Ethical Fashion on a Budget

If you are new to ethical fashion, you may be thinking, “Why is everything so expensive? I can’t afford this!” Don’t let that thought go any further! I’m here to show you that ethical fashion on a budget is 100% possible.

First, it’s important for you to know a few things about me:

  1. I started my journey to ethical fashion with a clothing budget of exactly $0! Read more about that here.
  2. I blog about ethical fashion, but that doesn’t mean it’s all free. I’ve never been paid to talk about any brand. I have received some free clothes in exchange for sharing them on Instagram.
  3. My family lives on a budget and has had one income for the past 10 years.

Ok, glad we got that out of the way. Now here are a few things I’m going to assume about you:

  1. You have internet access because you can read this. That means you are not among the poorest in the world.
  2. You care about who made your clothes, hence reading about ethical fashion.
  3. You want to either change your shopping habits or save money.

Great, let’s get started!

ethical fashion on a budget
Sweater: Thrifted


Seems silly, but stick with me here. Before you buy an ethically made clothing item or make a budget, stop buying! Force yourself to evaluate what you already have.

Now make a list of things you need. Don’t go buy them. Wait.

Once you discover what you need, make a clothing budget. What works for you? Maybe it’s $50 per month or $20. Maybe some months it’s $0. That’s ok.

Tip: do not go into debt for clothing. Use money you already have.

how to afford ethical fashion
Dallas Earrings
Scarf: The Grace Case
Denim Jacket: Thrifted
Jeans (similar)

Choose Ethical Brands

Then check your favorite ethical brands for those pieces. Don’t have any favorites? I got you! Here’s my list of favorite ethical brands. I even tell you what types of things I buy from each company to make your search easier.

Here’s where it get’s tricky: you need something, you know where to get it, but you have sticker shock / don’t have a big enough budget.


Shop Secondhand

Try searching for the item secondhand. There are endless places to shop secondhand online: ebay, Poshmark, Thredup, just to name a few. Try local thrift stores (that’s my favorite). So many times you can find what you need for a small fraction of the retail price.

Shopping secondhand is also the most ethical way to shop, so embrace it! Enjoy the hunt.

ethical fashion on a budget thrifted
Jacket: Thrifted
Diffuser Bracelets
Leopard Bracelet
Jeans (similar)


You couldn’t find the thing secondhand, now what? Save your money. Wait. Maybe you are thinking – “I need something to wear this weekend. I cannot wait.”

Friend, so many times I used to think that way. Then I realized, I can wear the same outfit to multiple events. It’s ok to wear something old again. I can also borrow from a friend or family member and make it feel new with accessories.

Planning ahead will also save you from the urgent need and no money. Plan for the things you need. Save for them.


When you do buy something new, buy the absolute best quality you can afford. It will last for years to come.

This is especially true with shoes. I used to buy new boots nearly every winter. Now I’m wearing the same pair for the 4th year in a row! Nisolo & The Root Collective have great options for ethically made shoes.


Don’t know where to start? I started with basics because basics never go out of style. Adding great accessories is the easiest way to make them feel fresh season after season.

My favorite place for ethical basics is Fair Indigo. A high quality, organic cotton, well-made tee from them will last for at least 5 years (mine has, anyway).

One tee is around $34, but once you wear it you’ll never want another $5 Old Navy tee again. You will save money over the entire life of a high quality tee.

affordable ethical fashion brands
Leather Earrings
Tee (fair indigo)
Cardigan (fair indigo)
High Rise Jeans

Maybe you noticed that in almost every photo of outfits in this post one piece is thrifted. I mix and match these tips for ethical fashion on a budget to suit my style and my needs.

Ethical fashion doesn’t have to be intimidating. You can approach it thoughtfully. Here are my tips all summed up:

  1. Stop the constant buying cycle.
  2. Figure out what you need, try to buy it secondhand, if not, save and choose the best quality possible.
  3. Make sure you really need something before you purchase it. Avoid impulse buys by waiting 24-48 hours before hitting PAY NOW.
  4. Purpose to wear each item in your closet at least 30 times before you pass it on.
  5. Bored with your wardrobe? Instead of buying something new, first try swapping with a friend, add a fun accessory or try a new outfit combination.

Hope these tips are helpful! If you try them let me know how it goes. If you have questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to ask!

how to switch from fast fashion to ethical fashion

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