'Bougie on a Budget' – Tips to Looking Bougie Without the Big Price Tag

Oct 25, 2022

“Bougie” (pronounced boo-gee): anything that is perceived to be upscale; to aspire to be a higher class than one is. It used to be called keeping up with the Joneses.  Then it became keeping up with a certain family who are, well, famous for being famous. Whichever you call it, keeping up appearances can get expensive really quick and land you in a debt spiral that’s difficult to reverse. If you’re looking to bougie, here are some tips and resources to (hopefully) keep you financially on the ground.

Invest in the Basics
When it comes to clothing, bags, shoes and even furniture, your key pieces should be high quality, made to last, and in classic cuts/styles and color. But this doesn’t mean paying full price for designer duds. Wait for them to go on sale or scope out thrift stores and consignment shops in the ritzier areas of town. You may have to dig a little for the perfect pieces, but you’re bound to get a great deal. To kick things up a notch, have an alterations expert tailor any clothes to the perfect fit.

The Basic Wardrobe – Items to Invest In


  • Little Black Dress (1)
  • Blouses (2-3)
  • Black Pants or Skirt (1)
  • Blue Jeans (1)
  • Simple Black Handbag (1)
  • Black Pumps (1 pair)


  • Black Blazer (1)
  • Basic Fitted Dress Shirts (2-3)
  • Black Pants (1)
  • Blue Jeans (1)
  • Black Tie (1)
  • Black Dress Shoes (1 pair)

Find Fast Fashion Fixes
Fast fashion was meant to keep up with the ever-changing fashion industry. Something new walks down the runway and into stores quicker than ever. If you’re lucky, the clothes last as long as the trend does. Try to buy trendier items (e.g., the bell-sleeve, corset back, and velvet pieces) in your favorite flattering colors when they’re on sale, and set a limit for how many pieces you can buy each season. Then mix and match these with your staples to create a high-end look.

TIP: Layer sales, coupons and cash-back offers (e.g., credit card rewards, Ebates®) as often as possible for the best deal.

Try It Before You Buy It
Back in 2004, an online startup interrupted the luxury handbag market by making it possible for regular consumers to be seen with designer totes, clutches, hobos and more. Bag, Borrow, or Steal® is still around today, and many new rental companies have come out of the woodwork.

In the event fast fashion won’t do, explore whether renting is a viable option for you before spending a small fortune on your own piece. Here are a few companies to take a look at:

  • Bag, Borrow or Steal:  Carry that new Chanel®, Gucci® or Luis Vutton® at a fraction of the cost
  • LeTote®:  Wear new designer pieces mixed in with your wardrobe, and exchange them as often as you’d like for a monthly subscription fee
  • Rent the Runway®:  Find designer dresses for special occasions, or try out their subscription feature for everyday clothes

Many of these retailers allow you the option to purchase your rental at a discount if you want to keep it, or shop their warehouse sales after they purge their selection for new merchandise.

If you’re trying to step it up and stay within your budget, these options can help keep you from falling into the $30,000 millionaire debt trap.