3 Image Hacks to Upgrade Your Look on a Budget

Tip one: Fit is everything.

Life hacks are the latest self-help craze. Whether you’re reading Lifehacker, drinking Bulletproof coffee, or trying out the latest freelancing hacks, chances are you’re participating in hacking culture. Sure, hacking has that other meaning — of stealing people’s passwords or trading in state secrets. But the hacking we’re talking about comes from the self-help community, which has re-appropriated the term and reclaimed its power.

One of the best things about life hacking is its emphasis on being scrappy and innovative, rather than fancy or precious. Thus, it’s the perfect mindset to apply to upgrading your image — without busting your budget. Here are three image hacks to elevate your look on the cheap.

Find Your Flair

Whether you work in a corporate setting or a more creative context, finding a way to visually distinguish yourself is a key component of professional success. I know what you’re thinking: “My success is based on my substance, not my style.”

But the reality is that style and substance are interconnected. That’s because how you’re seen directly affects how you’re heard. After all, the way we visually present ourselves is a huge part of how we communicate and connect with others.

The good news is that anyone can follow a simple formula to distinguish themselves while also appearing to fit in. It’s what I like to call the 75/25 rule: 75 percent of your image should demonstrate that you “get it” — that you’re part of the team and that you understand the workplace culture. The other 25 percent can take a leap and make a statement.

It’s not that important where you concentrate that 25 percent — be it your hair or your footwear or something in between. What matters is that you use this component of your wardrobe to express yourself while also complementing the other 75 percent of your look. So, even if you feel confined to a more conservative suit or dress at work, you can still play with some colorful glasses or signature jewelry.

Flatter Your Body

When we think we don’t measure up to the unrealistic images sold to us in ads or on Instagram accounts (spoiler: most of those models can’t live up to their photos in real life, either), it’s easy to throw in the towel and forgo effort altogether.

But making the most of your shape regardless of your dress size will boost your confidence, which will change how your coworkers perceive and interact with you. Take stock of your physical assets and capitalize on your best features. Love your hourglass shape? Use belts that sit at the waist to define and give you shape. Have great collar bones? Opt for boatneck tops in the workplace and consider some off-the-shoulder pieces for weekends and evenings.

Whatever your physical strengths, identify them, and piece together daily looks that highlight those aspects and put them in the most favorable light. People who seem comfortable in their own skin are attractive and put others at ease. So emphasizing your strengths will enhance how you look and feel, and that body-positive attitude will be contagious.

Take Stock of Your Beauty Regimen

Like most things in life, less is often more. But the older we get, the more products we often add to our daily beauty routines.

Stage a cosmetics clean out and strip away as many products as possible, reintroducing them one at a time to test for efficacy and necessity. This may take several weeks or even a few months, but by the time you finish, you’ll have a personalized understanding of just what each product is or isn’t doing for you — while also clearing space in your medicine cabinet and eliminating unnecessary future purchases.

If your eye cream is your holy grail, stick with it, regardless of whatever new products beg for your attention. And if that expensive foundation gives lackluster results, don’t feel guilty about tossing it, no matter how much is left in the bottle. Commit to only having and wearing products that you love — and those that love you back.