Shopping Ethically On A Budget

Shopping ethically can seem like a rather expensive feat. I know when I first started looking on ethical websites my eyes nearly fell out of their sockets looking at the seemingly outlandish prices. I found myself caught in a battle between my wallet and my conscience. After watching The True Cost, I knew I no longer wanted to support the fast fashion industry, but what options did that leave me with? I have always loved expressing myself through fashion, and my sense of style seems to be ever-changing. Last year I tended to be attracted to vibrant colors, while this year I’m drawn to darker colors and floral prints.  So how have I built up my wardrobe to something that suits my current style without breaking the bank?


  1. Start with the basics. This is an easy place to start when shopping ethically, as nearly every ethical shop offers basics (in fact, some only offer basics). Rather than overwhelming yourself with replacing your entire wardrobe at once, start with just replacing the basics. I started off by ordering some plain neutral colored tees to replace the ones I already had. These are great wearable pieces that are staples to any wardrobe. My personal favorite ethical shop to purchase basics from is Pact Organic. Their site is full of basics and I especially love their leggings, tees and tanks. They also often have bundles so you can buy more at once without paying as much…
  2.  Get on mailing lists. When shopping ethically, it’s always a good idea to take advantage of sales, and how do we learn about these sales? While some may be a shopaholic like me and practically stalk their favorite websites, it’s a whole lot easier to join mailing lists to be notified when sales are going on. You can find some real steals on ethical sites when seasonal or holiday sales come around!
  3. “Can we go thrift shopping?” The thrift store is like a treasure hunt. I have found some of my favorite pieces at the thrift store and the memories of how I came across them makes them all the more special. While there are certain brands I try to avoid, if I find a piece I love, I would much rather give my money to a thrift store than to a brand that is mistreating workers and harming the environment in the process of making their clothing. Thrift shopping is great because you can still purchase items for a rather low price and they are often quite unique as they aren’t necessarily following the current “fashion fads”.  I sometimes like to think about who previously owned the pieces I buy and what they could have been like. When I shop at a thrift store I feel inspired to have more fun with my fashion and I start to experiment… I tend to buy my printed tops, dresses and bottoms from the thrift store as those pieces are items I may not want to keep forever but that I love for the time being. I found that my sense of style comes through so much more when thrift shopping and I absolutely love it. If you have never been thrift shopping, I highly recommend giving it a go.
  4. Save up. Shop less. If I find a piece that I absolutely love but can’t afford at the time, I will gradually start saving up for that special piece. So naturally, I have to cut back on my overall spending. While I do love to shop, at the end of the day I would rather spend my money on one item that I absolutely love than a bunch of items I only bought because they were “good enough”. An important point that is mentioned in The True Cost is how the fast fashion industry makes us feel like we can and should buy so much. And because we’ve become so accustomed to this idea that we can afford bulks of clothing at once, we look at items that are ethically made as “overpriced”. But I have found that the satisfaction of purchasing a piece that I fell in love with and saved up for is far more rewarding than coming home with a pile of clothing that wind up in the back of my closet months later.
  5. Recycle clothing. In addition to shopping secondhand, I found that donating or selling clothes I don’t wear helped me understand what my style actually is and what pieces I was actually looking to add. Going into a shop without a plan, often leads to unnecessary purchases, which then amounts to clutter. When you know what you have and what you’re looking for, it becomes so much easier to shop wisely. Donating clothes is such a wonderful feeling as it helps someone else in the process. I personally donated five bags of clothing and it was an amazing feeling. Selling clothes you don’t wear anymore is also an option and a good way to make some extra cash. While I haven’t done much selling, I do know that there is a popular app called Depop where you can sell clothing, accessories, and much more. Regardless of how you choose to dwindle your wardrobe down, I do think this is an important tip because not only could you potentially earn a bit of money to put towards ethical purchases, but because it allows you to have a clearer understanding of what you want in the first place.

You’d be amazed at how different my wardrobe is now compared to how it used to be. I am still learning and working on building a wardrobe that I feel reflects who I am. I can say, with utmost certainty; I am closer now than I have ever been before. I am shopping consciously and mindfully while still expressing myself through fashion. Fashion is powerful. It leaves an impression on others without a single word uttered. It can make us see how beautiful we truly are and help us find the confidence inside. If you are someone who wants to start shopping ethically, but may not know where to start, I hope this article finds you well and helps you!


Some of my favorite ethical shops:

Pact Organic



People Tree

Alternative Apparel


Quote of the Day:  “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” –Mahatma Gandhi


Question of the day: Past or present, which fashion icon inspires you most?


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