How To Look Stylish On A Budget

Sandra Burns
May 14, 2019 · 10 min read
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Learn how to find your style and unleash the power of looking good.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on clothes to look good.

How do you look good on a budget… when you don’t have a lot of spare cash?

Saving money isn't just about not having the money to spend, it’s also about not wasting the money that you do have.

And there are many of ways to save money.

I know what you’re thinking… surely you have to spend a lot to look good.

Well, not so! …

One of the best tips I ever received was to think of purchases in hours, instead of dollars. Instead of thinking how much something will cost in dollars, determine how many hours you have to work to pay for it. That $300 jacket actually costs me 10 hours. Do I need it that much? …when I have perfectly good jackets already? Apply this logic to anything in life, not just your clothing.

Consider whether you really need to spend your money on this item.

Learn How To Shop Cheap And Look Expensive!

Here’s how YOU can save money:

My 14 NINJA HACKS for looking good on a budget…

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash


Note the items you like, then wait for the sales. Go back when the store has a sale, and buy it for a fraction of the original price.

One of the best ways to save money — don’t pay full price. And it removes the urge to “impulse buy”. Sometimes when you return, you’ve changed your mind about it anyway… in which case you saved a whole lot more. But still have a look around while the sale is on, you might find something else at bargain price.

Find good bargains at the Factory Direct Outlets. Be sure to check the items carefully before you purchase as sometimes discounted because of faults.

Wait for the sales, don’t pay full price!

Now, this next one is important…


Learn to love thrift shopping. Once you become comfortable with thrift stores, there are some real bargains to be found. Purchase designer labels for next to nothing. Don’t EVER pay designer prices again!

Gents, two or three piece suits can be purchased at bargain prices. Or blazers, jeans, chinos. Thrift stores will have dry cleaned the goods, but I like to do it myself to be sure.

While you’re at the thrift store, check out the jewelry items too. Bargains, bargains!

Thrift stores have many hidden treasures… styles that you just can’t find anywhere else.

Thrift stores have many hidden treasures and classic clothing.

And here’s the interesting part…


Once you begin to appreciate thrift shopping, check regularly for new stock. Good items are snapped up quickly by astute buyers. Be sure you are one of them.

Ask the shopkeeper when the new stock is coming in. Many have a set day when they bring in new items. If you’re in store on the right day, you get first look.

Look for classic, timeless items and you can’t go wrong. Look for designer labels. Look for anything that catches your eye. You’ll be looking sharp in no time.

Shop smart and look for classic, timeless items

The trick is to make clothes look good ON YOU…


A quick nip here, or a tuck there improves the look of any outfit. Clothes, not plastic surgery.

And a bargain price plus tailoring is still cheaper than buying the same clothes at full price.

When you find a good tailor, stick with them. They appreciate your repeat custom and may even adjust their prices for you accordingly. But don’t start out demanding discounts — they have to earn a living too.

A good tailor can adjust seams and hems, and shorten a sleeve at the shoulder seam (instead of the cuff). When you shorten trousers, consider whether you want it hemmed or to add a fold-up cuff.

A bargain is still a bargain, even after tailoring

Here’s where many people run into trouble…


You must clean any stains as soon as you can. Or have them professionally cleaned.

If a stain won’t come out… can you re-use the buttons, buckles, or ties? Learn from our parents who never threw anything out without at least two recycles — hand-me-downs, then saving buttons, zips, etc.

Repair loose threads, buttons, hems, or ripped seams as soon as you can. Trust me, people DO notice when your clothes are in poor condition. It only takes minutes to fix and you continue to look impeccable.

Keep your clothes looking fresh and clean

Here’s a tremendous secret…


Remember when stone-wash jeans were all the rage? They were awesome, but you look back now and laugh. And don’t get me started on intentionally-torn denim.

Cheap trimmings look old and worn out quickly.
And “trendy” goes out-of-style almost instantly.

A fine line exists between crisp/torn/frayed and looking shabby.

Avoid trends that make you look shabby

You don’t want to miss this next tip…


Throw out your clothes when they start to look worn.

Nothing looks worse than torn seams, deodorant-stained underarms, stretched material, buttons pulled so tight they might take someone’s eye out if the thread breaks.

Have your clothes working for you, not against you.

Remember to save any buttons or reusable parts before you throw them out.

Don’t keep any clothes that look tired and weary.

I’m sure you’re with me on this one…


Avoid fabrics that fray or pill easily. These can look old before their time.

Pilling is the little balls of fluff on woolen clothing — this can sometimes be rectified with a hair comb. Not much can be done once material starts to fray — but you could always discuss with your tailor who may have some ideas.

And avoid fabrics that require ironing every time.

Wrinkles look cheap — yes, even if the material is designed to look wrinkled.

Choose fabrics wisely

A simple solution…


Ironing is a bore and a major hassle, it can also leave shiny patches on your clothes.

A hand-held steamer can blast those wrinkles in minutes. A worthy investment. I've seen shopkeepers walk around their stores in the morning steaming away any wrinkles before the customers arrive.

Steamers are simple to use. You just hold it against the fabric (while on the hanger) and it pumps out steam and removes the wrinkles. Simple. And, better yet, take it with you while you travel (but empty the water first).

Steaming makes ironing a breeze

What else can you do?…


Replace plastic buttons with something richer looking — like metal, pearl, mother-of-pearl. A cheap way to revamp an outfit and give it new life.

Swap existing buttons with a similar color to simply freshen the item. Or go for something different to achieve a whole new look.

Buy cheap buttons from eBay/Etsy (or the like), or reuse buttons from your old clothes (if the buttons are in good condition).

Can’t do it yourself? Go to a tailor, or your Mum or friends.

TIP: Ensure you choose buttons of a similar size to the original ones. This way you won’t have to adjust the buttonholes. Just remove the old, add the new, and you’re done.

Rich-looking buttons can improve an outfit 10X

I was always looking for ways to reduce my time and energy for chores around the home.

And that’s when I realized…


You can wear clothes more than once — so long as they are clean. You don’t have to wash every time you wear something. This is why underwear and undergarments were invented.

Washing wears the fabric and also fades the colors. Try spot cleaning in preference to full laundering. Catching stains early means they are easier to remove.

This one is debatable… and you may find it unacceptable. If something smells, pop it in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight. This removes odors. I wasn’t sure at first, but try it, it works.

To wash… or not to wash… that is the question

Here’s something we can both agree on…

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash


Go cheaper and save money on the classic basics — trousers, jackets, shoes, ties. These are the staples of your wardrobe and, to be honest, most people can’t tell whether you spent $50 or $250.

Spend more on the attention-grabbing “focus” items, like suits, silk ties, cufflinks, tie clasps, watches. These are the items people will notice, and this is where to spend a little more and achieve some WOW.

Save money on classic basics,
Spend on quality, impressive accessories

I used to be just like you… buying a complete outfit from a store because the outfit was made to look so good by the display stylist (aka professional seller, oh wow that looks so good on you, appeal-to-the-buyer’s-ego before they go home without buying anything, I’m on commission here).

I was a willing slave to the sales techniques and completely oblivious to it.

But guess what I realized just in the nick of time…


Choose one color plus white for all your basics.

Black and white, brown and white, blue and white. You choose. Choose a basic and stick to it.

Then accessorize with bright, crisp, bold tones. This means you have a wardrobe of mix and match items for many different looks. And you colorize for each occasion with your accessories.

Think about it. Black and white are your basic colors, then you add pizzazz with neckties, pocket squares, sweaters. Turn an outfit into five or ten outfits by adding different colors each time.

A great tip to accomplish the most from your wardrobe.

Accessorize with bright, crisp, bold tones

And I have one more…


People notice when buttons are pulled too tight or clothes are creasing where they shouldn't.

Minimize the lumps and bumps of a not-so-perfect body by losing weight (too hard!) or wearing a lightweight singlet or t-shirt undergarment.

Another good tip is to re-position your buttons (slightly). Be sure to move them only slightly so your clothes won’t look out of shape and they sit better on you — and give you a little more room.

A tailor can often let the seams out a little — allowing for more room and comfort.

Minimizing the lumps, bumps and distractions makes your clothes look better instantly.

Help your clothes make you look good

I’m sure you agree there are many ways to avoid paying full price in a department or specialty store… and still come out looking good.

It’s not just about saving money on the clothes you buy, but also using the clothes you already own.

Take Dave’s story, for example…


When Dave came to me seeking help, he was young and working as an Assistant Property Manager in a corporate real estate office… struggling to become noticed. The company dress code was smart-casual (meaning you didn't have to wear a tie). Dave had managed to save and bought a good suit, but wouldn't wear it because his shoes were shabby and they ruined his look. He was still saving up for some good quality shoes.

Now, it turned out that Dave didn't know you could polish your shoes. He thought you bought them and wore them until they fell to pieces. His shoes were pretty good for wear, just scuffed and faded.

Stick with me here, because this is good…

Dave and I went shopping for shoe polish supplies (we only needed a couple of items). Then I taught him about polishing shoes. He was blown away by how good his shoes looked when we finished. Dave’s shoes looked like new, and he was excited to start wearing his new suit.

See, polishing is one of the old traditions that has become lost on younger generations who have grown up in a disposable world.

Dave started wearing his suit on days when he had client meetings and his confidence grew. At his next performance review he was promoted to Property Manager. A few years later and Dave is still with the same company — but now he is a Senior Property Manager and role model to the new recruits.

I like this kind of success story. All it took was a simple shoe polish. A minimal effort, with huge results.

You CAN to look good on a budget

Don’t forget, there are many other ways to save money — leaving you with more to spend on clothes:

  • quit smoking, or at least reduce the number of smokes
  • reduce (or eliminate) the bought daily coffees
  • prepare your own lunch instead of buying
  • invite friends over for BYO drinks, instead of paying bar prices
  • cook at home more, reduce “eating out”
  • google/youtube repair videos, instead of paying someone for simple repairs
  • do you need all those $10/month entertainment packages?
  • move to somewhere with cheaper rent / mortgage payments
  • do you need such an expensive car / car loan?

Or you could increase your income:

  • take a second job (but don’t wear yourself out)
  • apply for a better higher-paying job
  • can you earn money by blogging about your hobby?
  • check on-line sites like Fiverr for work you can do from home (proofreading, voice-overs, website creation, photo-shop services, freelance writing, graphics design, etc)

Originally published at in May 2019.

Sandra Burns

Written by

I love to help people with vintage accessories, style & confidence. “Vintage is an opportunity to time travel.” — ❤

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