So, you’re broke, what’s new? As college students, the living-on-six-dollars-to-your-name lifestyle is sadly all too familiar. What’s more unfortunate is retail therapy isn’t even a realistic option to temporarily fix the mini depression brought on by the lack of money in your bank account.
But, thanks to the hip youth of today, thrift stores are now a trendy and cheap place to feed your shopping addiction. Now, instead of just broke, you can be stylish and broke. During the four years of my college experience, my dual interests in sustainability and clothing have caused me to stumble my way through one-too-many thrift or consignment stores. Because of this, I like to think I have become something close to an expert in the secondhand clothing universe.
So, without further explanation, here are my top-eight tips on how to master your thrifting game and never spend your dollars on overpriced clothing again.
To start, make sure you have a reasonable amount of time to kill. The thrifting process cannot be rushed and involves copious amounts of precision and attention to detail. Going through the racks of clothing can take time and patience. Maybe drink a coffee before — you’re going to need the energy. One of the most invigorating but frustrating parts of thrifting is finding those diamonds in the rough that usually require magnifying glass eyeballs to spot.
Secondly, when pacing up and down aisles and aisles of clothing, make sure to keep an eye out for colors or styles of clothing you know you like to wear. For example, I typically wear more neutral tones, so, when I am searching through the endless racks of T-shirts, I adjust my eye to only look for those shades I know I would wear, like tans, whites, olive greens, burnt oranges, etc.
Third, if you typically wear women’s clothing, check out the men’s sections. I very rarely shop in the women’s section and almost always go straight to the men’s section. I often find high-quality denim, vintage T-shirts and oversized sweaters and hoodies in the men’s section.
My next tip is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it on.
Trying on items can be either for better or for worse. Sometimes, a piece of clothing you thought was cool could be frumpy or unflattering, or vice versa, so always try things on to make sure. And don’t be afraid to get a second opinion from a friend or an employee working in the store. Another pair of eyes might be able to see a shirt or a pair of pants in a completely different way than you, giving you new options or ideas on how to wear them.
The fifth tip is, when in doubt, tie or crop it off. My favorite and, probably, most-used clothing hack is simply knotting the bottom of a shirt in the front or back. A little knot can go a long way, transforming a shirt or blouse from dull and awkward to stylish and flattering. Also, cropping oversized T-shirts, sweatshirts and sweaters are always a great alternative to creating a more form-fitting option to wear with high-waisted pants, skirts and shorts.
This leads to my next tip: do not to be afraid to do-it-yourself. One of my favorite parts about thrifting is getting crafty afterward. Sometimes, I will go thrifting to find a similar-looking item to one I saw in a store that was way out of my price range. Then, I will search until I find something that is similar enough, and, with a few cuts and ties, I have created the equivalent of a $100 blouse out of a $5 shirt from Value Village.
While shopping, be sure to ask yourself crucial questions when you find something you like, or even don’t like. They can include: how can I style this? Is there something I can do to make it more flattering (knot, cut, tuck, etc.)? What kind of outfit would I wear with this? Do I already have something that could serve the same purpose? Do I see myself realistically wearing this or making the changes to it that I want? Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, you can honestly assess whether the purchase is a smart one.
Last, check the sales and discounts at the store at which you are shopping. A lot of times, thrift stores will have deals on items, usually marked with different colored tags or stickers, so make sure to check if and when thrift stores have these sales. Also, when checking out, ask if they have a discount for students. Many secondhand stores will give a 10% to 15% student discount, but don’t explicitly advertise this in their store.
So, there you have it, folks. My top thrifting tips for all you college students, so you can amp up your clothing game without spending too much of the money you already don’t have. Go treat yourself with a self-care shopping trip.