How To: Spruce Up Your Wardrobe On A Budget

When you first start working full time, getting dressed up for work is kind of exciting. For the first time you get to routinely wear “grown-up” clothes. You get to go shopping for blazers and heeled boots and best yet, you’ll actually have a place to wear them!

I’ve learned from experience however that the excitement of a new wardrobe fades by the time you’ve worn your black dress pants two dozen times. You start recycling outfits, getting bored of the things that you have, and develop an itch to go shopping. But you’re on a post-grad budget; you can’t afford to overhaul your closet every few months. So what do you do? I’m still working on this project myself, but I’ve developed a few strategies so far for staying on track.

Nail Polish

I have always loved painting my nails. I like looking down at the clean painted lines when I type and to be honest I find painting my nails to be relaxing, too. It just takes an episode of TV, no big deal. So a few years ago I signed up for a subscription service with Julip, a Seattle based nail polish company. (They have a couple of different subscription boxes every month, each with between 2-3 colors that you can pick from, all for about $20 including shipping.) What I love about nail polish is that sometimes a fresh color is exactly what you need to feel like you’re wearing something new, even if you’re not. At least for me, polish can change the way that I feel about an outfit for so much less than the price of a new piece of clothing. So even though Julip is a little expensive for nail polish, it actually goes quite a long way in terms of maintaining my budget.

Hair Cut

I go through phases of wanting my hair either short or long, so I don’t actually get my hair cut that often. I’ll cut off like 6 inches one visit, then grow it out for a year before starting the cycle all over again. But when I do get it cut, it’s like magic. Without changing my wardrobe, a haircut can make me feel fresh and renewed. Sure, you put down a chunk of money upfront, but you’re giving yourself a whole new look in the mirror, too. Getting a haircut is money well spent for sprucing up your look in a significant and lasting way.


Let me preface this by saying, don’t borrow without asking first. But if you’re given permission to comb through your roommate or sister’s closet, then I suggest you take them up on the offer and repay them in kind. Swapping closets is a quick and easy way to freshen up your style, by recycling with someone else’s clothes. I know I’ve had a lot of luck borrowing my mother’s jewelry, particularly quirky pieces from when she was my age. So consider it “their trash, your treasure” and just go for it.

Periodic Shopping

If you can’t avoid shopping however, the best advice I can give you is to pace yourself. Comb the bargain bins, wait for sales, and then introduce your purchases slowly into your wardrobe so it always feels like you have something new. It may be tempting to flush it with season trends all in one work week, but if you save something new for each week you’ll keep that fashion inspired feeling just a little bit longer.


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