLED with this outfit. . I had both pieces in my closet and never thought to put them together – and this is what I do for a living! . It shows how important it is to have an organized closet (you have to see your stuff!) and you have to give yourself a minute to look through what you have. . I love a monochromatic moment that combines various textures like the knobbiness of the sweater and the shine of the silk skirt💕 . And, this outfit was so affordable. The sweater was under $30 and the skirt was on clearance for $20. . So carve out some time and see if you can find the hidden looks in your wardrobe! . Swipe to see tagged retailers in picture. . 👼Photo-bomber just turned 14 months and is fresh out of the bath💕

A post shared by The Well Dressed Life (@thewelldressedlife) on

 

Figure out what you like and those items will start to jump off the rack at you!

Related: How to Define Your Personal Style

Keep Your Nails Polished with this Hack

How to give yourself a salon manicure at homeThere’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 get a manicure every couple weeks, I can’t always sneak out for one.

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On those 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.

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.  

Work with Neutrals, Texture and Basics

style on a budget
H&M tweed jacket paired with better basics.

For a hight 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 are also give the same effect.

Patterns can be neutral too. Animal prints, pinstripes, and even textures like tweed (like above) and croco 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. 

Making a Pattern Neutral

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.

There are so many patterns out there that lack sophistication and will ruin your outfit instantly. 

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Wonder what you should have in your closet? Download our FREE Wardrobe Checklist Here.

Avoid Super High Heels

Walking around like a newborn fawn isn’t a great look. Heels and platforms that are disproportionately high cheapen your look and throw off your balance, both literally and figuratively.

There are ways to give yourself some extra height other than wearing an extreme heel. Making sure your pants are hitting at your best length and wearing elongating necklaces and necklines can add the appearance of height.

You’ll also dumb down your look if your shoes are ill-fitting. If you can slide your finger between your heel and the back of your shoe, they don’t fit.  If you keep stepping out of your shoe, it’s time to donate.

Our guide to the most comfortable heels is a helpful place to start to organize your shoe collection. 

Creating the wardrobe you love takes a little bit of time upfront.  What I know for sure, after years of helping others get dressed and feel great in their clothes is that you don’t need to spend a fortune.  You just need discipline and an awareness of changing styles and trends to stay modern, current and classic.

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. Skip super high heels. No matter the cost, if you can’t walk in them, or if the proportion is too high you’ll look sloppy. Instead, spend what you can on quality shoes that help elevate your outfit. 

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Our readership inspires all of our posts. 

Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail. 

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7 Ways to Have Great Style on a Budget

31 thoughts on “7 Ways to Have Great Style on a Budget”

  1. 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.

    Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
    • LOL. Thanks Laurie! And I think a natural, buffed nail is JUST as good as a traditional manicure – and much easier to maintain. 😉

      Reply
  3. 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 .

    Reply
  4. Hello!!

    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?

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
    • Yes! Though it really depends on the neckline of your top. If you are wearing a higher neck, straight or boatneck style it can cut the line of your body in a very flattering way. Just watch that it is long enough, you don’t want it to hang at an awkward spot.

      Reply
  5. Love this article. Very good advice. I will continue to mix some prints and I’m feeling inspired to clean out my closet room in time for fall!!!
    I find this very relevant even as a 60 year old fashionista.

    Reply
  6. What’s wrong with owning the same bra for 6 years? I have bras I’ve owned for 15 years or more. They’re not bras I wear every day but I even have some of those that I’ve had for probably 5 years or more. They’re perfectly fine.

    Reply
  7. “if you’re wearing one bra almost every day, you shouldn’t expect it to last much longer than a month.” That is absurd! Who could possibly afford to replace their bras monthly besides maybe the Kardashians? Bras are expensive! If you buy a decent quality bra and take proper care of it, unless you experience major weight changes (like pregnancy) there is no reason a bra should not last several years. This notion that bras worn regularly need to be replaced every few months is a marketing ploy designed to sell more product.

    Reply
  8. Thank you Megan, this list will be so helpful as I work in my closets this weekend!! And, I love your tips for being the best me that I can be when it comes to fashion!

    Reply
  9. hi Megan
    Just came across your page really looking forward to all the hints and tips. Just recently turned 50 so its me time now looking forward to out with the old and in with the new quality not quantity me . Still have to put two through college so at least now i don’t have to suffer style wise for their benefit.

    Reply
  10. Megan, when I saw the Pin that said “Including: Stop Wearing Your Old Crap,” I had to check it out! Now I happen to have lots of “old” pieces that aren’t “crap” (well made classics in beautiful fabrics in great condition), but I also have a bunch of tops that have turned to “crap” that I hang onto thinking “I’ll wear this while I’m cooking (or gardening or doing housework).” But I think you’re right–it’s time for them to go!

    Reply
    • Yes! Not everything that’s old is “crap.” Sounds like you made some good decisions with timeless investment pieces.
      Also, I’m all for hanging on to things if you work in the garden, or paint – it’s really the old pieces that are dated, worn, and/or stained that we try to still use in an outfit. Those we can let go of! 🙂

      Reply
  11. Very interesting post. Some of my clothing goes back more than 40 years. And yes, they still fit me. I keep some of them around so I can remodel them as styles change, since I am very good with alterations and remakes. I also remodel yard sale finds or maybe just use their fabric for other purposes. After all, the zippers alone are probably worth more than the yard sale price.

    Reply
  12. So helpful, thanks for posting. I feel like I’m stuck on not knowing what in my closet looks dated – I need the reminder to get rid of old stuff because I won’t even realize something is 10 + years old! I just keep wearing it because I love it, and I’m not great (yet) at creating a good look, so I find it hard to change items. I really appreciate your blog for this reason, its helping me build a fashion foundation so I can make good intentional choices, not come across pieces or combinations that work mysteriously and gang on to them forever. 🤣

    Reply
  13. Hello
    I just want to let you know I always think how lovely you look. The photo of you in the love green outfit is gorgeous your baby in the picture just makes it adorable too.
    Best wishes Linda

    Reply

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