12 Ways to Upgrade Your Wardrobe on a Budget
Most of us don't live by rigid dress codes. We're not attending black-tie gatherings every night, working in places with strict uniforms, or choosing from an artificially-limited wardrobe. We have room to jazz up our outfits, change up our styles, experiment, and generally play with the clothes we wear.
And you know what? It feels good to do so. Whether it's trying out new styles, wearing a different kind of clothing entirely, or just putting a bit of a personalized spin on an otherwise standard outfit, it's a means of self-expression that we could all do with exercising a little more often.
When picking up a new dressy shirt is several hours' wages – let alone a lovely new suit or a tailored outfit – it makes sense that you'd be limited in your options. Of course, one central pressure prevents us from doing so: a lot of new clothing is expensive! Thankfully, you can upgrade your wardrobe on a budget if you approach it from the right angles.
Here are twelve such tips you can try.
Table of Contents
- 1: Check the Back and Bottom
- 2: Save for Big Splurges
- 3: Go Thrifting
- 4: Host a Clothing Swap
- 5: Accessorize!
- 6: Shop Out of Style
- 7: Pay Attention to Online Deals
- 8: Hit the Yard Sale Cycle
- 9: Visit the Discount Stores
- 10: Consider Rental Services
- 11: Make Stylish Repairs
- 12: Spice Up Outfits with Socks
1: Check the Back and Bottom
No, not your back and bottom. Go delving into the closet, check the drawers you rarely open, and take a complete inventory of your clothing. The chances are good that you have a few outfits or accessories you don't wear anymore, for one reason or another.
You can do a lot with this kind of expedition.
- Gather items you can swap in one of our later tips.
- Sell some vintage items on eBay to raise funds for something new.
- Find old items you can spruce up with a bit of repair and laundering.
- Gain inspiration from old favorites you forgot about.
- Find that something you outgrew fits you once again.
Many of us tend to live our lives cycling through a load or three of laundry, and the stuff in the backs of closets and bottoms of drawers falls out of fashion and gets overlooked repeatedly. By sorting through and taking inventory of your clothing, you can refresh your older styles, bring your wardrobe to new life, and not spend a dime doing it.
2: Save for Big Splurges
If you want to upgrade your wardrobe without breaking the budget, one thing you can do is, well, budget.
Sure, that $500 piece of apparel would break the bank if you splurge on it now, but if you save up for it over a few months, you can swing it with no problems. It's not uncommon for companies to slash prices by 20-50% during holiday sales! Plus, that gives you more time to rethink whether or not you want it and watch for some of those items to go on sale.
One good option is to set up a savings account you only use for splurge purchases and set up an auto-debit to send a bit of money every paycheck into it. That way, you'll save automatically and can tap into the fun money whenever something comes along that you have to have.
If you need a little more assistance, you can use simple and easy apps, like You Need A Budget, which can import information from your bank directly to make it super easy to calculate and adjust your expenses.
3: Go Thrifting
Did you know that people will toss out or donate perfectly good, stylish, cool outfits? It's true! You may have done it yourself, even. Clothes you out-grew, clothes that don't fit anymore, clothes you don't like after all; if you can't return them to the store you got them from, the next best thing is to sell them online or at a yard sale, and after that, you can donate them to thrift stores or sell them through consignment shops.
Someone else's loss is your gain; you can browse the racks at your local thrift stores, consignment shops, and upcycling outlets to find all kinds of fashion. Maybe it's a little out of date, or perhaps it's a little worn, or maybe it's just the wrong size for whoever donated it.
4: Host a Clothing Swap
You're not the only one with outdated, ill-fitting, or no-longer-desired clothing in your closet or wardrobe. Why not organize a clothing swap?
You can do this with family, with friends, or with a community. Organize it for parents at your children's school or with a local community organization. Have everyone bring clothing they don't want, and let anyone who wants to pick over the tables and take what they can use.
The only tricky part is enforcing a "no eBay" policy. After all, you don't want someone coming in and scooping up anything valuable-looking to resell.
If you're hosting with friends and family, make a day of it! A little wine, some good music, and some entertainment can turn your clothing swap into a party for all.
It doesn't take much to spice up an outfit. With a bit of jewelry, a tie, some cufflinks, a "loud" shirt, and some clever socks, there are a ton of inexpensive options to spice up a regular outfit and take it to the next level.
Pick up a watch, a bracelet, a necklace, or whatever you like to add flair and kick your outfit to the next level. Sure, it's not a look-defining makeover, but you don't need a look-defining makeover whenever you want to refresh your wardrobe.
6: Shop Out of Style
There's a ton of cultural and societal pressure on us to keep up with the latest fashions. The thing is, you don't have to. Most people in your life won't judge you if you're wearing something a little outdated. Heck, many people won't even notice if your clothing is out of date at all. We all have more significant concerns in our lives.
This option isn't feasible for everyone, of course. Some people work in industries where they're expected to stay on the cutting edge. The clearance racks with last year's fashion are a great place for super-cheap deals on excellent clothing for the rest of us.
One of fashion's not-so-secret "secrets" is that what goes around comes around. Styles and trends are cyclical. Sometimes they're on a decades-long cycle (parachute pants are coming back any day now, trust us!), but sometimes it's just every few years. Different colors, cuts, and styles; aren't one-and-done decisions; they come and go and come back again. Shopping out of style isn't necessarily falling behind the curve; it's getting ahead of it.
7: Pay Attention to Online Deals
We all know it's great fun to shop for clothing and accessories in person. You get to try on all kinds of outfits (even ones you aren't going to buy), see new styles and take inspiration from what's on the racks, and make a day of it.
The trouble is, that's the most expensive way to shop. You can get online-only sales, sales from resellers and outlets that wouldn't offer the same deals in person, and even coupon and discount codes you can't redeem in-store. If you're lucky, you might find someone on clearance for a reasonable price, but online deals will be better most of the time.
You can get some pretty incredible things for cheap if you know where to look and how to shop online. In particular, keep an eye out on sites like SlickDeals and various niche coupon aggregators. On top of that, if you're vigilant, you can even take advantage of pricing errors or bugs in-store systems, and often stores will still honor those mishaps.
8: Hit the Yard Sale Cycle
We've mentioned yard and garage sales a few times already. It's hit or miss to get new fashion items from them, and it depends significantly on the kind of people in your area. You can sometimes find baby clothing, old furniture, Christmas ornaments, and romance novels. Other times, you find a wealth of fashion spanning decades, which you can pick through and find $100 dresses for $5.
The best part of the yard sale circuit is that it generally takes place on Fridays and Saturdays, which gives you plenty of flexibility to make the most of a weekend. Go out with the girls and hit up the sales, make a day of it, and pay attention to sites like Craigslist, YardSaleSearch, and GarageSaleFinder to see what's scheduled in your area.
9: Visit the Discount Stores
If you don't trust local yard sales, don't want to wear used items from a thrift store, or want things that are a little bit more modern, you can always check out the local discount outlet stores. Some national chains like TJ Maxx and Marshalls are always options, or you might have a more local or regional store available.
These stores are generally either an outlet partnered with more upscale retailers or resellers purchasing bulk clearance items to resell. Either way, you're getting primo goods at a steep discount because they're otherwise just taking up space on the racks of the store that originally sold them, and everyone would rather have the rack space than the profit of selling them at the retail price.
Just like there's no shame in getting apparel on the cheap from thrift stores and consignment shops, there's no shame in buying from a discount outlet either. You can get some pretty incredible looks for a shockingly low price, as long as you don't need to be in the latest and greatest at all times.
10: Consider Rental Services
Rental services have expanded dramatically over the last decade. You're no longer limited to just rending suits and a few other significant items. Sites like Rent the Runway allow you to rent items to make part of your wardrobe for as long as you want. Tire of a style? Return it and get something new!
It's more expensive than getting low-cost items and gently-used apparel at a thrift store, but it's getting you designer items, peak fashion, and modern styles for cheaper than it would cost to buy them new. Just don't make the mistake of thinking they're truly affordable; you still need to budget for these services, and they can add up quickly if you aren't paying attention.
11: Make Stylish Repairs
Sometimes, a beloved favorite piece of apparel suffers from an accident, and there's nothing you can really do about it. A torn pair of pants may seem like a lost cause, but you can actually do a surprising amount to repair tattered clothing. The best part is, if you do it right, you aren't just fixing a piece of clothing; you're adding your own unique style to it.
For example, this site offers you a tutorial on how to repair a pair of denim jeans by adding a patch of similar material and sewing on additional decorations. It's incredible what a couple of designs from some kid's clothing can do to spice up an otherwise plain old pair of jeans!
Now, you do need to have a bit of practice with a sewing machine to do this, but it's really not that difficult to pick up. Just practice on some scraps before you take a needle and thread to your beloved, well-worn items.
12: Spice Up Outfits with Socks
You had to know it was coming. You're reading a sock blog, after all! One great way to accessorize and style an outfit is a pair of cool socks.
Having a great selection of socks is excellent. They're comfortable, they come in a million different styles and colors and sizes, and socks are super cheap, even when they're new. They help accessorize and accent any outfit, and you can swap out socks to give a single outfit a fresh feel. You'd be surprised at how much they can do for you.
Why not browse our store and look at the socks we have on offer? We guarantee there's something in there that will catch your eye. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop us a line and we'll do our best to point you in the right direction.