How to build your wardrobe on a budget

Shopping trips with my Mom were a highlight of my childhood. I’ll forever remember the trips to Mervyns and Nordstrom, and comical dressing room try ons. A morning of shopping followed by a late lunch to exhaustion. It’s where a lot of my style stemmed from. Of which I have her to thank for, having sat unconditionally thru my process to find it. I felt like a kid in a candy store, routinely given the opportunity to pick any of my choosing. Jeans, coats, tops, you name made it’s way into my closet. Naive as I was, it wasn’t until later that I realized these trips took a toll on a budget. As much as I loved the time spent and memories made, I hate the fact my expansive wardrobe was built on my Mom’s hard earned dollar.

Luckily, my need for a new wardrobe didn’t come until years later. After two kids and adulthood came into play, getting a new wardrobe was necessary. Life change or no, the excitement of receiving new clothes still makes this now stylish Momma giddy. Pulling them from bag or package, trying them on, and placing them in their pre-destined closet space is a routine I’ll forever favor.

Lifestyle or age may be reason enough to expand your closet’s content. Maybe a new wardrobe is necessary with a recent bodily change. Maybe you just desire change in general and want new clothes to represent the new you. But buying new clothes, doesn’t mean you have to go broke. You can build your wardrobe on budget. I’ve outlined a few tips and tricks below I believe are helpful in making sure your new closet doesn’t warrant a second mortgage.

Shop online:

Ya’ll know this is my jam. But let me justify with my reasoning and explain why I think it’s a vital point in growing your wardrobe on a budget. Yes, from experience mentioned, the activity of shopping is fun. You meet your girlfriends or Mom for coffee, hit some shops and enjoy a fun day together. Wether its a casual window shop or a full out shopping exertion, it’s no argument that it leaves you exhausted and hangry at days end.  I’ll add, if you are a Momma, the idea of actually getting out the door, kids in tow, and game plan on cue (..lets face it, hashing out a game plan of knowing where you are going, what you are getting, and how you are going to do it all without going crazy is another days note) is chaos. Accomplishing it all without compromise or sacrifice, 90% of the time, is unlikely. Am I right?

But let’s say, despite all those obstacles, you’ve somehow made it. You are in store, and have a few pieces in bag. The sweet sales lady comes to the rescue, offering to take the pieces off your hands and start a dressing room for you. Of course you oblige; anything to get this growing pile off your hands. There’s the red flag. By handing her your pile, you’ve given her the go-ahead to offer you all sorts of suggestions (otherwise known in retail as an up sell). She doesn’t know your budget, but she does know your kids are in toe, your time is valuable and your ability to make a quick decision is higher in hindsight.  You walk into the dressing room and you see all sorts of styles, conveniently in your size, lined up for you! What’s the harm in trying them on? A LOT.  Your time, your budget, and dare I say, dignity? I envy and applaud those who have the ability to stand your game, and leave the store without any added extras. I understand the need to try on to ensure proper fit. And if your budget allows, by all means, get those extras, girl. But the focus is saving your dollar here, not succumbing to the tempting up sell. And that situation right there, with the pretty little cami, must have hat, and adorable fur lined vest – gets me every time. I come home with more than I need to, having spent more than I wanted to, and feeling guilty none the less.

Now that I’ve completely bashed the experience of shopping in store, I wouldn’t dismiss it all together. There are some advantages to point out. A lot of stores often hold specials, applicable in-store only. Retailers are driving traffic in store and are offering some added benefits to get you there. If you hold your game strong and stick to the staples, you can easily grab some good pieces at discount, guilt free. More on those Sales later.

Back to the inter webs – Our society runs on convenience. Everything is done online now. Meal prep, vacation planning, house hunting, and of course shopping for clothes has never been simpler. Literally, everything can be purchased from home, skipping any of the hassle mentioned above all together. Because of this, there are so many stores you can buy from at your fingertips. Smaller e-commerce stores like Shein, and Ramwe offer clothing at lower prices. Keep in mind, there may be a compromise on quality, but you do get what you pay for and the pros of shopping these sites outweigh the cons. Shopping them provides you a cost-effective way to try out new styles, or purchase your own style at discount. The larger e-commerce option is to shop from Amazon. Besides offering the ‘known’ name brands, I’ve quickly learned of others on site who offer amazing fashion at reasonable prices. Platforms like Poshmark, Thred UP, and Tradesy are also alternative options. Tho considered second hand clothing sites, many of the items on these sites are new with tags, from lesser known designers and brands at affordable prices. Lastly to list, flash sale sites (Hautelook, Ideeli, Fab, and Zulily to name a few) offer the high end pieces at discount but with catch: the deal is only for a limited time.

Whichever the case, shopping online gives you peace of mind that you are searching and shopping smart. Yes, there may be some mindless scrolling, but the only pressure you have to purchase is your own. The convenience is the up sell. I’ll tangent the tip further and note frequently visited sites that have proven useful in my closet quest.

Utilize Coupon/Cash back sites and browser extensions:

I am one for affordable fashion. The majority of the time, the purchase of branded clothing is a result from finding a good sale, or best possible deal. If you shop online a lot, it is worth your time to search for codes and shop sales for the stores you shop at. Many codes and coupons can be found on Retail Me Not. I like to think of it as a search engine site for coupons and deals. It’s also common for retailers to reward a discount when signing up for marketing emails and reward programs. One savvy tip is to set up a separate email account for mailing lists and discount sign ups. By setting up a second email address, it alleviates any pile up in your personal email and allows you a destination to access promotions when you do decide to shop.

Furthermore, cash back sites allow access to coupons and a percentage of your purchase back. This saves you more in the long run. You’ve saved from those sales and coupons; you now have a little extra from your actual purchase in your pocket. And we all know, every little bit saved helps.

Ebates gets a commission from stores for referring shoppers to their websites, and they share that commission with you. Each time you click the tracking link to your favorite store, Ebates receives a referral commission based on a percentage from your purchase. Ebates then pays you commission, depositing a percentage of your purchase into your account (ie PayPal or check). Signing up is free and easy! And in honesty, if you are an avid online shopper, there’s really no reason not to use it! You are essentially, as they market it, getting paid to shop!

I discovered Honey just recently and it has benefitted my wardrobe budget, tenfold. Honey is a browser extension that finds and applies coupons to your online purchases. There are no added steps, hassle or payments required other than adding it to your browser. Once added, shop as you normally would. As you proceed to checkout, the orange honey icon will light up alerting you to potential coupons that could be applied to your purchase. Once you click apply, Honey will run all possible combinations of known coupons and apply them to give you the best money saving deal possible. What’s even better? Honey works on Amazon. They compare and find you better prices by searching price history of top rated sellers. They even work with Prime, to ensure Prime deals and let you know if you can save on price by waiting a bit longer for shipping!

In the unlikely event there are no coupons for your purchase, you can still benefit from this extension and collect Honey gold points from every purchase made. These points can be redeemed for cash and used on other purchases. This cash back benefit of online shopping is gold! Getting paid to shop is my kind of bargain and imo, a proven way to triple your wardrobe on a dime.

Shop the sales, with caution:

Now, as mentioned earlier: Shopping the sales is your wardrobe’s best bet. Tho not my buyer preference, shopping them in-store can be cost-effective if done smart. More importantly tho, I’ll state that not all sales are worth the shop. While it might be nice to get something for a good deal, keep in mind, there is a reason that item is on the sales rack. It could be off season, damaged, or off trend. Shopping in-store? Give that high end pair of jeans a second look. Tho flagged at lower price, it could be red from result of a return, or the store’s inability to sell that style at retail. Either way, discounts can distinguish the brand’s quality and wether or not that specific style is on it’s way out.

One good rule to follow when shopping the sales is to stick to the staples. When building that wardrobe on budget, you don’t want to purchase this seasons ‘must-have’ straw tote. It will sit in your closet come Winter, lacking versatility. Nor do you want to pick up that graphic seasonal tee that you’ll wear once on holiday. It’s a waist of your money. You’ll save money in the long run, grabbing versatile pieces you know you’ll wear more often. Stick to the staples: a good jean, black pant, LBD, classic blazer, etc.

Budget monthly:

A lot of this post outlines ways to be cost effective when building that dream wardrobe. I’ll state the obvious, tho hardest tip to live by. Budget wisely and consistently. Take into account your finances each month and prioritize them. While your clothing and style say a lot about you, the size of your closet doesn’t. I’ve found my desire to have a sizable wardrobe stems a lot from my love of fashion. But even that fetish should be disciplined in some regard. Personally, I take a look at what’s left after all bills, savings deposits, and household needs are met. Some months there’s not much extra to work with, and that’s completely ok. Building a good foundational wardrobe takes time. You’ll be happier in the end with the pieces you’ve purchased knowing they were invested wisely.

You don’t need to go broke grabbing the clothes you want. It just may take a bit of time and a few savvy skills to make it happen. Have any other tips to share in affording all the clothes your heart desires? I’d love to know! Comment below or DM me on Insta! Thank you for stopping by!

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Looking for Something?