It’s that time of year when college students are thinking about or getting ready for their first year or return to college life. Living on campus or off campus and staying within your budget can be challenging. I was lucky and live only a few miles from the university that I attended. Many of my college friends did not have my luxury. They had to pool resources together to furnish their apartments, flats, or dorms. Being a local I was able to show them some of the large and small thrift stores around the area that could help them with many of their needs for a fraction of what one would expect to pay. This made them happy, it made me happy to help, and it allowed for money to be available for other activities such as fun road trips.
No matter how big or small your budget maybe in college, every student can benefit from the savings found at thrift stores. Here is my list of 7 Things College Students Should Buy at Thrift Stores that will help save you some cash.
I cannot stress this one enough. In college, I had lots of nice shirts, dress shirts, polos, and more. Eventually, I decided I would rather be comfortable in that 3-hour long physics class than wear a dress shirt. T-shirts quickly became my friend. They are cheap, light weight, and no tear will be shed if something accidentally happened to the $3 shirt instead of that nice J.Crew $90 dress shirt.
At most thrift stores including the bigger national stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army, one can find wonderful t-shirts for $3-$5 a piece. Over the years I have picked up many awesome graphic shirts, sports shirts for my teams, and even an occasional wrestling t-shirt. Yes, I am a wrestling fan.
When searching for shirts, remember to check each shirt for stains, tears, holes, and rips. Even though you are buying these shirts for their cheap use factor, there is no reason to buy a damaged item when there are usually so many other shirts on the racks.
By hitting the thrift stores often, my friends and I were able to stock up on cheap shirts, and such a large amount of shirts, we were able to put off doing laundry for much longer periods. After all who wants to be stuck doing laundry during their college days when there are so many other cool things going on?
2. Pants and Jeans
What was said above about t-shirts also applies to pants and jeans. That chemistry lab class, while almost always safe, does have the potential to stain or trash your clothes. Keep those AG or Levi jeans nice for when you go out on the town and wear that cheap $5-$9 thrift store find to class.
For dress pants and khakis I would try to always hit the thrift stores first. For me, the retail brands I liked on sale would run around $50 to $60 a pair. At thrift stores, when I find them I would pay between $6 and $8 a pair. For the price of one on sale retail pair of pants, I could buy a weeks worth at the thrift stores. The key was hitting the thrift stores often and searching the racks.
As with shirts, be sure to check each pair of pants for stains, rips, tears, or holes, unless they were designed that way. For jeans also check the pockets for holes, bent fasteners that may cut, and the zipper is functional.
Since you are buying t-shirts and pants at the thrift store you should swing over to the accessories section and do a little shopping. Belts, ties, scarfs, hats, bags, purses, and vintage jewelry are always in stock and often overlooked. I have found more high dollar accessories at almost free prices more than any other wardrobe item. For men, a mid range classy leather belt can easily run $50. At a thrift store that belt might be only $5 and in near new condition.
Yeah, I know, we all have smart phones and other tech gadgets. Books are like so 1990s and before. However, thrift stores in the town of your college may end up getting copies of text books for courses you take. Sometimes, they are off by a single edition. In some cases, this is not an issue because it may only contain very minor error corrections or simply updated cover art. Some new editions of books are released just to outdate the previous edition so people are forced into buying new books when the professors require the latest edition. This did happen for a few of my classes. Bought the 9th edition of an engineering book for $10 when the 10th edition with different cover art was over $120.
For English classes, philosophy, and any other course that has a wide range of written work that can be used, I cannot stress thrift stores enough. I had a philosophy course on the theory of knowledge. I was able to find a handful of books at the local thrift stores related to the course materials for a few bucks. If it was not for one of those books, I would not have been able to do well in the latter half of the semester in that class.
5. Dishware & Cookware
Dishware can be bought at discount retailers at cheap prices. Amazon runs great deals all the time. Going these routes you are guaranteed new items that all match. If getting items with character, retro or vintage looks, thrift stores are the way to go. You will always be able to find something, just don’t expect to find full matching sets.
For cookware stainless steel with copper bottoms are good. A cast iron skillet is a must have in any kitchen. Try to find pots with lids. In some stores lids, pots, and pans get separated so be sure to check to see what goes with what before making a purchase. If you do choose to buy a new set of cookware, AmazonBasics 2-piece fry pan set is a great deal.
Other cookware such as mixing bowls and baking dishes are also cheaper at thrift stores when compared to retail. Two brands that I recommend shopping for are Corningware and Pyrex if you can find them at the thrift stores.
When mixing dishes of different brands try to stick to similar sizes and shapes so they will stack more easily in your cabinets. Avoid chipped, nicked, cracked, glued, or damaged dishes. Don’t buy scratched and damaged non-stick cookware.
6. Small Appliances
Microwaves, George Foreman grills, coffee makers, toaster ovens, blenders, slow cookers, and table top grills could all be found within the first few dorm rooms on any floor in any of the dormitories on my universities campus. In other words, college students live off these appliances. Throw in the waffle maker, a breakfast sandwich maker, the local pizza delivery number, and the need for a stove and oven is no more. All of these items can be found at thrift stores that carry small appliances. You may have to visit a few stores to get most of them, but you can save a load of cash fast when compared to these items at full retail.
If you are more of a foodie or the weekend chef who has an off campus apartment with a real kitchen, you can get more luxury appliances such as upright stand mixers at a heavy discount too.
Also, don’t forget about small vacuum cleaners. New vacuums can be very pricey, a cheap older model high brand cleaner can be found at thrift stores. Be sure to check for appliances yard sales. People who remodel their homes and replace carpets with wood floors or tile have no need for the $300 Dyson cleaner and you can usually negotiate a great deal.
So you have a new place or dorm. It may have a bed, shelf, and desk if you are lucky. But what about a table and some chairs? A couch? TV stand? Well, you can go to the furniture store and spend hundred or thousands of dollars. Or you can go to thrift stores and yard sales and save a small fortune. Check Facebook and join the local area yard sale groups to watch for yard sales with furniture.
I had bought two new pieces furniture when I moved into my new home, a couch and a love seat. After 3 years they were falling apart and for the price I paid, let me say I was not happy. I decided to go and buy a cheap set at one of the discount retail store chains for a few hundred dollars. They lasted about 2 years before they were falling apart. Having decided I am not wasting any more money, I started hitting the thrift stores with my mother. We found a La-Z-Boy couch and love seat set at only $75 per piece. For $150 I just replaced the two most expensive pieces of furniture in my living room. While the design is something out of the early 1990s, it fits quite well with my decor and they are very sturdy and very comfortable.
Let the Savings Begin
As the start of the college year approaches it is never too early or too late to start hitting up the thrift stores to save some cash.
Remember to always thoroughly check items before purchase for any damage or issues that may affect its functionality or safety.
Good luck in your hunt for college savings. Let me know what else you shop for at thrift stores for your college dorm or housing on Twitter or Facebook.