4 Ways to Instantly Look Professional On a Budget
Whether it's for an important interview, a big meeting with the boss, a sales call, or a convention, looking professional when required (which should be always) is a key component to being a stellar employee (or at least looking like one). But not everyone is at a place in life when spending big bucks on designer duds is an option.
Looking the part, even on a budget, is expected and doable. You can fake it 'till you make it and look like a pro for pennies. OK, dollars is more like it, but certainly inexpensively enough that you won't need to put in overtime.
Consider these 4 ways to instantly look professional on a budget. Your confidence will spike, those around you will be impressed, and "dress for success" will be oozing from head-to-toe.
1. Behold the Briefcase
Please, do not clumsily and sloppily barge into your boss' office with a piled-high stack of papers, a cell phone in one hand, and a pen behind your ear. Not only will you look a mess but you will look like you're totally disorganized and frazzled.
Carry your belongings to work, meetings, seminars, and even lunch pow-pows in a sleek briefcase, attaché case, cross body bag, tote, or other sort of business-like bag or satchel. Pick a material and color that is neutral (browns, blacks, beiges, etc.) and try to keep the carry-all to a decent size… you're not moving in.
Steer clear from bright colors, bold prints, or logos from sports teams, and if it's broken, torn, or busting at the seams, it's time to invest in a new one. You can find these on sale at department stores and even bargain stores like Walmart or Target. No one will know how much you spent, they'll just know you spent time getting your important work docs and supplies stashed away professionally.
2. Suit Up
Not every profession requires a suit and tie or buttoned-up business-like attire, but whatever your field's dress code is, dress accordingly. If you are in a field where more formal business-wear is the status quo, you can invest in some nice clothing without going into debt.
As per Alison Gary, editor in chief of Wardrobe Oxygen, as told to Power Wallet, "I recommend a simple black suit; buy the best you can afford with the fewest memorable details. With the suit, a couple [of shirts or blouses] in solid colors will get you through all interviews and provide you with the core for a work wardrobe." This goes for men and women.
Gary suggests shopping at thrift stores, resale or consignment shops, and even EBay to find some excellent deals on what would otherwise be pricy wardrobe pieces. My Star Job adds, "Regardless of the cut and style of the clothing, if it's made from cheap fabric, it is noticeable. Therefore, avoid buying anything that has lint coming out easily, or anything that is too shiny. Generally speaking, the thicker and the more textured the fabric is, the more expensive the garment will look."
Be sure the fit is good and your clothing is workplace-appropriate, even in the most creative of fields. Never show up with stains, wrinkles, or tears and you'll be dressed to impress. And unless you leave the price tag on, no one will know how money-wise your shopping trip was.
3. Fend Off Trends
Fads in fashion come and go and not everyone's into fringe, feathers, or freaky fabrics in an office setting. Trends can be pricy and they are generally not considered professional when you're sticking out like a sore thumb at the Q3 overview meeting. Not to say you can't have your own style, but if professionalism is what you're aiming for, save money and side-eyed looks by forgoing trends.
As per Business Insider, "Fashion trends move in and out faster than you think — don't waste your money on a piece you might regret in a year. Instead, invest in classics and staple items for your wardrobe. A neutral-colored blazer with never go out of style, and neither will a simple dress or blouse."
If you're really seeking some experimentation in your wardrobe, stick to something that won't overwhelm your entire look and won't cost much, such as a modern tie or with some nice accessories.
4. Groom with Gusto
One of the best, least expensive, and most noticeable ways to look instantly professional is by keeping yourself clean, neat, and well-groomed. A stylish yet simple haircut, fresh makeup, a clean shave, well-kept clothing and shoes, and nicely manicured nails show that you've got high self-worth and a professional sense of a decent way to show up to work.
As My Star Job notes, "One of the easiest ways to look expensive is to practice good grooming! You can go au naturale if you are blessed with good skin and nice features. Otherwise, exercise good skin care regime or add on a little makeup. Never allow your fabric to bunch up by the sides or to tuck excess fabrics on the back of your pants. Make sure your shirts taper with your body. Excess materials make you appear frumpy and disheveled, and cheapen your overall look."
Keep a comb and lint brush in your desk drawer for emergency touch-ups and you're all set. Grooming is nearly cost-free yet makes a major impact on your presentation.
Look at you, all professional! Momma would be proud.
Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight:
Pack your bags — Southwest Airlines is having a major sale! Fares are as low as $59 one-way if you book by October 3rd.
This end-of-summer super sale is a game-changer for your travel plans through the end of the year. Summertime travel gets all the glory. But why not take advantage of your long weekends, holidays, and PTO this fall. You’ll be surprised at how much travel you can fit in. Keep the fall/winter season exciting with domestic trips that give you all the excitement without breaking the bank. All thanks to Southwest.
Here’s the breakdown:
Where can you go?
You’ll find discounted tickets to and from most airports. Sale fares apply to cross country travel, and even Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean! Whether you’re visiting a new city or revisiting your last beach vacation, this sale has fares to make your travel dreams come true.
What do the fares cover?
Southwest Airlines has multiple fare tiers, each with various benefits. Wanna Get Away fares start at $59, while Wanna Get Away Plus fares start at $89. You can also find great deals on Anytime fares, which offer priority boarding and express lanes. Then there’s Business Select tickets for a luxe experience at an affordable price point.
Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member?
You may think these sale fares are too good to be true. Is there a catch? Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to access them? You’re in luck — anyone can attain these fares for a limited time.
But, insider tip, you should consider signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards. With a free sign up, you earn points and miles with each trip you take. And with this sale, each dollar you spend on these discounted tix can stretch super far until you eventually earn free travel. The only thing better than a sale is free stuff.
I’ve been browsing the Southwest Airlines site, checking out flights and dreaming.