5 Tips to Dress Great on a Budget

5 Tips to Dress Great on a Budget

If you follow me on Pinterest you’ll quickly discover that I have a not-so-secret obsession with clothes.  And shoes.  And handbags and jewellery.  Okay, I just love it all!  I’m just putting it out there so we all know where I stand.  But for those who know me personally you will know that I spend hardly any money – and I mean hardly any – on any of those things.

Once we started having kids and we went down to living on a single salary there was no longer a clothing budget.  At all.  Like, I couldn’t even buy new underwear for five years.  Oh yeah, and so now with every Christmas I ask for pyjamas in whatever new size I am (I’ve been pregnant or post partum for five consecutive years) and with every Birthday I ask for that one item that I am desperately needing – like replacing the seriously haggard underwear!

I used to be able to spend a good portion of my take home pay on clothing and shoes.  If I was in town and felt a little cold I would just pop into H&M and buy a cardi.  Feeling hot at the end of a work day and heading out for the evening – a new dress it was.  But then the time came when impulse buying and seasonal shopping was simply out of the question.

So how do I dress myself without spending any money??  I’ll tell you, through those same old hand-me downs and gifts – just like the kids.

Oh yes, it’s true.  I have been wearing other people’s clothes for years!!  I’ve been given hand me downs from my mum and literally whole wardrobes worth of clothes from friends.   I’ve had to get flexible with my style but have discovered how to make it work.  Here’s my tips for dressing yourself for free:

1. Say yes to second-hand and attend swap shops

You may see a few repeating points from my secrets to dressing your kids on a  budget.  But it’s true.  If you’ve got a friend whose clearing out their wardrobe and asks if you want anything, just say yes.  No need to ask what they have, what’s the size or where do they shop from – just take it.  Also, rummaging through your husbands clothes is always a good place to start.  I use my hubbies shirts for pyjamas all the time.

2. Dig for the essentials

When you get other people’s clothes the style may not match you or the sizes may be a little off of yours, but look for the basics like black shirts, black trousers, denims and pretty accessories.  I tend to keep only 10% of clothing handed to me.  Bet thats all I need to get by.

3. Keep fewer clothes and wear them more often

I don’t actually have that many clothes any more.  I’ve pared back my wardrobe to be full of essentials so that pretty much everything goes together.  I have just enough tops for a week and two pairs of denims and one trouser.  I wear them and then wash them and wear them all again in the same week.  This keeps your wardrobe much more functional and your laundry manageable.  The most common thing amongst women today is that we’re just used to having wardrobes stuffed and overflowing with clothes so that we never ever run out.  But it really is not necessary and just makes it harder to keep on top of the laundry and more expensive.

4. Only buy things that will last

There are things that you do just have to buy yourself – again, the underwear springs to mind.  And shoes!  It’s hard to get a hand me down set of shoes that fit and don’t look like they’ve been on a walkabout. So when it does come time to buy new shoes I buy them with years of wear in mind, not just this season.  I just recently had to replace winter boots, so I asked for them for my Birthday and got this awesome pair from TK Maxx.  I only buy Birkenstocks for summer and they’re the only shoes I wear all summer.  I’ve had three pairs in the last 10 years.  I just got my last pair from Costco at half price and the pair before were from TK Maxx.  They last ages and are super comfy.

5.  Be stylish, not trendy

This is something that I had to learn.  Being a fashion lover I stay right on top of the trends, but I just simply can’t buy into that.  They’re short, fleeting and costly.  I have had to change my look to be more classically stylish than on-trend.  But I don’t mind a bit and have learned so much about how to make your clothes work well for any occasion.  Below is one of my favourite outifts.  I would not go and buy myself a green leather jacket but it’s one of  my favourites and matches perfectly with the scarf.  The black shirt is a basic staple for any wardrobe and goes with anything.

dressing on a bUdget dressing on a bUdget dressing on a bUdget dressing on a bUdget


 Shirt, scarf and jacket – friend hand-me-down, Denim – birthday gift, Boots – birthday gift

29 thoughts on “5 Tips to Dress Great on a Budget

  1. I remember the day when I came down the stairs of our house as we were all getting ready to go to church, and Jenny said to me, “your not wearing that to church, are you daddy?” I said, “I guess not.” She’s got the fashion gift.

  2. My daughter was/is a fashion hound but now with her second baby on the way, and a single income, she has a whole new perspective on fashion. I love her attitude about making it all work, and she is still so well dressed. She would agree with your tips wholeheartedly. If I had any fashion sense when I was a young mom, these tips would have been handy. This is a great post and I hope more people will read it.

    • I think that as our bodies change we have to change the way we dress. We just can’t wear the same fit and style from our teenage years and we have to adapt. It’s been a great lesson for me to learn how to use what I have well. It keeps the creative side of it fun even though I have much less chocoholics in what I wear these days. If you like the post I would so appreciate it if you be willing to share it. Thank you. X

  3. Great tips. So many women struggle with having too many clothes, I really don’t have enough. Thankfully, I’m a WAHM so I don’t really need clothes right now, but I would like to have something to wear someday! lol

    • Hey Brittany, some day we will get to shop till we drop but learning to work with what you e got now can change how you and everyone else around you sees you. I get asked about my clothes and accessories all the time and it’s just all hand me downs! Taking care of yourself helps with making you feel good in your clothes as well. If you’re in need of clothes I would say host a swap shop and get all your friends I bring all the extra clothes they don’t need. People live getting rid of stuff for a good cause. And you can get hold of some killer items for nothing. Blessings to you and keep remembering all the things you have in your life now as a mum instead of all the clothes you used to. That makes me happy every time. Xx

  4. I really enjoyed your post, particularly as it’s a topic that I have been reflecting upon in the last month or so. We dress ourselves and our children on a shoestring budget, and we use lots of different strategies to keep the costs really low.
    Your post affirmed that we are doing the right thing. Usually I feel strong about our choices, and stand behind them, but for some reason, in the last few weeks, I had been wondering whether we need to follow the path that others do, in this regard, and make more expensive clothing purchases for our family.

    So, thankyou for the reminder, that with good planning and a little creativity, we can all look good, without busting the budget.

    (LOVE your outfit in your photos!!!!!!!)

    • Belinda I’m so grateful for your comment. Sticking to a budget is always the right thing to do. I went through a season when we were still adjusting to a single income and a larger family where I just felt so poor! I hated the fact we never had any money to have fun or splurge on the weekends. But now I know that God teaches us self control and long suffering when we make he right choice to put integrity and life long plans ahead of the immediate wants. I still look at wound at friends who get to shop whenever they feel like it and drool over their latest clothes and shoes and new jewellery. But I’ve learned to really appreciate what I do have and I just make the best if what I have and now those same friends come to me asking where I get my clothes!! Don’t let discontent rob you of what you already have. You are blessed to have a family and together you are building a better future. Stick to it. You can do it!! Xx

    • Hey Johanna. It’s always a huge adjustment in the beginning of mothnerhood. But then you find your rhythm and you forget about what life was like before you had kids. I remember giving my entire ore baby wardrobe away to a new mum who was absolutely tiny and in desperate bed of clothes. When I ended up in the same position I just started being given clothes from friends and family. It’s been a huge blessing in my life and has been going in for years. I gave away some seriously expensive clothing and I know God has been blessing me in return and providing for every need. He supplies!! Xx

  5. I love the idea of being stylish, not trendy. I sometimes get down on my wardrobe because it isn’t trendy, but I think I can be stylish!! I love the scarf by the way!! Makes the outfit (and the boots!)

  6. I’ve been focusing on the last three tips for a few years now. I own less clothes than I once did, but I love all my clothes, and they mix & match so well. I’m still slowly working on replacing the low-quality stuff with high-quality, but for the moment, the low-quality clothes are still in good condition. I’d also add that taking really good care of your clothes will help your wardrobe last longer. I’m very finicky about doing laundry, but I have a few articles of clothing that have lasted me since high school aka 10+ years.

    • You’re so right Brita! Taking good care of your clothes is an absolute must when you wardrobe gets limited. Sounds like you’re working your wardrobe well! I keep dreaming of the wardrobe I’ll have one day to take care of the one I have now. X

  7. These are some great tips. I definitely am not stylish, but would so love to be! lol…I love your idea about using the same clothes over and over…b/c that’s pretty much what I do anyways. Thanks for all the tips 🙂

  8. So true! I can’t even remember the last time I bought something that was actually new, but with a little creativity you can totally work it, right?

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