Fashionable on a Budget in College

The starving college student is more than just a stereotype.  While most students aren’t literally starving, many are on a tight budget.  It’s no wonder when class schedules and limited education and experience relegate even working students to minimum wage jobs and part-time hours.  If you’re lucky, you have student loans, scholarships, and some money from mom and dad to help out, but sticking to a budget may still be a way of life. 

Saving your money for necessities like tuition, books, and living expenses can put a serious crimp in your ability to keep up with the latest fashions while you’re in school.  However, being stylish doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay top dollar for the latest designer duds.  Here are a few ways to remain fashionable during your college years, even when you’re on a budget.

Check Out Thrift Stores

Shopping retail means you’re getting the latest fashions, but you’re also going to pay a pretty penny for them.  Why bother when there are so many options for discount clothing?  To start, stores like Target, Kohl’s, and TJ Maxx can deliver better deals than the average department store, and many have teamed up with designer labels to sell overstock items for less or collaborate on affordable clothing lines.  You can save even more by thrift shopping.

Fashionable on a Budget in College

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis poked fun at the thrift shopping experience, donning onesies, fur coats, and grandpa suits in their video for ‘Thrift Shop’, but you don’t necessarily have to go for comic gold when you get thrifty.  You might find some usable basics like jeans and tees super cheap at Goodwill or Salvation Army, but if you’re going for style, see if there are shops like Buffalo Exchange in your area that offer trade-in credit and sell “gently used” garments, as well as some brand new overstock items from other stores.

Join DOTD Sites

When you think of deal-of-the-day sites, you probably think Groupon and LivingSocial.  However, there are also sites like HauteLook, Gilt, and Beyond the Rack that cater to designer junkies.  If you’re into labels and up-and-coming designers, these sites can offer you steals on the hottest trends.

Host Fashion Swaps

You’re not the only cash-strapped student looking to make a splash with your wardrobe.  Plenty of your peers are in the same boat.  All of you could benefit from periodic fashion swaps.  The idea is that everyone brings unwanted items from their own closet, including clothing, shoes, and accessories.  You all get to peruse the other items and take home some new-to-you fashions.  The leftovers can go home with their original owners or get donated after the swap.


Whether you attend the University of San Francisco or you’re heading to an east coast college, you can get on board with budget fashion and do something good for the environment by upcycling older clothing.  All you have to do to get ideas for repurposing old clothing is look online.  You’ll find tons of great ideas to try, from cutting the sleeves off sweaters and using them for leg warmers to turning your old tees into cute new skirts.  You’ll have to be handy with needle and thread, but with online tutorials to try you might be surprised by how you can reimagine your old clothing as something new and fashionable.