Five Cost-Effective Hacks to Elevate Your Style

I am certainly no Anna Wintour or Kim Kardashian. I’d rather spend my money on books and collectible Marvel superhero figures rather than expensive clothes and makeup.

Seriously. I even have a life-sized Baby Groot. It’s not as scary as it sounds, trust me.

But this isn’t a post about my unhealthy obsession with Marvel: It’s about how to take whatever money you have left over after you buy the necessities in life, and spend that money in thrifty ways to make it look like you actually didn’t choose between buying that new pair of shoes over a near-expired jar of peanut butter.

It’s no secret that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look like straight fire, but I do know the struggle of wasting money on cheap products that don’t end up working out. You keep buying $2 eyeliners hoping they’ll work out, but you still end up looking like Rocket Raccoon at the end of the day.

That’s right, two Marvel references in a row. Anyhow…

In my 19 years, I’ve gone through a whole lot of trial and error to figure out what’s the most cost-effective way to look like you spent a million bucks, without wasting a million bucks in the process. Here are my top five hacks for elevating your style in a budget-friendly way:

1. Use fake, press-on nails

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That’s right, press-on nails have become my go-to for when I want to have my nails done. After some experimenting, I’ve found a way to keep fake nails on for at least a week, sometimes more. Step one: cut your natural nails relatively short, to make for a better fit. Step two: File the tops of your nails to create a matte surface. Step three: use a brush on glue (sold separately from the nail set) on both your natural nail and on the backside of the fake nail. Step five: put the fake nail on your natural nail, and press down hard for a bit. And that’s really it! I recommend putting on fake nails just before you go to bed, so that way the nails can dry without being exposed to water. The longer the glue goes without being exposed to water, the longer the nails stay on. You can find fake nail sets at any drugstore or large retailer, like Walmart or Target. This beats taking the time and effort to paint your own nails or spending upwards to $30 on getting them done professionally. You can get a range of colors and shapes, or you can buy a plain set you can paint yourself if you’re into that.

Price of Nails: $7.99 at Target

Price of Glue: $2.99 at Target

Total: $10.98

2. Buy yourself one nice pair of go-to shoes

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At first glance, this might not seem super cost-effective, but I promise it is in the long run. There’s nothing worse than getting a cheap pair of shoes and having them break apart because you wear them so often. Cheap shoes like those from fast-fashion stores have their purpose, and that’s usually for the occasional night out with your friends, or when you’re going for a specific lewk™. For your everyday, favorite pair of shoes, however, get something that’s of really great quality, and that will make you excited to wear them every day. For me, this is usually a plain pair of black and white platform converse. They go with everything, but the platform look still gives them a unique character. They usually last me upwards to about a year before they start to look haggard. I also suggest being on the hunt for sales and coupon codes—they can help lessen the blow of buying a semi-expensive pair of shoes

Price of Shoes: I wouldn’t go anywhere above paying $80 for a nice pair of go-to shoes. We’re looking for functionality here, not necessarily luxury. My go-to shoes cost $65 from the Converse website with $4.99 shipping, for a total of $69.99.

3. Splurge on one or two high-quality/expensive makeup products, and save on the rest.

I’m not suggesting buying crappy makeup products that give you pink eye. Obviously, going for quality with your makeup is important, but it’s also a wallet-killer when everything you’re buying comes from lines at Sephora. I usually go for top-quality products that relate to the parts of my makeup routine I care most about, or that call for top quality. For example, I have acne prone skin, so I always go for the Fenty Beauty Foundation because it’s non-comedogenic, and it copes really well with the amount of oil my skin produces in a day. I also love doing Amy Winehouse-reminiscent eyeliner wings, so I buy Kat Von D’s tattoo eyeliner. The rest of my routine, however, comes from Target. My mascara is from Maybelline, my Primer is from Rimmel, and my Highlighter comes from Wet n Wild. If you’re really into contour or want high-pigmented eyeshadows that won’t crease, make that your expensive outlet. Just don’t feel like every makeup product needs to cost more than $20, because that’s not always indicative of quality. Here’s a breakdown of the cost of my own beauty routine to give you an example.

Price of Foundation: $34 from Sephora

Price of Eyeliner: $20 from Sephora

Price of Primer: $3.92 from Target

Price of Mascara: $6.99 from Target

Price of Highlighter: $5.99 from Target

Total Cost: $70.90

4. DIY some of your old/plain clothes into a whole new piece.

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Easier said than done…or is it? Of course, there are the DIY projects that you see on YouTube and in those how-to books that require all kinds of sewing and additional tools to accomplish them. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Doing something as simple as cutting the collar off of a shirt or making a graphic t-shirt into a cold shoulder top works too. Personally, my favorite DIY clothing project is to take a plain sweatshirt and iron-on funky patches all-over. You can buy patches online for as little as $3 a piece, and you can get them in all sorts of designs to represent what your passionate about, your favorite TV show, or a quote that you really like. You can also do this with an old jacket, or a plain t-shirt you want to give some personality to it. The possibilities are sort of endless with this one, so here are some ideas to get you started. If you want to go the patchwork route, here’s a breakdown of the price:

Price of plain sweatshirt: Roughly $8 on Amazon, depends on size and color

Price of patches: You can get different mixes of these for around $8 on Amazon

Total cost: $16

5. You can never go wrong with a basic, solid t-shirt

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I think a lot of people underestimate just how integral the cheap, solid t-shirt is to their wardrobe. You can find these anywhere from Target to Walmart to Forever 21, but I personally prefer H&M’s selection. I love to wear my basic tees with a pair of high-waisted jeans and then layered with a jacket or a flannel. There’s something elegant and put-together about the simple t-shirt. They’re also great because they literally go with anything, so you don’t have to worry about them only going with those black jeans and that fedora you bought one time on vacation. I suggest getting a couple of colors to choose from just so you have the options to match however you’re feeling that day. You can get them oversized to go with a pair of leggings, or tight and form-fitting to go with a pair of shorts, jeans, or a skirt. Anyone can pull these off, so they should become a staple in your budget-friendly closet.

Price of Shirt: $5.99 from H&M

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