5 Ways to Update Your Look and Not Spend a Fortune

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5 ways to update your look and not spend a fortune

Looking to update your look but don't have a lot of money to do it? You'll be surprised by what simple, free, and low-cost methods can do to elevate your existing wardrobe and transform your appearance. Below I share my 5 favorite ways to update your look and not spend a fortune.

5 Ways Update Your Look and Not Spend a Fortune

These 5 tips will update your look, and elevate your style, without breaking the bank. If you have any other suggestions on how to update your look for less, do share them in the comments! This post was originally published in 2005 but has been updated over time to accommodate current trends.

 Image of four shoes on grass with the text tip 1 give your shoes a glow up budget-friendly ways to update your look.

Tip 1: Give Your Footwear a Glow Up

They say that shoes make the man but honestly, the condition of your footwear can make or break the style of any person. It's not about how much your shoes cost, how long you've had them, or how many you own. It's all about their condition, and you can manage this on any budget.

Tips for Cleaning and Repairing Leather Footwear

Leather shoes and boots can look like new with a little elbow grease and a simple shoe shine kit. The video above (and linked here) is from KIWI, the shoe product experts, and shows how easy it is to shine your own shoes at home. This kit, also from KIWI is under $15 and will take care of all the black leather shoes in your wardrobe. For other colors of leather, this link takes you to shoe polish available in most any color you may need, each jar under $10.

For damage to the leather, shoes peeling up from soles, worn soles and heels, no need to toss the shoes. Take the shoes to a cobbler who can complete repairs and replace soles and heel caps for way less than a new pair of shoes. I recommend doing this at the end of each season to ensure your shoes are in tip-top shape come the next time you wear them!

Tips to Clean Sneakers and Canvas Footwear

A fresh pair of sneakers can elevate everything from sportswear to loungewear and there is no need to go out and buy a new pair to achieve it. Just a little TLC will have your sneakers looking so much brighter and newer.

The video above (and linked here) goes over my preferred methods for cleaning sneakers. No need for fancy products; you can get your sneakers looking great with toothpaste, detergent, an old toothbrush, and a rag.

Using a brush like this one is great for any shoe to get off dried mud and muck. Keep one near your front door for a quick swipe after wears. And washing your shoelaces is a quick way to make your shoes look newer!

image of a woman in a white shirt holding a black leather bag over her shoulder. Text states tip 2 give your handbag some TLC budget-friendly ways to update your look

Tip 2: Give Your Daily Handbag Some TLC

Whether you're saving your pennies or the planet, there is no need to replace your handbag each season. Regular care for your bags will keep them performing and looking great for decades. My tips for giving your handbag a glow-up:

  • Snip the Strings: Over time, especially with non-leather bags, you will find little threads peeking out of seams along straps and well-worn corners. A pair of cuticle scissors will be small and sharp enough to get close and snip them off without affecting the structure or performance of the bag.
  • Spot Clean: For stains on leather bags, dip a Q-tip into rubbing alcohol and dab the spot and blot to keep the liquid and spot from spreading. You may need some patience, but dab blot dab blot and many stains like pen marks and indigo rub-off from denim clothing should disappear.
  • Apple Brand makes a fantastic leather cleaner and conditioner kit that I recommend for leather bags and other accessories. It works well for larger stains and will keep leather soft and supple.
  • Air it out: If your bag smells like something you don't want it to smell like, place it in an airtight box with either some kitty litter or baking soda overnight (or longer depending on the smell). This will help remove odors.
  • Clean it out: Periodically, remove absolutely everything from your handbag. Vacuum out any crumbs and dust, wipe down all surfaces, and then be thoughtful with what you're putting back in. An overly stuffed bag never looks chic; you likely don't need everything that ends up in your bag over time!
image of a woman in a chair and smock showing her phone to a woman holding scissors. text reads tip 3 update your hair even a subtle change budget-friendly ways to update your look

Tip 3: Update Your Hair

The quickest way to change your entire look is to change your hair. No need to cut it all off and dye it a different color; even a subtle change can do you good.

  • If you have long hair, consider some long layers and/or curtain bangs. No extreme change, but it will add texture and is easy to grow out if you don't love it.
  • If you have shoulder length hair, switch up your part. Go from side to middle, from middle to side, from left to right. Again, not a ton of commitment if you hate it and you may find it's the subtle change that makes everything look new.
  • If you have shorter hair, consider a new product. If you're a die-hard gel user, consider a lotion. If you don't use product, consider a lightweight product that may add texture, shine, or soft control.
  • If you're fighting frizz, lean into your natural texture with products specifically for wavy or curly hair. I embraced my natural curl a few years ago and not only did it update my look, it made it so much easier to have a good hair day.

If you're not sure where to even start, ask your stylist. They may have had ideas for a while but didn't speak up because they knew you liked your regular style. If you don't have a stylist, head to Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok and search for folks with similar hair to get ideas. Keywords like “over 40 curly hair,” “fine straight hair styles,” and “how to style a bob” will get you started and from there you will be suggested other similar accounts that may get you closer to what you desire.

image of a woman in a white spa robe pumping a beauty product from a white pump bottle into her hand. Text states tip 4 have a nighttime skincare routine budget0friendly ways to update your look

Tip 4: Have a Nighttime Skincare Routine

If you are not regularly washing and moisturizing your face every evening, I encourage you to do this for one month and see the results. Commit to 30 days of washing your face with a gentle cleanser made for your face and following up with a moisturizer. No need for a 10-step routine; just committing to this if you're not already doing it will give a visible and positive result.

There are a kazillion skincare products on the market; if you're not sure where to start I recommend starting with CeraVe. Recommended by dermatologists and beauty gurus, CeraVe is gentle, effective, and budget-friendly. This cleanser is soap-free but will take off all dirt, sweat, and makeup with ease. This moisturizer is oil-free, unscented, and effective.

Consistently washing your face at the end of the day and hydrating after (even oily skin needs to be moisturized) will improve your skintone, texture, and add brightness. You may find you look more rested, your face looks softer, and you may feel more confident.

image of a woman with black hair pulled up into a topknot perusing her closet. Text states tip 5 properly care for your clothes budget0friendly ways to update your look

Tip 5: Properly Care for Your Clothes

You may not even realize it, but how you're caring for your clothes may be affecting their fit, appearance, and reducing their longevity. Style comes not from what you own but how you wear it, and clothing care determines how good the clothes look that you choose to put on your body.

  • Sweaters should be folded, not hung. When you hang sweaters the weight causes them to droop, causing the sweater to be misshapen and often get “wings” in the shoulders from the edges of the hanger.
  • Most clothes shouldn't go in the dryer. Anything with Lycra or Spandex breaks down in the heat of a dryer. While the dryer may speed up the dry time, it will also speed up the end of your clothing's lifecycle. If you're dealing with thighs wearing out of your jeans or knitwear fading and getting snags, that can be due to your dryer usage. If you don't have a drying rack, you can hang clothes over curtain and shower curtain bars, laid flat on a towel or two to absorb moisture, and over towel bars.
  • Protect tall boots with magazines. To prevent creasing on taller leather boots, no need for fancy boot trees. Just roll up an old magazine and tuck it in the shaft. It will allow for airflow and keep your boots upright. andin the best condition!
  • Invest in a lingerie bag (or two). A mesh laundry bag like this one will prevent items from getting stretched and snagged when in the washing machine. While popular for bras and other underpinnings, I also use them for lightweight t-shirts and knits and anything else that could be damaged in the spin cycle.
  • Toss those terrible hangers. Dry cleaning hangers can misshape clothing and leave rust stains. A lot of hangers are the wrong size and can misshape clothing or cause them to slip off onto the floor. I am a big proponent of velvet-flocked hangers. They grip to knits keeping them in place, are less likely to dent clothes, and are so low-profile you can fit more garments on your closet bar.
  • Wash less. Clothing doesn't need to be washed as much as you think. Spot clean when possible (the Tide to Go pen is effective and easy to tuck into your bag for on-the-go treatment). For odors, hang clothing outside in the sun, or use a handmade odor remover of vodka or rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. You can add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil, but once dry the alcohol smell as well as the original odor will be gone. The less you wash your clothes, the more they will look like new.
5 easy ways to update your look for less

These days, fashion is fluid. You don't need the latest and greatest trend to look stylish. Style comes from not what you own, but how you wear it. Take the best care of your wardrobe and your self, and that's the best investment in your appearance. Wearing what brings you joy, whether it's a great color or a piece you've loved for decades brings confidence, and confidence is the chicest accessory for any look. You don't need to change; caring for what you already have improves your look and improves your outlook!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I keep my out of season shoes on the upper shelves of my closet. When switching things out for the seasons I make sure every pair I move to the upper shelves is cleaned and polished and have shoe trees or similar shape support if needed. That way when I want to wear those sandals on the first day it’s warm enough they look good and are ready to go!

  2. I have begun washing my face every night before bed, and you are right, Alison, my face looks better for it. I’ve not always been great about washing my face, and now, in my mid 50s, I’ve gotten more aware that I need to. I use a retinol cream after washing at night, and in the morning after a quick wash, I use a Vitamin C serum. I’m noticing a lot less discoloration!

    Also, this year I’ve begun wearing lip color almost every day. I love love love lip color but I’m terrible at reapplying it, and I’ve vowed to change that. My current favorites are Maybelline Superstay Lip Inks. They really last nearly all day, even with eating lunch!

    You are so right in this article. Just small details can really make a difference in appearance. Thank you again for another timely post.

  3. Swim noddles are a cheap and easy replacement for boot trees.
    Washing your shoe laces is good, but you can also change them up -you can totally change the look by replacing white laces with a color or visa versa, think of black sneakers with white laces vs black. Replacing buttons on a coat or jacket can do the same thing.

    1. I was just coming to say the same thing. I tie my over the knee boots to a half pool noodle and it works like a charm.

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