The term “business casual” is one that is often lost on job seekers, especially those who are on a tight budget. It’s not that the business casual style is difficult to define; it’s more casual than business wear, but a business casual outfit still needs to look nicer than what someone would just throw on during their day off. The problem is that a lot of young people don’t understand that there is a middle ground between formal business wear and raggedy jeans and a t-shirt. Many of them don’t even own any clothing that fits in between these two extremes, especially if they are working with a limited budget. Fortunately for them, it’s not that difficult to adopt a business casual style without spending too much money. Here are eight tips that can help you when you need a cheap business casual wardrobe.
1. Know What Business Casual Means at Your Workplace
Business casual dress codes tend to be vague and broad. It can mean wearing button-down dress shirts and ironed khaki pants, or it could mean wearing a polo shirt and jeans that don’t have holes in them. When you start a new job that has a business casual dress code, find out what is and isn’t allowed at the workplace in terms of clothing. That will give you an idea of where to start with your wardrobe.
2. Look for Sales
There are almost always sales going on at stores that sell clothing. This goes for stores that specialize in fine clothing as well as chain department stores that sell dress shirts on clearance. Hunt around for stores near you that are in the middle of sales. If there aren’t any, wait a week or so. Something is bound to go on sale if you give it enough time. If all else fails, there is nothing wrong with going to a thrift store to pick up some nice-looking dress shirts and pants. You would be surprised at what you can find at such places.
3. Dress Neatly with What You Have
Button-down shirts, pressed slacks and ties are less expensive than you might think (as you hopefully discovered if you took the previous tip to heart). A $10 dress shirt and $15 khaki pants will look just fine if you press them and keep them hanging neatly in your closet. Once you are wearing them at work, nobody will know that you picked them up for next to nothing.
4. Stick to Neutral Colors
Khaki, black, beige and other neutral colors will work well with practically any outfit, so keep them as part of your wardrobe if you want to make the most out of a limited selection. You can keep a few articles of more colorful clothing if you want to change things up once in a while, but you will get more mileage out of your more “boring” clothes.
5. Invest in Items You Will Wear Regularly
While you can get away with wearing inexpensive dress shirts and pants, you will need to invest in higher-quality clothing that you will wear regularly. These items will vary from person to person, but the biggest investment should be your shoes. You will wear them almost every day even if you have more than one pair, so assume they will be taking a beating. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a new pair of leather dress shoes or pumps, but you should buy something that is built to last. Clean them regularly to keep them free of dirt and scuffs as well.
6. Switch Up Your Look with Accessories
Accessories such as ties for men and jewelry for women can help you switch up your look without buying a whole new outfit. Shop around at clothing dealers or thrift stores to see what you can find for some relatively low prices.
7. Sell Your Old Clothes
If you have old clothes that you don’t think you’ll ever wear again, consider selling them online or to consignment stores to offset the costs of your new wardrobe. You may not be able to finance all of your business casual work clothes this way, but the relatively few dollars you will get could make a difference.
8. Keep Things Simple
You don’t need to go all-out when you buy new clothing. Not only should you have at least a few things in your closet already that you can wear at the office, but you can get by with only a few fancier pieces of clothing and mostly simpler shirts and pants. Remember that business casual doesn’t require you to dress up and look your best; focus on the “casual” part to save some money. As long as you remember what is deemed acceptable by your workplace and you stay away from wearing ripped jeans and t-shirts, you can make just about any wardrobe work in an office setting even if you don’t have a fancy suit and tie for every work day.