7 hacks for when your wardrobe needs a refresh, but you’re so broke

Whenever the weather changes, we get a primal urge to rifle through our closets and do a little inventory: What do we still have, what’s still cute AF, and what are some pieces we’re missing that would complete our looks? But being on a budget takes all of the fun out of seasonal wardrobe hauls. Even if getting new boots or a stack of fresh tops seems impossible, there are ways to refresh your wardrobe when you’re broke. You just have to get creative.

A wardrobe refresh is good for your soul but often a total bummer for your checking account.

But overhauling your closet without spending a dime (OK, you might have to spend a few bucks) is not impossible. Here are some of the best ways to switch it up on the cheap.

1First, know what you’re working with.

Although getting rid of clothes when you’re broke seems like bad idea — you never know what you’re going to need later — you have to dig in and know what you’re working with. Maybe you don’t toss or donate anything at all, but get everything out of the drawers and the back hangers so you know what you have at the very least. You might surprise yourself by finding a skirt you never wore from five years ago that actually could be perfectly styled for this season.

2Find all of your holes.

Now that you know what you have, you need to figure out what you’re missing. If you find yourself liking #OOTDs on Instagram that include certain kinds of pieces that you don’t have, then that’s where you’re going to want to spend whatever money you do have. You want to make sure you have all of your basics covered so that you can start layering and playing around with things. Jeans you love, basic tops, a little black dress — when you have a good foundation, you can go anywhere.

3Focus on key pieces.

Make sure that when you’re spending money, you’re getting things that are worth it. A lot of times this means investing in great shoes, a versatile, high-quality bag, or a coat that will last a few seasons. When you’re broke, spending a hundred dollars on a pair of boots sounds scary, but as you’ve heard a million times, you really do have to think of it like an investment. Go for quality over quantity.

4Repair your old stuff.

Speaking of which, higher quality items you have will be easier to repair. You don’t have to replace your *perfect* pea coat just because the lining is a total wreck. A good dry cleaner will usually have a seamstress on hand. Same goes for fixing your leather boots or suede bag that’s seen better days. Not only is this usually worth it financially, cobblers and people who love repairing old, beautiful things are usually so much fun to get to know. You can also try your hand at doing it yourself, if you’re really that bold.

5DIY what you can.

You know the old standbys: You can cut old jeans to make shorts or turn your old softball T-shirt into a super cute crop top. But don’t be limited to just tearing things up. You can dip dye shirts or white sneakers or make your own graphic t-shirts with some bleach and a stencil. If you don’t have a shoe repairman near you, you can sometimes fix boots and heels yourself. Lean times call for creativity.

6Swap or sell things you don’t want.

A lot of vintage or thrift stores will let you trade your stuff for store credit or similar items, which is sometimes better than straight-up selling your clothes, since shops don’t pay top dollar. Don’t be shy when it comes to asking about all of their policies and making them work for you. If you can trade a jacket for a better one, go for it instead of taking a measly $20 that you probably won’t be able to use to buy clothes you actually want.

7Shop smarter.

Eventually, you might just have to go shopping. But do not buy new when there are other options. Vintage stores can actually be expensive, because they’re usually selling vintage designer or high-end clothes. That might be a good place to find your next big statement piece. Otherwise, hit the thrift stores! The Salvation Army is a great place to start, as is a chain like Buffalo Exchange or the independent thrift store near you. Think about trying ones that aren’t close to your house or in different parts of your city — the stock will vary depending on the people who are donating.