How To Dress Nicely On A Budget

This is a guest post by David Bakke
Photo Credit: beckyjohns7

Up until recently, I always had the luxury of having the majority of my clothes purchased for me, either by my mom when I was younger, my wife when I was “grown up,” and by family and friends during the gift-giving holidays. I know, it sounds like I’m really spoiled or something, but in actuality, all of these close people in my life have always enjoyed shopping for clothes for me. Yup, I’m a pretty fortunate guy!

However, my wife got a full-time job two years ago that made her life much busier, which in turn put me in the brand new position of having to do the shopping all by myself. This was a world I knew nothing about – and when I say “nothing”, I mean nothing at all.

Thankfully, I learned a ton along and the way and it didn’t take me long to compile a pretty good-sized list of tips and strategies for dressing nicely while still on a budget. Some are ones you may have already thought of, but I think there are a few newcomers here as well. I hope you find my words both helpful and informative. I’d love to hear any additional tips you have in the comments below.

1. Quality, Not Quantity

Man, was I missing the boat on this one in the beginning. Finding four pairs of dress slacks for $25 may sound like a great deal on paper, but not when the pants literally start  falling apart after wearing them only two or three times. Do yourself a favor. Move the scales up a bit on the quality end, and down on the quantity end. You’ll be glad you did. Also, cheaper clothes tend to shrink more, meaning in some cases, you may only get one use out of something before it shrinks in the wash/dryer. And just because you’re going for some of the higher-end clothing does not mean you can’t buy quality clothes on a budget.

2. See What You Have

Before you go shopping, run through your closet really quickly. Not that I have a huge wardrobe, but every now and then I forget exactly what I have. This should prevent any repeat buying of certain items or styles. Also, knowing what you have will help you determine the difference between wants and needs when it comes to your clothing!

3. Wait and Watch

One thing I have noticed is that for the most part, there is always a clothes sale somewhere. It’s just matter of finding it. And, if you’re particular to a certain retailer, then wait. Before long, they’ll have a sale or distribute coupons – trust me.

4. Consignment/Thrift Stores

I’ve been able to find a wealth of clothes at thrift stores, especially work clothes. And I’m talking about brand new stuff still in its packaging. I’ve found dress socks for a dollar and even button-down shirts for $3. If it’s brand new and good quality, who cares where it came from? And for the women, I’ve also noticed that you can find a ton of “unique” stuff at these places including some designer clothes, if you’re seeking that one-of-a-kind look.

5. Solids, Solids, Solids

If you’re a guy like me and are officially bankrupt in the fashion-sense department, I would advise sticking with solids as much as you can since that will make it a lot easier to match… and more difficult to look like an idiot. Also, as another point, solids tend to be a little less memorable, so it actually makes it look like you have more clothes than you really do. This means you can re-wear the same clothes more often.

6. Clearance Racks

Wherever you do your clothes shopping, always check out the clearance racks. Sometimes it’s hard to find clothes your size, but the deals are tremendous. I also have some friends and family who highly suggest the clearance racks when it comes to saving money on plus-sized clothes. Even the high-end retailers have clearance racks.

7. The Budget Retailers

As far as specific stores, lately I’ve been going to Target, Marshalls, and Old Navy (when there’s a sale). These places, and their competitors, seem to always have good quality clothing at reasonable prices.

8. Shop Online

It never occurred to me until I tried it, but shopping online for your clothes is definitely a good option. This should really appeal to my fellow males. No lines, no crowds, none of that. If you know your size, it’s also really convenient. Plus, you can get free shipping quite often from a lot of places (including return shipping if the clothes don’t fit or you don’t like them). Also, try eBay! Yup, they have clothes there too and find great bargains.

My learning curve for clothes shopping on a budget has been fast and furious. This is an area where it’s easy to spend unnecessarily if you’re not careful. Hopefully, these strategies make it easier for you to save money, rather than wasting it. And if you’re a guy who needs more assistance, check out some of these tips for men on clothes shopping and saving money.

Do you have any additional money-saving tips to add to the mix?

David Bakke writes about financial topics on the Money Crashers personal finance blog. Learn more about saving money, smart shopping, budgeting, investing, and building wealth.

About Brad Chaffee

9 Responses to “How To Dress Nicely On A Budget”

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  1. All great tips! They apply to anyone’s wardrobe.

    I’d also suggest for women, using accessories to spice up “plain” outfits like a simple t-shirt and a pair of trousers. You’d be surprised how many times I get away with wearing a t-shirt to work by doing that.

  2. Steve @ The Debt Solution says:

    Great Info! You’re absolutely right about Quality over Quantity…I just got back for Sin City Las Vegas last week and I purchased a pair of dress shoes. They cost me $499. (they come with all the trimmings for keeping them in shape)

    I’ve learned over time that sometimes not all the time Quality does make you pay more upfront but you pay less over time. It really depends on what you’re buying. 3 years ago I purchased another pair of shoes in LV from Nordtrom’s they cost me $399 I still wear them and I’ve only had to replace the souls once and that was mainly the right outside heals because of the way I walk.

    I also have a black and brown pair of sketchers that I’ve worn for at least 2 1/2 years and I paid about $40 each pair. They feel great on my feet and I’ve looked to see if they still made that specific shoe and they don’t and I wish I would have purchased a few extra pair’s. They are wearing down on the bottoms.

    Now when it comes to dress shoes I’m very conservative on how they can look. No designs, toes not to pointy, no boot look and a well defined heal also not to tall.

    Something else that happened to me with both of the expensive shoes I’ve actually had men look down at them and some even commented about how they looked.

    I guess to sum it all up we have to pay more attention to what we buy and how we will use it. I wear dress shoes and suits at least 4 out of 5 days a week, when doing workshops and seminars it could be all 7 days, so I need Quality, Comfort and Appeal on my feet but if I was just going to Church I personally wouldn’t spend that type of money just to wear them 1 or 2 days a week.

    PS: Yes there is a definite difference between a $500 Suit and a $1,000 – $2,000 suit! A funny thing is that most people will want to touch the suit. I can’t really explain that one.

  3. Dd says:

    Good article! I have also had issues with buying cheep clothes only to find them not fitting very nicely after a wash or two.

    I have been afraid to buy clothes online as I do not like buying things I can not try on first. When I buy shes, I notice every size 12 fits different than the rest. I would think pants and shirts would do the same.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Shrinking clothes are the worst! 🙂 That is something that will definitely coast you money over the years. I\’m going to put this theory to the test one of these days and then write a blog post about it!

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