9 tips for updating your wardrobe on a budget

Today’s post is from the talented Nikki at Styling You and is part of the finance series this month. Nikki’s blog is a fantastic resource for taking the latest fashion trends and showing how they can be translated to the real world on a real budget. If you feel like you are in bit of a style rut, be sure to check out Nikki’s e-book Unlock Your Style, for inspiration!


There is a change in the air, a change in temperature that for me is always a signal to start thinking about how I can update my wardrobe for the season. I never overhaul it completely but I do like to add new pieces to it to give fresh options to play with.

For me, this translates into giving me a little lift, especially on those days when you really could do with one.

Any wardrobe updating I do has to fit within our family budget too. I’d love to tell you that I’m as good at that as Nicole is with hers but I’d be telling a big porky pie. I don’t always have wins in that department but out of necessity (and maturity!) I’ve become more mindful on what I spend my hard-earned money and what earns a place in my wardrobe.

I also appreciate that everyone’s budget is different. What I think is a good bargain may be more than you’re ever willing to pay for one piece. Similarly what I think is out of my league budget-wise, might be very do-able for you. I think it’s important to shop within your means and only buy what’s truly necessary.

My only rule? Don’t buy it unless you LOVE it. If you don’t love it in the store, there is little chance you will when you get home.

Apart from that over-riding rule, here are nine tips for updating your wardrobe on a budget at any time of the year:

1. Look first inside your existing wardrobe

I don’t mean stand there staring at your wardrobe convinced you have nothing to wear. I mean, really look. Pull everything out and start again. I’ve got some great tips on how to do this here. Only when you’ve truly looked in your wardrobe can you formulate a list and a plan on how to update and add to it. And a list and a plan is essential if sticking to a budget and/or limited with space.

2. Make sure you have the basics covered

Mostly we think we have nothing to wear because we have essential missing components from possible outfits. A wardrobe that works has to be built from the basics up. These are the basics you need to tick off first before you go shopping for the show-pony extras. Most of your shopping budget should be devoted to ensuring you have these in place. They will open up a tonne of outfit possibilities with what you already own.

3. Be in the know

Subscribe via email or SMS to your favourite stores so you are always first with news of any sales. Sales are no longer twice a year. They are held so frequently that if you’re clever and have your wishlist of wardrobe additions on hand at all times then you will be able to buy at less than retail price at all times. Not only will you shop mindfully but you’ll also save money in the process.

4. Check out discount department stores

Target and Mix Apparel at Coles sell clothes online which makes searching for and hunting down clothing bargains very easy – no matter where you live. Kmart and Big W are yet to follow suit but by checking their weekly catalogues online or via your mailbox, you’ll be able to hunt down value-for-money pieces for less. If shopping in store, practise a quick-scan technique. For me this is doing a quick flick of all the aisles and really taking note of the quality of different pieces. The quality even in one store can vary a lot from garment to garment. The fabric should feel good in your hands – and on you. If not, it’s not likely to wash as well.

5. Buy the best your budget will allow

This does not necessarily equate to price but it does to quality of fabric and production of the garment. And I do suggest that for hard-working basics, things you will wear day-in and day-out that you do allocate more of your budget here. They will serve you longer and therefore cost less in the long run. I do joke about the cost-per-wear shopping justification but it actually is good food for fashion-buying thought.

6. Check in with outlet stores – online and in store

Many of the chain stores are very quick to send any excess stock through to their outlet stores (and online). Yes, it can be hit and miss as to what you might find there but experience has taught me that they can be a goldmine when it comes to saving money on clothes. A favourite online is the Country Road outlet store as well as Grays Outlet store.

7. Comb thrift shops

I’m not good at this one at all but I have several girlfriends who are absolute pros. They can sniff out from a mile away not only a bargain but a stunning piece that completely matches their wardrobe personality. The same skills as shopping in a discount department store are required, plus access to a good alterations specialist (unless of course you’re handy on the sewing machine yourself).

8. Shop secondhand online

eBay has long been home to some great clothing bargains – new and secondhand. And now we have Gumtree as a great source. Yes, it takes times to browse but the rewards can be well worth it.

9. Hire or borrow

If you have a special occasion coming up and know that what you will wear might only get worn once, then think outside the square a little. Do you have a girlfriend of a similar size who could lend you an outfit or frock? Maybe they have a necklace or clutch that would update the look of an existing dress you have in your wardrobe? I do this a lot with my girlfriends and just dry-clean the outfit before returning to them. There are also dress hire outfit sites like GlamCorner that are really worth a look. For a fraction of the designer frock price, you get to take it out and have fun for a short time.

Do you have any tips for saving money on clothes purchases?

Nikki Styling You headshot 150Nikki Parkinson is a former journalist and the blogger behind award-winning Styling You. She’s a mum of three (two at home and one living away at university) and she aims to help women look and feel their best every day. To that end, she’s published her first e-book, Unlock Your Style in 14 Days, a culmination of nearly five years of giving advice on her blog to women all around Australia and three years of styling more than 150 women in person. She tries to get out the door looking halfway reasonable but is ok with the fact that some days that just won’t happen.