How to Be Stylish Without Spending a Lot of Money

Four Parts:Shopping at Affordable StoresTrading in Your Old ClothingMaking Smart Decisions While ShoppingStyling Yourself

Bargain shopping can be turned into an art. Once you've mastered it, your closet will be full of cute and affordable clothes that express your unique personality and style. There are numerous ways to shop on a budget, and it might take a little experimenting to see which method of bargain shopping is best for you.

Part 1
Shopping at Affordable Stores

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    Shop at discount stores. These are the best stores to shop at when you're looking for designer brands and current trends at friendly prices. They normally carry clothes that are in season and offer a huge variety. These stores get new inventory all the time, so visit every couple of weeks to check out all of the new merchandise.
    • Some examples of these stores are Marshall's, T.J.Maxx, DSW, and Burlington Coat Factory. You can find these stores in almost every city, so go online to find the discount stores near you.
    • When a major designer produces more items than it can sell at department stores, off-price retailers, otherwise known as discount stores, buy the merchandise at discounted prices. Then, they pass these savings onto customers. This is how you're able to save money shopping at these stores.
    • Full-priced department stores have the option of returning merchandise to clothing manufacturers if it doesn’t sell, but discount stores’ purchases are final. Because of this, they must sell everything they have in stock. This makes sale prices astoundingly low.[1]
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    Go thrifting for clothes. Shopping at thrift stores is an awesome way to save money and find one-of-a-kind pieces. Thrifting isn't as glamorous as most shopping experiences – thrift stores can be dirty, dusty, and extremely cluttered. But if you're willing to dedicate some time to thoroughly look, you just might find some gems.
    • Thrift stores are cheaper than any other store or sale rack. You might find less clothing to buy, but the pieces you do find will be unique and affordable.
    • Thrifting will allow you to include some other fashion eras in your wardrobe. Good fashion is timeless, so adding some vintage pieces will enhance your closet.[2]
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    Visit an outlet mall. Outlet malls carry discounted clothing from past seasons, or clothing from current seasons that isn't selling well in retail stores. And, while already discounted, outlet stores have sales too. The sale price of an already discounted item is a great way to be stylish while saving money.
    • When you walk into an outlet mall store, there will be beautiful displays just like in a traditional retail store. Instead of shopping here, head to the clearance racks to get the best deals.
    • Outlet malls tend to become a whole day affair so make sure you allot yourself enough time to shop.
    • Some "deals" at outlets really aren’t that great. Don’t take the stores word for something; that shirt may only be $4 cheaper than retail, despite their advertising.[3]
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    Stick to the sale rack. Every time you enter a store, go directly to the sale rack. These will become one of your favorite places to shop. Visit your current favorite stores, as well as stores you may not normally go into. The more places you try, the better luck you will have. Most department stores usually have a few huge sales a year, and most other stores you can find in the mall have a sale rack or two in the back. You will learn to live there; it’s a quaint neighborhood really.
    • Be wary of the return policy for on-sale items; they’re usually different.
    • Don’t be ashamed to be cheap. Have no shame in walking straight past all the regular-priced items to the sale racks. Saving money is smart.[4]
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    Get cheap clothes online. The Internet is the best place to go if you’re in pursuit of a specific item. In addition to sale sections on regular websites, there are countless websites that specialize in discount clothes and overstocked items. You can discover your own lesser known websites simply through doing a little research.
    • Comparison shop. Use price-comparison sites such as,, and to compare the prices of items that are available at various online stores.
    • Learning what size to order can be a trial and error process. Measuring yourself is a must in the beginning. Start out buying easier items like shirts and shoes before buying harder items like coats, and the ever unpredictable jeans or pants. Don't buy jeans or pants online unless you have tried them on before, but it’s all a judgment call.
    • Free shipping! Look for sites that offer free shipping. Sometimes shipping is free when you spend a certain amount of money, so pay attention to how much you're spending and be smart with your money.
    • Security. Make sure the website you're shopping on is secure before giving out any important information. Stick to well-known stores when buying items online. Check your credit card bills to make sure they include only your legitimate purchases.[5]

Part 2
Trading in Your Old Clothing

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    Exchange your old clothing for new clothing at resale stores. This is a great way to get rid of some of the clothing you no longer wear and replace it with new pieces that you love. You'll typically get a higher trade value than cash for your clothing.[6]
    • Popular resale stores include Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads, and Plato's Closet. They all have different policies and are looking for different types of clothing. Just because one store doesn't want your clothing doesn't mean all of the stores won't want it.
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    Sell your clothing at resale stores. If you have designer clothes or any other clothes or accessories (sunglasses, shoes, scarves, hats, etc.) that you think could yield a profit, resell them. This will clean out your closet and earn you money to buy new clothes. These stores are more expensive than thrift stores, but still much cheaper than retail. You'll typically get a higher trade value than cash for your clothing.[7]
    • There are online resale stores as well. With these stores, you'll be able to sell or trade your clothes with other users. Some of these include Poshmark, Twice, and Thredup.[8]
    • Selling your clothes on Ebay or Craigslist is also an option to consider. This is only recommended if your clothing is designer-made and in good quality.
    • If you have a lot of stuff to sell with along with your clothes, you could also consider a yard sale. Get a few friends together and see if they want to do a yard sale together.
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    Donate your clothing to thrift stores or charities. Charity is a great way to discard your old clothes (and can usually be used as a tax write-off). You'll be able to clean out your closet to make room for newer purchases. Some thrift stores offer exchanges for donations as well, so be sure to ask when you are donating your clothing.[9]
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    Make your old clothing new again. If you're skilled with a needle and thread – or even a pair of scissors – repurpose your old clothing. If you have pants that fit great in the waist but have become too short in the leg, cut them into shorts! There are even ways to turn old sweaters into purses.[10]
    • Look online for tutorials on how to repurpose your old clothing. You should be able to find creative ideas and step-by-step instructions. Pinterest is a good place to start.
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    Have a clothing swap party with friends. One of the best ways to get a wardrobe you love is to refresh your closet frequently. Get rid of items that you don’t wear regularly and replace them with new pieces. Host a clothing swap party with friends, and ask everyone to bring clothing and accessories they no longer want. You can get rid of your clothes and get new items for free at the same time.[11]

Part 3
Making Smart Decisions While Shopping

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    Give yourself a spending budget and stick to it. Shopping on a budget can be difficult – especially when you want everything. However, if you can't afford to splurge, it's important that you give yourself a budget. Be honest with yourself about your finances. Following a budget will allow you to get the essential items that your closet is missing – jeans, basic tops, boots, etc. Once you do this, you'll be able to figure out if you can afford those high heels you've been eyeing.
    • If you give yourself a budget, you'll be less likely to buy items that you really don't need.
    • When shopping online, use a price filter. If you cut yourself off from the expensive items, you'll be likely to spend less money.[12]
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    Shop out of season. Doing your shopping during postseason sales is a great way to build your wardrobe on a budget. Take inventory of your closet and determine what you'll need for the upcoming year. Then, create a budget around those seasonal purchases. Buy investment pieces such as business suits in January, purchase winter coats and boots in late February, and load up on swimsuits and summer clothing in late August. Buying these clothes when they're on sale will help you save money, and you'll already have your shopping done for the following year.[13]
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    Don’t be a trend chaser. Even if you avoid splurging on expensive designer pieces, trend-chasing is still a costly habit. Because trends have such quick turnarounds, keeping up with them will break the bank, even if you’re purchasing lower-end clothing. When you stop trend-chasing and focus on fashion, you’ll be able to develop an eye for the basic pieces that you need and the select few trend pieces that make your wardrobe pop. Focusing on fashion will allow you the time to invest in pieces that will last through the years.
    • If you want a few trendy items that you’ll only wear a few times, hit the clearance racks and outlet malls. This way, you won't be spending the bulk of your clothing budget on items you’ll rarely wear.[14]
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    Don't buy clothing that is “dry clean only.” Whether it’s a cashmere sweater, a pair of polyester pants, or a silk dress, make sure you’re aware of the cleaning instructions of the clothing you’re buying to avoid a big dry cleaning bill each month. Dry clean-only items will end up costing you more to maintain in the long run. Instead, buy high quality but low-maintenance pieces to maximize your closet investment.[15]
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    Have patience. This is a slow moving process in the beginning. Until you discover what stores you like the best, it may seem like time-wasting and frivolous pursuit. Yet, saving money on great clothes can be one of the most satisfying experiences. Buying clothes isn’t a vital aspect to life, but wearing clothes that fit and you love really makes a difference in your self-confidence and overall mood. You don’t always have to buy from the bargain rack (although you have a hard time pulling yourself away), but you can find some truly amazing clothes for even more amazing prices.
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    Pay with cash. When you pay with cash, as opposed to a credit card, you'll physically be able to see how much money you're spending. When you can actually see how much money you have to spend, you'll be more likely to be conservative with your spending. This will result in you purchasing the items you need as opposed to items you simply want.
    • Using a credit card is an easy way to overspend. When you can't see how much you are spending, money can become an idea as opposed to something real. This can be dangerous if you're trying to watch your budget.[16]

Part 4
Styling Yourself

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    Replicate stylish looks affordably. You can have expensive taste without spending the big bucks. To get outfit inspiration, window shop at your dream stores, or look through fashion magazines and blogs. Pick out the pieces that you love, and search for similar items when you're out shopping.
    • Many cheaper brands copy designer looks, so you should be able to find what you're looking for at discount stores or outlet malls. These stores often carry the more affordable sister brands of well-known designers.
    • Fashion magazines and blogs often offer more affordable substitutions for expensive outfits. When you look at these magazines or blogs online, many of the cheaper alternatives are just one click away. Start browsing to get some styling and shopping ideas.[17]
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    Add some classic pieces to your closet. Classic pieces are those that never go out of style and always look amazing. These pieces usually include jackets, handbags, shoes, and suits / dresses. You should invest a bit more into these pieces, as they can be reused for years to come.
    • Get a coat or two (A leather jacket or trench coat are great stylish pieces).
    • A quality handbag will never go out of style. Pick a practical bag in a versatile color (blacks, nudes, browns) to carry on any occasion.
    • Get a few pairs of shoes that will go with everything. A good pair of flats, boots, and heels (or dress shoes for men). Spending a little more money on a nice pair of shoes will allow them to last for more than one season, and will go with most of the pieces in your closet.
    • Invest in a little black dress (LBD). The LBD is a wardrobe staple for a woman, and is a classic that should be in your closet. Find a little black dress that you love, and you'll be able to style it tons of different ways by switching up jewelry and shoes.
    • For men, investing in a nice, quality suit will pay off in the long run. You'll always have a well-fitting suit, and it will never go out of style.[18]
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    Keep versatile basics in your wardrobe. The great thing about basics – they go with everything. Keeping a few basic necessities in your closet will make it easy to stay stylish on a budget, as you'll always have a base for a good outfit.
    • Get a great fitting pair of jeans. A good pair of jeans will last you for years and can be paired with tons of different options.
    • Get a few solid black and solid white tops – short sleeved, turtleneck / long sleeved, and tank tops. These colors go with everything and can easily be dressed up or down. They can be paired with jeans, dress slacks, skirts, or shorts.
    • A go-to pair of black slacks or trousers will greatly enhance your wardrobe. Get a pair that fits you will, and you'll be able to create many outfits.[19]
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    Revamp your older clothes with new additions. Instead of buying entire new outfits, enhance your older clothing with new pieces, new jewelry, or new shoes. Pull out your favorite pair of jeans and give with a new life with a bright blouse (ideally purchased on sale). Or give your old sweater a fresh look with a new pencil skirt or pair of slacks. Buying select items will give your old pieces an entire new look.[20]


  • Don't try to fix your mind on a brand as that will prompt you to spend more money on that particular brand and prevent you from buying clothes from discount or thrift stores.
  • Some thrift stores, consignment shops, and second-hand stores only take cash or debit cards.
  • Coupon hunting is always advisable.
  • Go into a high end store. If you see something you really want, search online and in stores for a similar item, at prices that are a lot cheaper.
  • Buy in moderation. When the price is right, it's hard to say no. Always ask yourself "Will I wear this regularly? To where? Do I really need it?" If you answer no to any of them, you probably shouldn't buy it.

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Categories: Budget Fashion | Creating Fashion Wardrobes