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How To Thrift: Shopping on a College Student Budget

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Forget malls and the crisp smell of newness. Never mind high prices and the possibility that someone else may be wearing the same shirt. Accumulating a fashionable wardrobe doesn’t have to be on big dollars at the finest stores. Unless you are rolling in cash, which most college students aren’t, spending a ton of money on clothing is probably not the wisest choice. So what are your alternatives if you want to maintain an eye-catching, trend-setting reputation? I have one answer: Thrift!

For some people, thrift store shopping is a piece of cake. They walk in with twenty dollars and out with six shirts, a pair of shoes, and a spectacular vintage jacket. For others, thrift store shopping is repulsive, overwhelming, and completely unsatisfactory for their shopping needs.

The shame in that mentality is that there is so much under the surface at these second-hand stores. Vintage, name brand, high quality things can be found; clothing pieces worth hundreds of dollars at retail value are marked below ten.

What I’ve discovered is that thrift store shopping is a skill, and when taught, those wet blanket types will never revert to exclusive first-hand shopping again.

Thrift Store Shopping How-To’s:

Finding and Trying a Second-Hand Store

Start off with researching the locales of neighborhood thrift stores and pay a visit to each one. As you become more acquainted with the system of these types of stores, you discover that some stores tend to have better clothing items than others and some stores may have better furniture than others, some might be great for accessories and others might be great for shoes, and some might just be completely shoddy or over priced. The best way to know is to explore.

Also, the surrounding community can dictate the quality of the store and the items in it. The best items are found in stores that receive their donations from older, more historical parts of town, not necessarily the wealthiest. People get rid of stuff because they see no value in keeping it. Older people most often keep their belongings in supreme condition and donate it simply because of a move or home transition or they are leftover items from estate sales.

Make Time

As you begin, you may not have an eye for good finds by simply looking at a rack of clothing. When you shop, allow for plenty of time to sort, piece by piece, through everything.

On the other hand, thrift store shopping can be thrilling and extremely satisfying if your trip has been a successful one. Time will be sucked away into the epoch abyss. Make time for finds and give time for fun.

Have a System

Walking into a second-hand store may overload the senses. Finding acceptable fashion in a store full of bric-a-brac is like searching for a needle in a haystack to some. So it is best to devise a system:

1. Start in one section of the store for one type of item, i.e., accessories section, shoes section, shirts, dresses, pants, sweaters, jackets, or depending on your need. Most stores organize their items based on the aforesaid list.

2. Look for the following distinctions in this order: color, fabric, quality (no stains or damages), size, price. In other words, ask yourself these questions:

Do you like the color?

Is it a good fabric or material?

Is it without damage and like-new?

Does it fit?

Is it overpriced?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you probably shouldn’t buy it.

Budget Yourself

As you begin to come across more and more great things at nominal prices, you can be subject to forgetting the balance of a budget. Before you walk into a thrift store, take only a certain amount of cash and know when to stop.

The hook of bargain shopping is that each item you find is practically a “one-of-a-kind” item. It’s cheap and may not necessarily be there next your visit. What’s the harm? The impulse drives you to spend even more money, and while you are getting more for the buck, your bank account may not survive the trip if you don’t monitor what you spend.

Wash Everything You Buy

As it may seem obvious, be sure to wash everything you buy before you wear it. It may involve hand washing or dry cleaning some items, but for cleanliness’ sake and to get the pungent second-hand store odor out of your clothing, wash it.

Eye For a Bargain Spawns Creative Wardrobe Planning

As you train your eye to spot out a bargain, you set into motion the creative fashion juices within you. Finding treasures and completing a wardrobe from thrift store items stretches you in a way that you begin to look for eclectic ways to dress yourself, setting you above the typical mall fashion curve. However, it doesn’t hurt to get ideas from stores and styles you are drawn to.

Remember, once you start and find success, you’ll never stop!


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Thriftshoppingdiva about 8 years ago Thriftshoppingdiva


A step that you thrift shop pros always skip is I think the most important one and this is... Shop first in your high end stores, get to know the brands and prices before you go thrift shopping. Then you will be more apt to see that $180.00 winter coat for $10.99 in fabulous condition and in a style that is not totally out of whack with what is popular ine high end stores now!

SUZANNE SAINTIDOR about 8 years ago SUZANNE SAINTIDOR


HEY. THX ALOT FOR THE ADVICE ON SECOND HAND SHOPPING.I LEARNED SO MUCH JUST BY READING.MY SIS-IN-LAW,ALWAYS SHOP THERE.AND REMIND YOU SHE'S A COLLEGE GRAD GOING FOR HER BACHELORS NOW.I NEVER DID UNDERSTAND WHY SHE LOVE TO SHOP THERE.BUT NOW I RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF BUDGETING MY MONEY IN A SMARTER WAY.AND OF COURSE SHE'S WISER ALL ALONG.UNLIKE ON THE OTHER HAND I'VE SPENT SO MUCH ON BASICALLY NMOTHING AT RETAILERS AND THE MALL.ONCE AGAIN THANK YOU SO MMUCH FOR THE ADVICE.