How To Shop Ethically on a College Budget

I told you all on Monday why I chose to start shopping ethically and while the choice didn’t come easy it’s really the ‘How’ that’s the hardest part. My two biggest fears when making this decision was that 1) I’d have to become much more minimalistic in my personal style. I saw all these people shopping ethically on Instagram and they all had closets with like 10 pieces of clothing in it and it was all very monotone – and well that’s just not me. 2) I saw that it was so expensive and I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to afford anything and so I’d just have a closet filled with old clothing that was out of style. Within two days of researching these fears were proven wrong.
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Shopping ethically does call for a radical change in lifestyle in some ways and in others I’m completely the same. My style has really started to change: I’m a little more minimalistic, a lot more unique, and have grown to love the vintage look. I’ve only been doing this for about five months now but I figured I’d share all the tips that I’ve learned about shopping ethically on a budget!

  • Do not be Afraid of Thrift Shops – They are your new best friend. Honestly, I’d only ever thought of thrift shops as dingy places to get great old flannels and small men’s jeans to cut into shorts but as I’ve grown to understand them I see so so much more. So many of my favorite pieces in my closet have come from thrift shops. I have found everything from handmaid embroidered jackets, to cashmere sweaters, to mom jeans, to beautiful leather shoes, and so so much more. Not only is the clothing so much more affordable but also because a majority of it was made prior to the 2000s the quality is so so much better and so it will actually last you longer than most Zara buys.
  • Vintage is Back! Developing a vintage style has been one of my favorite aspects of shopping ethically and honestly I feel so like myself in it that I can’t believe I haven’t made this switch sooner. Long wool midi skirts, mom jeans, high-wasted loose shorts, and blouses area all so beautiful and classic that they will always be in style. There are tons of vintage stores online that you can find with the most amazing gems on websites like ASOS Marketplace and Etsy and when you make a good find it is one of the greatest joys.howto (1 of 4)
  • Shop Less & Invest in the Basics… this was definitely the hardest for me. Honestly, I love shopping but I recognized that before this switch I was started to become a binge shopper and I hadn’t even realized it. I’d go to Marshalls and get $100 dollars’ worth of clothing (which is a lot of clothing) in one day and want to get more the next. Our materialistic culture has made keeping up with trends almost impossible making shopping addicts out of all of us. Investing in high quality basics at places like Everlane hurt at first because at the time it felt so expensive but since investing in those basics my closet as felt more put together and complete than it ever has before and I haven’t really needed or wanted to shop since. There is this lie that shopping ethically will empty your bank account and yet I am saving more money now than ever! Your typical basics are: a white blouse/tshirt, jean jacket, one or two monotone sweaters, a pair of boyfriend jeans and dark jeans, a midi skirt, and a basic black dress.
  • Borrow from a Friend. A huge thing with girls is that we do not want to wear the same things more than once. For some reason, there is a stigma from showing up to an event in the same dress you wore to one over a year ago. I don’t really understand that but it’s a pressure we definitely all feel. What I’ve started to do is instead of buying a new dress for every event, I borrow one from a friend and dress it up a little differently than she would have. Not only does it save me serious money but it also stops me from having 20 dresses in my closet that I’ve only worn once and will probably never wear again. Even things like Rent the Runway have saved me on more than one occasion and I absolutely love everything they offer.
  • Find an Accountability Partner. Honestly, when you start out this is going to feel really hard. You’re going to go to Target to get some snacks and their clothing section can literally make your mouth water and maybe you’ll see a sale that feels absolutely irresistible at a place like Zara or Urban Outfitters. Having someone to hold you accountable, who is pursuing the same path as you are is so important and can make this switch so so much more bearable.howto (4 of 4)
  • Finally, You Don’t Need to Buy a Whole New Wardrobe with Only Ethical Clothing. This may seem silly but when I first started shopping ethically I felt guilty wearing clothing I had once gotten at Marshalls and Zara. I wanted to purge my closet and get rid of it all just because it didn’t feel right but then I realized… Not only would that be crazy expensive but also I already own the clothing and to throw it out would only contribute to the waste problem within the fashion industry. I’m going to treat that clothing as well as I treat my high-quality new clothing and hope that it lasts me as long as possible.

For those looking for Fair Trade and ethically made clothing, I’ve linked some of my favorite places to shop:

Everlane (easily my favorite ethical brand – so affordable and so so cute)
Nisolo
Madewell
Imperfect Linens (this is by far my favorite Etsy store)
ASOS Marketplace (I’ve linked my favorite vintage vendor)
Nellie Taft
Thought Clothing
PACT Apparel
Krochet Kids Intl.
People Tree (more expensive)
Able
Tradelands (more expensive)
Raven + Lily
Mayamiko (this place is so beautiful and unique)
ThredUp (favorite online thrift shop)
Poshmark (amazing secondhand clothing)