How To Look Stylish On A Budget

How To Look Stylish On A Budget

Learn how to find your style and unleash the power of looking good. You don’t have to spend a fortune on clothes to look good.

VCM Members asked for some tips to look good on a budget… when you don’t have a lot of cash to spare.

Saving money isn’t just about not having the money to spend, it’s also about not wasting the money that you do have. And there are a myriad of ways to save money.

I know what you’re thinking… surely you have to spend a lot to look good. Well, not so! …

One of the best tips I ever received was to think of purchases in hours, instead of dollars. Instead of thinking how much something will cost in dollars, determine how many hours you have to work to pay for it. My after-tax earnings rate is around $30 an hour. This means that $300 jacket actually costs me 10 hours. Do I need it that much? When I have perfectly good jackets in my wardrobe already? Also apply this logic to anything in life, not just your clothing.

Consider whether you really need to spend your money on this item.

Learn How To
Shop Cheap And Look Expensive!

Here’s how YOU can save money…

My 14 NINJA HACKS for looking good on a budget:



Become a bargain shopper.

Note the items you like, then wait for the sales. When the store has a sale, return and purchase your treasured items for a fraction of the original price. You are now a “bargain shopper”.

One of the best ways to save money – don’t pay full price. And it removes the urge to “impulse buy”. Sometimes when you return, you realise you didn’t need it that much anyway… in which case you saved a whole lot more. But still have a look around while the sale is on, you might discover something else at bargain price.

Find good bargains at the Factory Direct Outlets. Be sure to check the items carefully before you purchase as these are sometimes discounted because they are slightly damaged or stained.

Wait for the sales, don’t pay full price!

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Now, this next one is important…


Change your thinking. Quality does not have to mean expensive.

Learn to love thrift shopping. Once you become comfortable with thrift stores, there are some real bargains to be found. Purchase designer labels for next to nothing. Don’t EVER pay designer prices again!

Gents, two or three piece suits can be purchased at bargain prices. Or blazers, jeans, chinos. Most thrift stores have already dry cleaned the goods, but I like to do it myself to be sure. Take them to a dry cleaner and you’re good to go.

While you’re at the thrift store, check out the jewellery items too. Bargains, bargains!

Thrift stores have many hidden treasures… styles that you just can’t find anywhere else.

Thrift stores have many hidden treasures
and classic clothing

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And here’s the interesting part…


Become a regular shopper – and note that it’s different to being a regular buyer.

Once you begin to appreciate thrift shopping, check regularly for new stock. Good items are snapped up swiftly by astute buyers. Be sure you are one of them.

Ask the shopkeeper when the new stock is coming in. Many stores have a set day of the week when they bring in new items. When you’re in store on the right day, you gain the first look.

Look for classic, timeless items and you can’t go wrong. Look for designer labels. Look for anything that catches your eye. You’ll be looking sharp in no time.

Shop smart
and look for classic, timeless items


The trick is to make clothes look good ON YOU…


A quick nip here, or a tuck there improves the look of any outfit. I’m talking about the clothes, not plastic surgery.

And when you purchase something at bargain price, add some tailoring and it is still cheaper than buying the same clothes at full price.

When you discover a good tailor, stick with them. They appreciate you being a repeat customer and may even adjust their prices for you accordingly. But don’t start out demanding discounts – they have to earn a living too.

A good tailor can adjust seams and hems, and shorten a sleeve at the shoulder seam (instead of the cuff). When you shorten trousers, consider whether you want it hemmed or to add a fold-up cuff.

A bargain is still a bargain,
even after tailoring

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Here’s where many people run into trouble…


You must clean any stains as soon as you can. Or have them professionally cleaned.

If a stain won’t come out… can you re-use the buttons, buckles, or ties? Our parents never threw anything out without at least two recycles – hand-me-downs, then saving buttons, zips, etc.

Repair any loose threads, buttons, hems, or ripped seams as soon as you notice them. Trust me, people do notice when your clothes are in poor condition. It takes only minutes to fix and you continue to look impeccable.

Keep your clothes looking fresh and clean

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Look Stylish On A Budget

Here’s a tremendous secret…


Avoid the “distressed” look. Don’t look shabby.

Remember when stone-wash jeans were all the rage? At the time they were awesome, but you look back on those photos now and laugh. And don’t get me started on intentionally-torn denim.

Cheap trimmings look old and worn out quickly. And “trendy” goes out-of-style almost instantly.

Large plastic buttons with a crackled finish? No. Just no. The crackled finish will look old instantly – sometimes it even looks broken and glued back in place. This looks bad. And plastic buttons don’t look good once they’ve been nicked by the hot iron a couple of times.

A fine line exists between crisp/torn/frayed and looking shabby.

Avoid trends that make you look shabby

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You don’t want to miss this next tip…


Throw out your clothes when they start to look tired or worn.

Nothing looks worse than torn seams, deodorant-stained underarms, stretched material, buttons pulled so tight they might take someone’s eye out if the thread breaks.

Your goal is to have your clothes working for you, rather than against you. When your clothes fit properly, you look good.

Remember to save any buttons or reusable parts before you throw them out.

Don’t keep any clothes that look tired and weary


I’m sure you’re with me on this one…


Avoid fabrics that fray or pill easily. These can look old before their time.

Pilling is the little balls of fluff on woolen clothing – this can sometimes be rectified with a hair comb. Not much can be done once material starts to fray – but you could always discuss with your tailor who may have some ideas.

And avoid fabrics that require ironing every time you wear them. Wrinkles look cheap. Yes, even if the material is designed to look wrinkled.

Choose fabrics wisely

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A simple solution…


Ironing is a bore and a major hassle, it can also leave shiny patches on your clothes.

The tip? Invest in a clothes steamer.

A hand-held steamer can blast those wrinkles in minutes. A worthy investment. I’ve seen shopkeepers walk around their stores in the morning steaming away any wrinkles before the customers arrive. Steamers are simple to use.

BEAUTURAL 1200-Watt Handheld Garment and Fabric Steamer (affiliate link) is a bestseller with loads of positive reviews and well priced at only $40. You hold it against the fabric while it pumps out steam and removes the wrinkles. Simple. And, better yet, take it with you while you travel (but empty the water first).

Steaming makes ironing a breeze

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What else can you do?…


“Hold My Beer” is a great button – and represents the start of so many exciting adventures – but that’s not the kind of button I’m going to discuss.

Give your clothes a button face-lift.

Spend a little time replacing plastic buttons with something richer looking – like metal, pearl, mother-of-pearl. A cheap way to revamp an outfit and give it new life.

Swap out existing buttons with a similar colour to simply freshen the item. Or go for something different to achieve a whole new look.

Purchase cheap buttons from eBay or Etsy, or remove buttons from your old clothes (if the buttons are in good condition).

Can’t do it yourself? Go to a tailor, or some dry cleaners might offer a button replacing service, or your Mum, or your sister, or your friends.

TIP: Ensure you choose buttons of a similar size to the originals. This way you won’t have to adjust the buttonholes. Just remove the old, add the new, and you’re done.

Rich-looking buttons
can improve an outfit ten-fold

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I was always looking for ways to reduce my time and energy for chores around the home.

And that’s when I realised…


Does it need washing?

Wear your clothes more than once – so long as they are clean. You don’t have to wash every time you wear something. This is why underwear and undergarments were invented.

Washing wears the fabric and also fades the colours. Try spot cleaning in preference to full laundering. Catching stains early means they are easier to remove.

And this one is debatable… and you may find it unacceptable. If something smells, pop it in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight. This removes odours. I wasn’t sure at first, but try it, it works.

To wash… or not to wash…
that is the question

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Look Stylish On A Budget

Here’s something we can both agree on…


Spend money on attention pieces… Save on the basics!

Go cheaper and save money on the classic basics – trousers, jackets, shoes, ties. These are the staples of your wardrobe and, honestly, most people can’t tell whether you spent $50 or $250.

Spend more on the attention-grabbing “focus” items, like suits, silk ties, cufflinks, tie clasps, watches. These are the items people will notice. Here’s where to spend a little more and achieve some WOW.

Save money on classic basics,
Spend on quality, impressive accessories

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I used to be just like you… buying a complete outfit from a store because the outfit was made to look so good by the display stylist (aka professional seller, oh wow that looks so good on you, appeal-to-the-buyer’s-ego before they go home without buying anything).

I was a willing slave to the sales techniques and completely oblivious to it.

But guess what I realised just in the nick of time…


Go simple… and add accents!

Choose one colour plus white for all your basics.

Black and white, brown and white, blue and white. You choose. Choose a basic and stick to it.

Then accessorise with bright, crisp, bold tones. This means you have a wardrobe of mix and match items for many different looks. And you colourise for each occasion with your accessories.

Think about it. Black and white are your basic colours, then you add pizzazz with neckties, pocket squares, sweaters. Turn an outfit into five or ten outfits by adding different colours each time.

A great tip to accomplish the most from your wardrobe.

Accessorise with bright, crisp, bold tones

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And I have one more…


Let your clothes work for you.

People notice when buttons are pulled too tight or clothes are creasing where they shouldn’t.

Minimise the lumps and bumps of your not-so-perfect body by losing weight (too hard!) or wearing a lightweight singlet or t-shirt undergarment.

A good tip is to re-position your buttons (slightly). Be sure to move them only slightly so your clothes won’t look out of shape and they sit better on you – and give you a little more room.

A tailor can often let the seams out a little – this allows for more room and comfort.

Minimising the lumps, bumps and distractions makes your clothes look better instantly. And don’t forget the tailoring.

Help your clothes make you look good


I’m sure you agree there are many ways to avoid paying full price in a department or specialty store… and still come out looking good.

It’s not just about saving money on the clothes you buy, but also using the clothes you already own.

Take Dave’s story, for example…


When Dave came to me seeking help, he was young and working as an Assistant Property Manager in a corporate real estate office… struggling to become noticed. The company dress code was smart-casual (meaning you didn’t have to wear a tie). Dave had managed to save up and buy a good suit, but wouldn’t wear it because his shoes were shabby and he knew they ruined his look. He was still saving up for some good quality shoes.

Now, it turned out that Dave didn’t realise you could polish your shoes. He thought you bought them and wore them until they fell to pieces. His shoes were pretty good for wear, just scuffed and faded.

Stick with me here, because this is good…

Dave and I went shopping for shoe polish supplies (we only needed a couple of items). Then I helped him with a lesson in polishing shoes. He was blown away by how good his shoes looked when we finished. Dave’s shoes looked like new again, and he was excited to start wearing his new suit.

See, Dave hadn’t realised that polishing shoes was a “thing”. Polishing is one of the old traditions that has become lost on the younger generations who live in a disposable world.

Dave started wearing his suit on days when he had client meetings and his confidence grew. At his next performance review he was recommended for promotion to Property Manager. Several years later and Dave is still working at the same company – but now he is a Senior Property Manager and a role model to the younger ones just starting out.

I like this kind of success story. All it took was a simple shoe polish. A minimal effort, with huge results.

You CAN to look good on a budget


Don’t forget, there are many other ways to save money too – leaving you with more to spend on clothes:

  • quit smoking, or at least reduce the number of smokes
  • reduce (or eliminate) the bought daily coffees
  • prepare your own lunch instead of buying
  • invite friends over for BYO drinks, instead of paying bar prices
  • cook at home more, reduce “eating out”
  • google/youtube repair videos, instead of paying someone for simple repairs
  • do you need all those $10/month entertainment packages?
  • move to somewhere with cheaper rent / mortgage payments
  • do you need such an expensive car / car loan?



Ways to increase your income:

  • take a second job (but don’t wear yourself out)
  • work extra hours if you have a job that pays overtime
  • apply for a better higher-paying job
  • can you earn money by blogging about your hobby?
  • check online sites like for work to do from home (proofreading, voice-overs, website creation, photoshop services, freelance writing, graphics design, etc)



See also:
Ten Classic Mistakes Men Make With Suits
Wearing Hats: 11 Hat Styles And When To Wear Them
Style Starter Pack