Creating your Wardrobe on a Budget

There was a time when I was dead ass broke! I mean broke broke, the kind of broke where your bank account is written in red and you can’t even afford a cup of coffee. There is nothing more frustrating or restricting than being broke and in debt. 

During this time, I also needed a new wardrobe. I didn’t have many clothes because I had left most of them in a storage room across the country! I came home from college for summer break and I was obviously planning on going back but plans changed. Anyway, I didn’t have much and I also felt like my wardrobe belonged to someone else. The clothes I had were no longer a true representation of me, but rather an old me. 

Being broke and in love with style led me to window shopping. Since I was so frustrated I decided to make a plan. I told myself, instead of just glaring at these beautiful pieces of clothing I am going to move forward and make an action plan to actually buy some of these. 

Now these tips are the way I shop all the time. What started as a way for me to buy what I needed has turned into habits I include no matter how big or small my bank account is. 

As a side note, whether or not you like to shop we all need clothes, so it might be helpful to have some of these tips stored away for a shopping day. 

Tip 1 


I would keep this list in my phone. Anytime I went shopping I would whip it out. This list should have things you need or want. Yes, there is a difference between the two. I split my list in two. One list for my needs, like socks, underwear, slacks and so on. My wants consisted more of boots, sandals, ripped jeans and what not. I would look at my closet, my way of living and get inspiration from the media to help me figure out what to put on my list. Try to be as specific as possible. For example, white, oval scoop neck, short sleeve, ribbed t-shirt. This list is to help you stay focused when shopping. If you are anything like me, my eyes and hands tend to wander, leaving me with buying something I shouldn’t have gotten, with money I didn’t have. 

If I found something I liked and I am contemplating buying it, my rule of thumb is if I can cross it off my list then it’s a buy. If not, then it’s something I can buy for a later date. Make the list a priority. Remember the things on this list are things that you need in your wardrobe or will compliment your current wardrobe. 

Tip 2


I like style and I love to admire it. Just because I admire something does not mean I want it all for me. There might be a blouse or dress I like but that doesn’t mean I like it enough to add to my closet. Especially when on a budget it is important not to steer off your list. Picking a certain style you love will help you narrow down your choices. Now I tend to experiment a bit more, but back when I was on a strict budget I couldn’t afford to buy pieces I could only wear with certain pieces or wear only once. I needed to figure out what I liked and what looked good on me. So, that is exactly what I did. It might mean you need to do some research. What do you tend to gravitate towards, whose style do you admire and why? What colors do you like? Asking these questions will help you figure out what kind of style you want to create for yourself. 

Tip 3


This can also help you pick a style you like. Different types of clothing fit differently on your body. So even if you don’t buy it, try it on. See what works and what doesn’t. I have had it happen to me allllll the time where I see something so cute on the rack, looks like something I would totally wear, for it to look totally wrong for my body type. So before you buy something try it on. I’ve had more surprises than I can count. If it doesn’t fit right or there is even a slightest detail you do not like THEN DON’T BUY IT. This will help you save money rather than waste it. 

Tip 4


Don’t just buy something because it is on sale. Of course a good sale doesn’t hurt but make sure it is something on your list and fits right. Just because it is $5.99 and looks kinda cute does not mean you will wear it! Buy yourself a cup of coffee with that instead, you will get more use out of that. Put your money to good use. 

Tip 5


When I was dead ass broke I was literally saving nickels and dimes. I would save a few dollars at a time because that’s all I could. I had a goal and it didn’t matter to me if I had to nickel and dime it. When I got to a certain amount I would exchange the nickels for dollars. Shoot, I was not about to pay for a $30 blouse with pennies!!! Anyway, put money aside just for your dream wardrobe. I set up a two budget system for myself because I know myself. I would go over my budget given any chance. So, let’s say there was a certain dress I had in mind and I knew it would be roughly $60. I would make it my goal to save $80. Why? Because what if I saw some pretty details to go with it? Or what if I saw a better, similar dress instead and it cost more? It is better to be prepared than sorry. Especially when it comes to the items on your list.   

Tip 6


This is a game changer. Check to see what type of materials it is made of. Sometimes a piece of clothing may look cute only for it to be made of poorly materials, making it come apart with each wear or wash. As you keep checking labels you will start to recognize what type of feel you like best. Also, always always always check the care label. This is a big determining factor for me. How do I need to care for it? Hand wash? Dry cleaners? Hang dry? Caring for clothing also costs money and time. You need to determine if you will be able to care for it properly. If not, it’s best to save your money and buy something you feel is easier and more comfortable to care for. I mean, the last thing you want to do is machine wash something that is meant to be dry cleaned.  

Tip 7 


Don’t be afraid to shop around and even check online prices. So many different brands create similar pieces now. There is no reason to stick to just one brand or store. Again just because it is less, make sure to check the labels and see if it is made from the right kind of materials. Be smart with your stores. Just because it offers a certain brand does not mean the quality or price is right for you. I like to start with stores like TJ MAXX, Marshalls, Target and so on before moving on up. If they don’t have what I am looking for then maybe Zara, Macy’s, or Nordstrom might have what is on my list.    

Tip 8


I learned this the hard way. There will be many opportunities for you to buy colorful, more extravagant pieces but in terms of building your wardrobe on budget– it’s best to buy classics that appeal to you first. The reason for this is because classics last the test of time. They go with JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING and you can style them in any manner. Some colors you might want to aim for are shades of black, grays, whites, neutrals and even some red. Classics have low key details and patterns. Aim for solid colors or even pieces with minimal patterns. This might sound boring but there are so many beautiful classic pieces that you can then pair up with more extravagant options to make beautiful pieces all come together. 

Tip 9


For a great quality piece I look at the labels of course and the stitching. Ultimately, it’s about how it feels once on. It can have the best stitching and be easy to care for but, if it feels wrong I won’t wear it. Paying attention to the quality helps you save money in the long run. The longer your clothing lasts is money well spent. You can have a ton of pieces in your closet but if they are not quality pieces they won’t last. It has got to look good and feel good. On that note, when I find a timeless, quality piece that not only looks good but feels good and is within my budget I buy multiple! Pieces like this don’t always come around. Especially since fashion is always changing, who knows when you would find an exact piece just like it. What happens if you accidentally ruin that piece or if you lose it? It’s better to have another tucked away for safekeeping. That way you always have a timeless staple available.

These nine tips kept me from overspending. I used to impulse buy all the time and it just ended up costing me more. Using these tips will help you make better decisions and keep more money in your pocket, all the while building a wardrobe personalized to you.

However your finances look like, I hope these 9 tips help you start creating your dream wardrobe. 

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Until next time,