How to Build a New Wardrobe on a Budget: Upgrade in 3 Steps

Man with an empty pocket
You Don’t Need to Spend it All to Create a Killer New Wardrobe

Rich people have it so easy, don’t they?

Not only do they have everything they need, they get to look amazing as well.

When they want a new wardrobe, they just throw a wad of money at whatever catches their eye, never even bothering to look at the freaking price tag.

They’re always dressed to kill, without even thinking. Their personal stylists and shoppers tell them what looks good and what doesn’t. They don’t have a worry in the world.

If only you had their money, their bank accounts, their credit cards. You’d be looking just as good. Better even.

But you don’t.

You’re stuck with a second-rate salary, wondering how to build a new wardrobe on a budget.  You can’t spend all your money on clothes. You can only go shopping once in a blue moon, which is already too much of a cost. Spending more would break your bank account.

You want to dress better, but the price tag just seems too high.

But what if it wasn’t?

What if you could upgrade your wardrobe on a super-tight budget?

You Can Upgrade Your Wardrobe on a Budget (Without Spending a Fortune)

Back when I decided to build a more stylish wardrobe, I only had a part-time job, so I had very little money to spend. Clothes were already pretty costly, and now I had to start investing in the stylish stuff. I assumed I’d have to go full-on frugal to afford it.

And many men assume the same.

But I was wrong. I didn’t need as much money as I thought. Most of my beliefs on the cost-to-style relationship for clothes turned out false.

Many of you have emailed me that your second-rate salary holds you back from upgrading your wardrobe. Well, today you’ll come to understand a second-rate salary is plenty to do so.

You just need to learn how to shop for a new wardrobe on a budget.

And to do that, we first need to destroy some of your false beliefs.

So let’s get started on that.

False Belief 1: Clothes Shopping is Expensive

In the past, I considered clothes shopping an expensive endeavor. I would spend around $300 every time I went, so I always put it off.

But now I realize it only seemed expensive, because I put it off. I only went about once every six months, which amounts to a lousy $50/m on clothing cost.

What sounds better to you? Spending $300 in one day or spending $50/m for the next six months?

In both cases you spend the same amount, but the latter seems more doable, right?

So instead of shopping sporadically and buying in bulk when you do, go shopping regularly and spread your expenses over time.

False Belief 2: You Need to Buy a Whole New Wardrobe at Once

This belief is false on two fronts:

First, you don’t need as many clothes as you think.

When I built my new wardrobe, I discovered I could combine the various pieces in different ways, giving me plenty of outfits. Invest in versatility, and you can do the same.

10 clothes that let you create 36 outfits
Versatile clothes allow you to create 36 different outfits with just 10 clothes.

Second, you don’t need to do a complete wardrobe overhaul at once.

As I built my wardrobe, I just wore my new clothes with the ones I already owned.

My old clothes didn’t fit the new look I was going for, and they certainly didn’t fit my body perfectly. So as I built the wardrobe I wanted, I got rid of them, but I was in no hurry.

Remember your style journey isn’t a race.

You can mix the old and the new until you have enough new to get rid of the old.

False Belief 3: You Need to Invest in Expensive Clothes

Many men assume they need to buy expensive goods to improve their style.

Who can blame them? Just open a GQ magazine, and look at the prices of the items they promote. They’re pretty damn steep.

But buying expensive clothes won’t fix your style. Learning how to put a good outfit together will.

You could buy a $700 blazer from Versace or a $100 blazer from Zara, but the only thing that matters is how it looks on you.

Maybe the Versace blazer is somewhat higher quality, and maybe it will last somewhat longer — honestly, I haven’t tested it, so I can’t say — but the biggest part of the price difference comes from the brand. And nobody, except for a few fashion-nuts, will care or even notice. You don’t need to go for expensive brands to look good.

When you build your new wardrobe, just stick to affordable clothes, especially when you’re in the early stages of your style education. Mistakes you make will hurt a lot less when you haven’t sacrificed half a month’s paycheck on them.

You’re better off learning the ropes with clothes you can actually afford. You can look fine in cheaper clothes

False Belief 4: Cheap Clothes Can’t Be Stylish

My Own Cheap Clothes
Shirt: $20, Jeans: $50, Belt: Err… Can’t remember.

You think cheap clothes can’t be stylish, because you assume they’d be more expensive if they were — which seems like a logical conclusion.

I held this belief once. And I cry myself to sleep sometimes over all the money I’ve blown on overpriced jeans.

Assuming stores would charge more for their most stylish clothes makes sense, but style doesn’t decide the price. Consumers decide the price.

Clothes that stand out are more expensive, because they make you go “Ooh! Cool! Me want one!”

Men are more willing to spend on them.

Supporting pieces are usually cheaper, because they don’t invoke much of a reaction on their own.

Who’s gonna spend $30 on a plain white tee, $70 on a plain grey sweater or $200 on a pair of plain blue jeans?


Most men see supporting pieces as boring, because we have a blind spot for them.

When we see a magazine ad, the statement pieces catch our attention. We don’t even see the white shirt, the camel chinos, or the grey sweater. We only see the bold red, polka-dotted tie. (And that’s the point.)

And you don’t need that many statement pieces anyway, so the majority of your new wardrobe should be relatively inexpensive.

Supporting pieces are the building blocks of a great outfit, so you’ll be happy to hear stores practically try to give them away.

Not only are they incredibly cheap, stores often offer buy-in-bulk deals.

  • “2 for the price of 1!”
  • “Buy 3 and get 30% off!”
  • “Buy 2 and the 3rd is free!”

Just don’t get too easily persuaded by these deals. You still have to make sure everything fits, because spending so much as $1 on a T-shirt that fits poorly is still a waste.

And don’t use this article as an excuse to skimp. Use it to resist overspending.

How to Build a Wardrobe on a Budget: 3 Steps to Smarter Shopping

Okay, enough belief-shattering for today. You want to know how to build a new wardrobe already.

So let’s turn you into a super-smart shopping machine, yeah?

With the following plan, you’ll discover the best stores for you, protect yourself from overspending and focus on the clothes you need without getting sidetracked.

Step 1: Unearth Your Best Stores

The first step to upgrading your wardrobe is determining which men’s clothing stores sell the clothes that fit your body closest.

You have to identify the stores selling your best-fitting shirts, the stores selling your best-fitting pants, the stores selling your best-fitting blazers, etc. These may be three entirely different stores.

Take a day for each type of garment, and visit every — and I mean EVERY — store in your local shopping center.

The rules:

  • Focus on one item at a time. You won’t find enough time to visit every store, and you won’t memorize all the proper fits of all the different types of clothes at once. Focusing on one item at a time will be less overwhelming.
  • Forget past prejudices. Try out the stores you assume too crappy or too expensive. Maybe they are, or maybe you find out they’re not as bad as you think.
  • Don’t stop when you’ve found a good store. You may still find better ones.
  • Leave your wallet at home. Bringing your wallet will tempt you to buy something, which could prompt you to drop your search.

You’re not shopping. You’re evaluating. You’re finding stores for future reference.

You want to end up with a short list of the best stores for you, so when you start the shopping process, you’ll know exactly which stores to visit, and which to skip. You’ll be done in a jiffy.

Step 2: Set a Monthly Style Budget

Money in Envelope
Your Awesome Style Budget

Instead of blowing a big wad of money every so often, you will spread your spending over time.

Every month you receive your paycheck, you will withdraw a set amount and put it in an envelope marked “My Awesome Style Budget”.

The rules:

  • Withdraw your budget as soon as you’re able. Putting it off will make you forget.
  • Go shopping on your first off-day after you receive your paycheck. Postponing your clothes-shopping will tempt you to take money from your envelope to spend on other things.
  • Take only the money in your envelope. Leave your wallet and credit cards at home. You’ll keep yourself from overspending and from wasting money on impulse buys.

When an item costs more than your budget allows, simply save the money in your envelope for a month, and buy it the next one.

Building some early momentum is important, so I suggest you set your starters budget around $100/m. After you’ve built a solid foundation, you can decrease the budget a bit, if you want.

Step 3: Create a Shopping Plan

Before you go out, make a list of the clothes you need. Start with foundational items, like the ones in the Restart Capsule., because they’ll be easy to match.

Find out the average price of each item on your list. You don’t have to be ultra-specific as you’ll only use these as guidelines. Try websites and online stores.

When you’re done, you’re ready to plan your shopping.

Simply divide your list in segments, making sure each segment’s combined cost matches your budget, and every month you go out and buy one segment.

Let me give you an example:

Say you set your budget at $100.You located some good stores and the average prices for their items are as follows:

  • Shirts – $30
  • T-shirts – $10
  • Jeans – $60
  • Pants – $40
  • Blazers – $120

You could plan your shopping as such:

  • Month 1: Buy 4 T-shirts, 2 Shirts
  • Month 2: Buy 1 Pair of Jeans and 1 Pair of Pants
  • Month 3: Buy 2 more shirts, save the rest for next month.
  • Month 4: Buy 1 Blazer

Now you have your plan, and you’re ready to start shopping.

Oh, and before I forget… If you want not only a great shopping plan, but also the confidence that each piece you buy will make a great addition to your new wardrobe, Style Made Simple: The Beginner’s Guide to Dressing Better should be on the top of your shopping list.

And in case you think your money is better spent on your wardrobe itself; Style Made Simple will show you how to dress well on a budget and avoid unnecessary mistakes, and thus you’ll save money in the process.

You should make the investment, before you get started.

Building a New Wardrobe on a Budget Will Be a Piece of Cake

As men, we operate under a set of beliefs.

Beliefs can empower us, but they can also limit our progress. They tell us we can’t do something, and then our minds develop evidence to back it up.

I’ve done my best to shatter your false beliefs, but the only way to truly erase them from your mind is to take action and see for yourself.

You have to replace your mind’s so-called evidence with your own, see-it-with-your-own-eyes experience.

By shopping smartly, you’ll quickly discover that the cost of upgrading your wardrobe is far less than you imagined.

Now you know how to build a wardrobe on a budget. You have plenty of money to get started.

Don’t worry about expensive clothes at this point. You don’t need a Porsche to learn how to drive, and you don’t need fancy designer clothes to learn how to dress yourself.

Learn to create awesome outfits with affordable clothes before you even consider the high-priced items.

And once you’re ready to spend big, you’ll already have a killer new wardrobe at your disposal.

You’ll be rocking stylish clothes before you know it, man.

  • Andrey says:

    Good suggestions. I can add to not overlook thriftstores, winners and also online shopping, just make sure you can return the item if it does not fit.

    Here is my minimalist set, what do you guys think:
    1) Work set (if you work with your hands)
    Pants (2)
    T-shirts (5)
    Sweaters (2) – If you live in a northern country, like Ca, it is a must.
    One pair of comfortable orthopedic shoes, Solomon is the best.
    One pair of winter boots
    One pair of capped shoes (lol if you do manual labour)
    2) Casual neat set
    Pants (2)
    Light cashmere v-neck sweaters (2)
    3 t-shirts
    2 Shirts
    Casual sneakers
    3) Official set
    Pants (1)
    Blazer (1)
    Ties (2)
    Dress shirts (2)
    Dress shoes

  • […] Check out this article. Just take it one step at a time. You don’t need to change everything at once. And you also […]

    • Andrey says:

      THIS is the main and a very good idea – dont buy at once, take it gradual. I was making that same mistake for a while before a friend explained it to me.


    […] In fact, having lots of clothes in your wardrobe is impractical.  (Which is good news for guys who are trying to build a wardrobe on a budget!) […]

  • Blessings Mumba says:

    Hi Robert.
    You are not far from my experience which I’ve noticed recently about the hurt in early stages about buying expensive clothes to make myself stylish.
    Now in your presence I’m no longer a color crush in dressing less expenses in buying stylish clothes.
    Mr Robert thank you very much for being on my service and keep on styling the world with your classical advises.

    Yours Blessings Mumba in Malawi

  • Pratik says:

    100$ tht means Rs. 6600 approx.
    I get 5k rupees Monthly expenditure.
    How’s tht possible.???

  • Holly says:

    Not a man, but I found this advice was very useful for my hunt for good basics.Thank you!

  • Kalel says:

    In my country zara is counted as an expensive shop. The price there overwhelmed me. But tge clothes in cheaper stores looks cheap. Wearing it makes me feel self concious. I want to buy at zara or even h and m but i cant afford it.

  • Rich p says:

    Great advice Robert 100 dollars a month and dicipline works for me you don’t have to buy it all at once I was a impulse shopper but after a few wears of the clothing I was buying I didn’t like them or the fit wasn’t there anymore but with your help I’m revamped as a shopper

  • Asha says:

    Great tips! Gonna start a clothing budget, and a list of things I need :)

  • Madhav Sekar says:

    Good advice!

    In my current wardrobe, there are some pieces from Old Navy that I wear just as much, if not more, than those from J. Crew.

    I have to admit, I fell in to a similar trap when I first committed to dressing well. I assumed great style was out of reach due to the staggering prices shown in GQ magazine. Strange how a magazine that promotes fashion is also discouraging many men from pursuing style.

    • Robert says:

      Yeah, I think men should just realize that GQ is a highly commercialized magazine, and they don’t NEED to buy the brands they promote.

      • DTH says:

        I was always under the impression that GQ not only showed men’s fashion at ridiculous
        prices. It also provided a different looks for one to copy. In fact, I have some issues where there are articles on how to steal the look for less.

  • […] this, because without knowing how to get the basics right, nothing you try will really pan out and building a wardrobe that makes you look amazing will take a lot […]

  • Julian says:

    When rebuilding your wardrobe and investing in versatility for a range of well put together outfits, should one worry about their contrast when doing so? Or should I just buy all the neutrals I can while not worrying about their hues, shades, colors, etc? And just focus on dressing for my contrast once I start to incorporate more patterns and colors into my wardrobe.

    • Robert says:

      Hey Julian,

      it’s always good to consider your contrast right away.

      For example, if you’re high-contrast, you’d want to go for contrasting neutral. You’d want both light and dark ones. If you’re low-contrast though, it’s wise to keep the shades relatively close, at least at first.



      • Julian says:

        Thanks, I thought so it would only make sense. Just had to make sure it was from a real pro. Appreciate the help Robert!

  • […] In fact, having lots of clothes in your wardrobe is impractical.  (Which is good news for guys who are trying to build a wardrobe on a budget!) […]

  • Claude Taillefer says:

    Take a friend with you and explain what you are trying to accomplish. Someone you trust that has a good sense of style you appreciate. They will know where to find the items your looking for at the right price, save you lots of time and make the experience more sociable and fun. Also when you find a retailer you like, take the time to ask an employee how their promotions work and which ones they think are coming up and add those to your outlook to check back. Some are seasonal, some are twice a year. Other are item genre specific and are cycled throughout the year. You may even score yourself a “Friends and Family” pass :) Bottom line you won’t know if you don’t ask.

    • Robert says:

      Thanks for adding your tips, Claude. Personally, I’m not a big fan of bargain hunting, but I know it works for many guys.

  • […] Because when you’re trying something new, and it comes with a hefty price tag, those worries that it might not be right for you will hit you twice as hard. Especially if you’re on a budget. […]

  • gio says:

    Thanks for the advice and the clear explanation that I can perfectly adjust to my budget! awesome!

  • Jeff says:

    anyone have some good stores for good fits? the shopping center where i am are filled with cheap-illfitting, or expensive-i cant bear to buy these clothes stores. Im still in college, so the cheaper the better, as long as it fits well at this point, so a list of good stores might help.

    • Robert says:

      Nobody can tell you which stores have the best fits for you. You just need to take the time to discover them. Maybe you can look a bit farther outside your area?

  • Tunmise says:

    Really great post, this site is so helpful. Keep doing your thing!

  • crmuns88 says:

    That was excellent! Thank you for you straight forward advise. It’s simple and makes sense.

  • Bea says:

    This is why I visit men’s style websites like yours! All info: clear, no frills, no fluff, no trends. Thank you so much for providing begginers with the guidance they crave and can’t find elsewhere
    (I just sent you an e-mail about a similar site for women)

  • Corey says:

    You are really motivating me to actually go out and by some clothes. I’ve been trying to put some money back from every check to save up and go spend all at once, but I’m gonna have to try this. Awesome site, man! You’re truly helping a “beginner” out a TON!!! -Corey

  • Anthony Phillips says:

    Hi I have been looking at every website on men’s style you can think of, Grey Fox, Gq, Dappered, to name just a few. Finding your site was like a light went off in my head. The information is so simple, but seems to be forgotten by most men. My wardrobe is stuffed with every item of men’s clothing known to man. Now I can start to reshape it with this great site. Thank you. Anthony – England

  • Alex says:

    Create a shopping plan! I love this website because it has open my eyes to what is possible, and how to do it within a budget. I will be implementing this shopping plan because it just makes sense, but sometimes we need someone to bring it to our attention. Thanks Robert!

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