Business Casual Wardrobe on a Budget

If I had $500 to spend on a business casual wardrobe from scratch, this is what I’d buy:

2 pairs of pants – $79

Assuming you won’t wear skirts or dresses to work (like I do, for some clients), I’d definitely pick up 2 pairs of pants.
You can’t go wrong with dark grey or black, but make them distinctively different but not flashy. You don’t want co-workers to think you wear the same pair of pants everyday (even if you do :P)
You can find really great pairs of pants for around $50 each, so $120 is a reasonable estimate.
Note: Please don’t get caught up on what stores they come from. Stores change every season and there are different things to look at and buy in each store, so just keep your eyee peeled.

5 blouses – $166

Blouses are easy to find, but you have to make sure you buy tops that will cover your shoulders, and cover your cleavage enough to not be labelled as an office tart.

2 sweaters – $89.50

Something that is comfortable but still stylish without being too formal or too casual.

2 pairs of shoes – $46

Covered shoes, low heel.. nothing too high or too fancy when you are going for a basic wardrobe.

Jewellery – $20?

Pick what you want.

I like necklaces (obviously)… but don’t go crazy with the jewellery until you’ve finished with the above basics.

TOTAL = $400.50

Still $99.50 leftover which I guess could partly go to taxes, or buying higher quality in other items if you’d like.

Other Tips

Seasonal Clothing is not included above

I am just assuming office wear. Having winter boots to wear to work, then changing into pumps, or having a winter jacket is not factored in, because this is just a business casual wardrobe on the cheap.

Always look out for seasonal sales

When it’s the end of winter, pick up sweaters on sale; when it’s the end of summer, pick up blouses on sale.
Also look out for 2-for-1 sales, discounts.. the whole shebang.

Visit all the stores before buying anything

What I do is if I am looking for something in particular, I visit ALL the stores and try on EVERYTHING I can imagine.
Then I take a picture of it to remind myself, make a note on my notepad about the price, the fit, the size I liked, and the quality, and then at the end of the day I go through my notes.
This helps me map what I want to my budget for what I can splurge or save on.
Then I go back the next day, and just pick up everything without trying it on again.

Invest more time and don’t rush

When you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you need to invest a lot more time. You simply don’t have the luxury of just buying the first perfect item you see, because it might be too expensive, which leaves you $0 for the rest of your essentials.

Thrift shopping is a great bargain

I know some of you are thinking “ick!” but I have found some pretty great things in thrift stores, namely accessories, but also dresses and tops.
Pants are a hit and miss because people tend to hem them, or wear out certain areas (thighs), so I stick to tops, dresses and accessories when I go thrift store shopping.

Having the same colour palette helps

That way, you can’t say that you can’t find anything to wear! Keep to the same tones and you’ll go a lot farther than mixing colours that clash.

Stores in Canada

Decent quality, reasonably priced
  • Ricki’s — Highly recommended
  • Dynamite — Highly recommended
  • Suzy Shier — Quality is a hit and miss, but I’ve found good things here
  • Smart Set — Quality has diminished in the years
  • Zara — Prices are a hit and miss
  • Reitman’s — kind of a middle-aged crowd, but some items are good

Higher end, more expensive

  • Banana Republic — Good pants run around $95 each but look for sales
  • Club Monaco — Great sales at times
  • Cassis — I LOVE this store
  • Jacob — Quality is a hit and miss
  • Le Chateau — Quality is a hit and miss, sometimes not worth the price :\


About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.