How to Buy Ethical Clothes on a Budget

If I had a nickel for every time I heard "How do I shop ethically on a budget?" I’d be… Well, I’d be a hundred-thousand-heir. Okay, not exactly rich but you get the point. There is a huge misconception that making ethical purchases is unattainable. On one hand this is true. If you refuse to change any of your shopping habits then yes, it is going to be much harder to purchase ethically made clothes.

This post is for the average American who can afford to drink a Starbucks Vanilla Latte or pick up a Chipotle burrito whenever they please.

But to be honest, you’re not going to find $8 t-shirts or $15 jeans made ethically. Why? There is no room to pay the labor, make a profit and also get a deal. There is always a trade-off, and in this case the trade-off just so happens to be the person making little to none, sewing a shirt later sold for $8.

And yes... our clothes are still made by humans. Real living, breathing humans. So we are proposing a change. Rather than always chasing a good deal. Instead, let’s think about whether someone on the other side of the world got one.

But I understand your concern, trust me I too was there... 3 months ago to be exact. On the surface it’s hard to comprehend how buying something more expensive could actually save you money in the long run. When you change your habits and consume less you can afford to buy high quality items that last longer.

If you’re still questioning the cost of ethical fashion, here’s two simple ways you too can  make buying “ethical items” affordable:


Before you skip past this section, hear me out. About 5 - 10 years ago the only way to make this a reality was to shop at your local Goodwill or consignment shop. Unless you were an early hipster into vintage items and graphic tees it probably wasn’t for you.  

With that said, 5-10 years is a long time ago in the technology age we currently live in. Today, you can shop second-hand from a full range of brands who specialize in this sort of thing. It keeps your dollars from supporting businesses who refuse to pay their labor fair wages and gives you access to a variety of items that may help you showcase your unique style.  It’s never been easier to look stylish and shop in a sustainable way.  

Where to Shop:

Thred Up

The Real Real





Ebay Valet

Plato's Closet



Change the way you shop. Rather than buying multiple things that you’ll only like for only a few months, purchase one or two really nice things you can wear again and again.   

I think there used to be a perception that buying ethically or fair trade clothes meant you were also a bohemian goddess. Don’t worry you can still be a bohemian goddess but shopping fair trade doesn’t mean you have to. Liking granola is no longer a requirement. Though, let’s be honest. Granola is delightful.

Where to Shop:

The Eco Shopping Guide

So yes, buying ethical, sustainable clothes takes a little more effort. But with that effort it can not only be affordable but I’d bet it could even save you money.