Shopping on a budget has always been important to me, mainly because I'd much rather spend my money on other things. I can't justify spending $500 on a pair of shoes because I think about all the things I'd much rather have for $500 than one pair of shoes. A whole new steering column for my El Camino! Curtains for my entire living room! Gas for a big Winne trip! So I like to keep my clothing costs as minimal as possible in order to spend elsewhere.
Hit the thrift shops
With the exception of sponsored items, most of the clothes in my closet are from thrift stores. One of the reasons I started thrifting in high school was that I lived in a town where there weren't a lot of places to shop so it wasn't odd to see someone else at school wearing your same top which is like totes embarrassing in high school, amirite? So I started thrifting because I figured it would be easier to find unique items and I was a huge fan of wearing little boys' tee shirts, which were super easy to thrift. Once I started moving away from little boys' tees and jeans and began developing my style I found that thrift shopping was an easy way to try out new styles without breaking the bank. I could try out maxi skirts or sheer tops too see if I liked them, and I didn't have to feel bad if it turned out they weren't for me because I'd only spent a couple bucks. Plus I could always donate them right back to the thrift store! I still love thrifting because of the unique items that can be found. Plus, fashion is such a cyclical beast that some of the current trends are just recycled trends from decades ago, so you can sometimes find some pretty on-trend items that are actually just some old lady's donation!
Something to keep in mind when thrifting is to see things with their potential in mind. Maybe you found a skirt with a great print, but it's full length and kind of matronly. It's really easy to hem that skirt up to a more youthful length! Did you find a dress that is just a bit loose? It could be really simple to take it in just a bit to make it fit perfectly! And make sure to shop the whole store, not just your size, your gender, or even your age (I've found some awesome dresses in the little girls' section!).
Since you might not find everything you're looking for on one thrifting trip, keep a running list of certain items you're looking for. I have a list on my phone that I update and check every time I go thrifting. You might not find that lace top you've been coveting the first few times you go thrifting, but keep it on your list and keep looking each time! I do this with items I know I can find thrifting (though I might have to go a few times before finding it). If I know I can find something at the thrift store I won't go to a regular store to buy it, as a general rule.
Find some of my Tips for Thrifting here!
Buy with remixing in mind
Whenever I buy something, I like to be able to envision myself wearing it multiple ways. That way I know I'll get my money's worth out of it. Think of this especially with some items that are a bit more pricey: what will your cost per wear be? If it's $70 and you wear it only twice, that item cost $35 per wear. But if you wear it 10 times, it only cost you $7 per wear! So save your pennies for an item that you know you'll wear multiple times. I love doing remix archives posts because I think it's really important to look at clothes with their remix potential in mind. Not only does this keep you creative, but it saves you money because instead of constantly shopping at stores, you shop your own closet, constantly re-imagining items you already own.
Shop at discount and outlet stores
Places like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross almost always have really cute clothes that are new, current and pretty trendy. It will probably be easier to find something you like that's in your size because they'll have multiple sizes of the same item, rather than the thrift store where each item is unique and something might be awesome but not in your size.
Spend the big bucks on classics
Things I know I'll wear lots of times are items that will have to be a bit higher quality so they're not threadbare by the end of the season. Winter coats are one of those items. I still try to save money by finding winter coats at the thrift store, but a good winter coat will last multiple winters, so I feel more comfortable spending a bit more on something like that, rather than a cute summer top that I may or may not want to wear next year. The coat below is one of the more expensive items I own, but it's so high quality and awesome that I'll be wearing it for years to come!
Browse Etsy and blogger closet shops
Etsy can be a great resource for vintage clothing as well as independent clothing designers. While independent designer items will likely be a bit more expensive than most of the vintage on etsy, I love knowing that my money is going straight to an independent creative entrepreneur doing what they love. A couple of my favorite indie designers are The Velvet Bird and Vanilla and Lace. You can also find some cute clothes by browsing bloggers' shop-my-closet shops. I know that Tieka, Kaelah, and myself all keep online shops selling items from our closets that we no longer wear. There are tons more bloggers that do this, so if you're one of them you should share the link in the comments! I also know that bloggers sometimes do instagram sales, so keep you eyes peeled for those too!
Host a clothing swap with friends
Swapping clothes can be a great way to not only get rid of items you no longer wear, but also pick up some new items as well! Plus, it's a fun way to get together with friends. Typically everyone brings a few items and everyone puts them on a table or hangs them on a rolling rack and then you go through and pick out the items you want out of the items that everyone else brought. For this to work, you should typically have people bring some cuter items (like, not old ratty t-shirts). Have people bring stuff that is still cute but no longer fits them or they simply no longer wear. At the end of the night you can either have people take back the items that no one picked up, or you can just donate everything to a thrift store! If you're doing a huge clothing swap it can be helpful to have a rule that everyone can only bring 2-3 items and can only take 2-3 items. A few years ago I started the Delightful Dozen, a group of bloggers who swapped clothing across the country. It was really fun to swap clothes and see how other girls styled my items, because when they made their way back to my closet I'd have a ton of new ideas on how to style them!