Fair Fashion

How to Shop Sustainably on a Budget

Some people say that ethical brands are too expensive, some people complain that fair fashion brands are dull and some might even think that they won’t be able to find what they need sustainably. Let me convince you why this isn’t true and why you can shop sustainable and eco friendly on a budget by just following these 10 tips…

  1. Change your perspective
    Before I can convince you that shopping ethical and sustainable on a budget is possible, we have to address the fact that we need to change our perspective on fashion and trends first.
    Like I said in my Fair Fashion Beginner’s Guide: “Fast fashion brands (like the name suggests) are rushing new trends every season, making you believe that you have to change your closet constantly and slowly turn into a shopaholic”. So you might find yourself buying new things on a regular basis, things you most probably don’t even need just because fast fashion brands have made them affordable for us! Unfortunately, thinking that 5 bucks for a t-shirt is a fair price and therefore worth buying, is wrong. That t-shirt might only be 5 bucks for you, but someone out there had to pay the full price (and I am not just talking about money). Keep in mind that the fast fashion industry goes hand in hand with human exploit(ation). Educate yourself on this, it is a well known fact. You might find yourself in a so called cognitive dissonance state (= a feeling or a situation of discomfort that arises when your beliefs run counter to your behaviours/habits), but it’s time to open your eyes, face the truth and take responsibility. When a dress can be sold cheaper than a newspaper, someone got ripped off somewhere and you are a supporting these businesses with your money. Like John Oliver said in an episode of the Last Weeks Tonight Show : ‘trendy clothing is cheaper than ever and cheap clothing is trendier than ever’. Imagine how much our society is struggling with shopaholic behaviour and wasting money on unethical products.

  2. Quality over Quantity
    I want you to know a principle that I follow: One sustainable dress is worth more than 20 fast fashion ones. Have you ever checked the stitching of your clothes? Just a couple of years ago I used to change my closet every season, not only because the things I owned where no longer in trend, but also because the “affordable” pieces I owned had already been worn out; the colours had faded and sometimes even holes appeared out of nowhere (probably due to bad stitching). Simply said: the quality of those pieces was awful. The problem is that it is made that way on purpose (not always of course but mostly) because this way you are forced to buy a new version of the old one and spend more money on new clothes. I used to believe that clothes were meant to be swapped out after some time and that I just had to change my closet, because clothes were not meant to last a lifetime and that I simply had no other choice. Wrong!
    Invest in long lasting pieces. Invest in clothing that will never go out of style. Invest in clothing that you put some thought in and clothes that will make you feel comfortable while wearing them. Invest in good quality. You will get more worth and actually saves money in the long run!

  3. Get to know affordable Sustainable Brands
    It is a misbelieve that sustainable brands are all expensive and only affordable for the “upper class” (which I hear so many people complain about). Of course the prices can’t compete with fast fashion clothes made in Bangladesh, under horrible working conditions, but do you really want to support that? I hope not. Luckily, over the last years, a lot of great “affordable” brands have risen from the ground and offer us the opportunity to shop sustainably even on a lower budget. I recommend checking out the website rathersustainable.com where you can get to know different brands and find the right brands just for you (the right brands that fit your style and fit your budget), or check out the Good On You App. People seem to forget that but fun fact: even sustainable brands have sales from time to time.

  4. Second Hand Shopping
    I know this is a difficult topic for some people, since they might find the thought of wearing clothes that belonged to someone else before uncomfortable. There are people out there, just like you and me, that are selling clothes that they no longer love or need. Second hand clothing can be incredibly affordable and is probably the most sustainable solution. Give it a try because someones “trash” could be someone else’s “treasure”.

  5. Rent or borrow clothing
    So, you are going to a wedding or a fancy dinner party and need a new dress, but can’t afford one? Rent it! There are companies where you can rent out clothes. (I personally only tried out one in Amsterdam, because that’s the closest shop near me, so I recommend doing your research to find one in your area). But I am not only talking about renting clothing from specific companies that offer that, but I also mean to borrow clothes from your friends and family. Renting/Borrowing is a wonderful and sustainable opportunity when you need a specific item for just that one occasion. The sad truth is that a lot of people don’t want to wear the same dress/outfit more than once because they have this stupid thought that people have seen them wear this dress/outfit already and then those people might think that they only have this one dress (or outfit… Another perspective that should be drastically changed, but until that is resolved, rent it!

  6. Buy what you NEED
    First of all, go through your closet and look at each and every item until you are sure you know everything that you own. Sometimes we mistakenly buy things that are quite similar to other things that we already own. Yes of course, if you are really into maxi dresses and you want to own more than just one, go for it, but do you really need three in similar colours and/or styles?

  7. Avoid Impulse Buys
    This is a crucial step for those of you that want to live and/or shop sustainably on a budget! Don’t buy something without first thinking about it, extensively. Doesn’t the saying go: why don’t you sleep on it?! Plan your shopping, don’t just buy something out of the blue without clearly thinking it through. For more tips on this topic check out my blog post on How to avoid impulse buys.

  8. Track your expenses
    Have you ever tracked how much money you actually spend on clothing (or cosmetics/food/etc.)? Well, it might be time that you do. This can be extremely shocking and eye opening, trust me! (To see how much money you have spend on so many inexpensive products) Make sure to track your expenses for at least half a year but preferably an entire year. Once you know where you are spending your money on and how frequent your spendings are, you can ask yourself: was it really necessary? Believe it or not but it helps a lot when it comes to shopping on a budget.

  9. Make the calculation
    Before you decide on buying a new item, make sure to estimate the amount of wear you will get out of it. For example; before buying a new blazer, consider the types of occasions you want to be wearing it at and estimate how often you are going to actually wear it. Would you like to wear it everyday? Every week? Every season? Will you wear it just to work or anywhere else? You actually don’t need to be good at math for this, because if you are only buying the blazer for one occasion, it is not going to be worth buying it at all. You could consider renting or, if that is not possible, change it to a vest or trench coat that you might already own. I try to follow the principle of only buying something that I can wear it at least 100 times.

  10. Love your clothing
    You might think: ‘Yes of course! I love fashion! I love clothes and I therefore love my clothes. But we should be more honest with ourselves… if we truly love our clothes then why do we throw them away instead of fixing them? Why do we let some items rot in our closet instead of wearing them more often (no matter the current trend). I believe, that we need to take more care of our clothes. Because the more you love your clothing, the more excited you will be wearing them and the less you feel the need for new ones. You will begin to stop wanting more and more once you truly love and appreciate what you have. (plus: it will save you money.)