How to Create the Perfect Autumn Aesthetic on a Budget

Autumn! The magical time of year when sweaters are worn, hot tea is sipped, and everything is comfortable, cozy, and colored in warm tones. Life is all about relaxing inside, away from the gray skies and drizzling rain, curling up with a book, and possibly lighting a few candles.

Alternatively, autumn is also the time of the year when summer savings begin to dip seriously low, post-summer job opportunities begin to thin out, and the world starts to express itself in dollar signs—two-fifty for subway fare, three-fifty for a small cup of black coffee, and too much to even consider for candles, or blankets, or new sweaters. But from one student with no money to another, here are four tips to create the perfect autumn aesthetic without draining your entire bank account.

1. Changes in Clothes

It is a truth universally acknowledged that fall is a time for sweaters, flannels, beanies, and boots. However, it is similarly acknowledged that all those things can be very, very expensive. What to do? Check out local or online thrift shops! While they can take more time than shopping in larger stores, setting aside a couple hours to look for new, inexpensive fall gear can produce miracles, like an $8 wool sweater that could probably withstand the apocalypse. (True story!) There are also online stores like ThredUP that sell used clothes for far less expensive prices than retail, making a new autumn wardrobe both more affordable and delivered straight to your door.

Creative Alternative: If you have the money for knitting needles and yarn, pick some up and queue up some YouTube videos! With a bit of time every day (like on a commute, or half an hour set aside after dinner or in the morning) you can become able to create your own clothes for far less than what you might pay in any store.



2. Atmospheric Shifts

The cozy indoor atmosphere of autumn is something that can be both hard to achieve but also immensely satisfying. With this, too, discount stores are your friend—check out your local Goodwill for cheap candles, decor, and blankets (though make sure to clean everything as thoroughly as possible before bringing it into your house). Discount items and stores are often overlooked in favor of prettier displays in fancier stores—but you never know when you’ll find a diamond in the rough.

Creative Alternative: After an autumnal wreath? Check out your local park for leaves you can dry, bring home, and string together. In the mood for a cozy blanket and a long-term project? Maybe try quilting from fabric scraps—definitely ambitious, but also definitely rewarding! Feeling the need for that autumnal smell in the air? Move onto the next tip!



3. Food, Glorious Food

There’s nothing that quite says “autumn” as much as its food—apple, cinnamon, and (of course) pumpkin-flavored everything. If you have a kinship with the kitchen, or if you just really want to try making some favorite recipes at home, give baking a shot! While ingredients can cost a bit up front, ingredients for bread (for example) tend to last forever—flour, salt, and yeast can all be bought in bulk and preserved for ages. While cooking and baking can seem extremely tricky, there are very easy recipes that can be followed, including those for beginners. Plus, in addition to getting that delicious autumnal smell throughout the house, you’ll have a delicious product to share with friends (or keep to yourself!) and an increased skill in the kitchen.

Creative Alternative: Already experienced with baking? Check out some of these recipes that are crafted for those with a higher skill set. Alternatively, if you’re more into decorating than baking, look here for some great (occasionally 21+) Halloween-esque snacks!



4. Autumnal Ambience

The sounds of fall, as much as the smells and tastes, are extremely singular. The best news? Apps like Spotify or Pandora are free and have autumnal music and playlists already loaded onto them. Log into your account, queue up your preferred autumnal soundtrack (for me, it's everything Hozier has ever done) and get ready to feel cozy as hell. Bonus pro tip: Spotify, Hulu, and Showtime also offer a bundle deal of $4.99 for college students. Note that while this gets you Spotify Premium, it only gets the ad-filled version of Hulu—but as someone who’s gotten hooked on Brooklyn 99, it’s better than nothing! I can’t speak to the benefits of the Showtime option as of yet, but it’s nice to have.

Creative Alternative: Have your own eclectic idea of what fall music looks like? Create your own playlist! Put all the songs that represent autumn to you on a playlist and go wild. Still not creative enough? Consider heading to a park or natural environment in the fall and recording some ambient noises—giving you a recording of ambient sounds specific to you and to where you live. In addition, enjoy the wash of memories of existing peacefully in the autumnal outdoors with every listen.



Bonus Tip: Update Your Look

You don’t need expensive new makeup to get into the fall spirit, just a little creativity! Try experimenting with new colors (try pairing the red eyeshadow with glittery gold) or different shades (consider switching from pink lipstick to plum for a day). There isn’t really a creative alternative to this, making it a bonus idea. But a big part of the fall aesthetic is trying out something new in every category, and given how fun makeup is to play with, it would have been a shame not to include it.



While these tips are cheap, a lot of them do cost some money. So, if it comes down to choosing between food and a fall aesthetic, please choose the one that keeps you alive. Not all of these are always feasible, and sometimes curating an aesthetic just isn’t one’s top priority. However, I hope that you all have a lovely, warm, comfortable fall. Hopefully, these tips will help you enjoy that lovely, warm, comfortable fall at a cost that won’t leave you with only two cents to your name, tears, and a couple of dust bunnies where your bank account used to be. Happy Autumn, from all of us at Her Campus!