Thrifty: 7 Tips for Looking Stylish on a Budget

Sign outside of building saying thriftstore and furniture company.

Most human beings like to look good and don’t like to not look good.

Pretty revolutionary insight, I know.

Even if we don’t think about it all that much, most of us would prefer to dress stylishly and feel good about what we wear. There’s a big problem though: clothes and accessories cost money, and as far as I can tell, that does not come in an infinite supply.

Sign outside of building saying thriftstore and furniture company.If you’re looking to be stylish on a budget, there’s an upcoming holiday that was made for you. August 17th, a Thursday, is Thrift Shop Day. Tons of local thrift shops, including the Goodwills of the world, will be offering special deals and rewards in addition to their already low item prices.

If you’re not familiar with them, thrift shops have long existed as a cheaper alternative for clothing and have now expanded into jewelry, furniture, toys, and all sorts of miscellany. The neat thing is that going to a thrift shop is a different experience every time. There is constantly new stock at these stores, and often the items and clothing they offer are wildly different from the week before. It’s part of the randomized allure of the places.

One way to celebrate Thrift Shop Day is to visit some of your local shops, because now is as good a time as ever to update your wardrobe for the fall—and your wallet probably isn’t fattening up too much in the next few months.

With that, we’re going to give a few pieces of advice for buying stylish outfits on a budget. The first piece of advice here, obviously, is to buy used clothing, which you can do at thrift stores. But there are many other things you can do as well.

Let’s get into it.

1) Say No to Trends

This advice comes from Jessi Fearon’s website. Trends, as the definition of the word implies, come and go. Spending all your money chasing after the waves of fashion is hard to financially sustain, because there will always be another “season” right around the corner, a new hot look to match.

If you must buy something trendy, Jessi recommends you make it jewelry or other accessories, since you can likely trade these in later in a way that you can’t trade clothing, and in that way you can somewhat keep up with things.

2) Establish a Signature

A certain color, material, or design that people come to associate with you can be just as stylish as wearing everything that anyone who’s anyone is wearing.

Are you the fedora guy? You can get those for cheap.

Are you the seafoam green gal? Plenty of options there, too.

3) Own “High-Utility” Clothing

An important budget-friendly idea for shoppers is to avoid outfits that can’t “cross over” into other outfits. This would be bright-colored, highly patterned shirts, shoes, bags, etc.

Instead, black, brown, or white shoes will match nearly everything. And if you only had a pair of jeans and a pair of khaki shorts, you could likely wear almost any top you own. That way, you don’t have to buy nearly as many clothes as you would for standalone outfits.

4) Weigh Your Choices

If it’s really hard for you to mosey your way into a thrift shop, if you just can’t get that $2,000 sweater off your mind, it’s actually OK. You just have to be all right with fewer outfits at a more expensive price tag.

On second thought, the $2,000 sweater is probably not OK. But buying nicer clothing is.

Let’s go with a more realistic $100 sweater for an example. You can buy that one sweater, or you can buy six or seven cheaper shirts from Target (or more from the thrift shop). None of those choices is wrong—you just have to understand the implications.

Is that one outfit worth the amount of times you’ll have to wear it? Or are the handful of T-shirts a better option since they give you more diversity?

Your call.

5) Don’t Be a Lazy Daisy

If you’re willing to hunt through thrift stores, you’re going to find stylish outfits and accessories on a budget.

The key there is willing. You have to commit the time and the energy, and you have to keep yourself from getting discouraged after one trip. One of the biggest reasons people spend too much money on clothes is the “convenience factor.” You spend money in the first or second place you go to, even if the price doesn’t fit (or even if you don’t absolutely love what you’re buying) because you don’t want to go through hours and hours of further options.

But your thrifty motto should be this: “I will not be a lazy daisy; I will be an active dactive.”

6) Bring a Friend

Fashion, when you think about it, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In general, we buy clothes that we believe will be affirmed by the people we interact with. And the people we’re closest to hold the greatest power to affirm our style choices or make us second-guess them.

If that’s the case, bringing a close friend along as you shop for budget-friendly clothing is a great idea. If your friend affirms your choice of an inexpensive item, you can expect to feel confident and comfortable in any social setting the two of you share moving forward.

7) Remember This…

You are not your clothes.

Sure, it feels nice to feel good. It’s grand to get noticed and complimented. Still, though, to tie too much of yourself to the reactions you get from what you wear is to set yourself up for disappointment.

At the risk of getting a little preachy, your worth is not found in items outside of yourself. This is not just a platitude: it’s an important psychological stance to hold as you look to live out adult life on a disciplined budget.

There’s a great quotation from Scott Alan Turner that says, “Loving to shop is one thing. Loving to shop because it makes you feel better about yourself is another.”

One attracts you. The other compels you.


By: Ryan Drawdy
August 7, 2017


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion or suggestions of CenterState Bank.