Thrifty Shopping: Where to buy what you need


As a freshman, I remember thinking to myself not long before I got to school: “Ok, I’ve got housing covered, I’ve got food covered…but how am I going to buy things like shampoo?” As a college student on a budget, you’ll need to know how to get everything you need without draining your bank account.

Where to Shop


When purchasing toiletries and personal essentials, you should probably avoid the on-campus store. At some universities, the campus grocery store’s prices are inflated well above the prices at nearby grocery stores and drugstores for certain items. Instead, head to a nearby Wal-Mart or Costco to get your toiletries and other necessities on the cheap.


To find the least expensive items at the grocery store, only buy produce that is in season and look to the bottom shelf for the lowest prices on aisle items. Stores tend to keep the highest-priced groceries at eye level so consumers will just grab and go (and pay significantly more). Also, if you’re really pinching pennies, check the city newspaper for coupons. Though scouring the paper and clipping coupons is tedious, those little savings can really add up.

If your town has a local farmers market, shop for produce there. The prices may be cheaper than at grocery stores since the middleman is eliminated and you’re buying directly from the source. Angel Food Ministries is a great food source for truly needy student. You preorder a box of Angel Food and then pick it up on the designated date at a local drop spot. The $30 box contains a variety of grocery items that could feed a house of college kids for almost a week, or a single student for three.


Thrift stores can be a great place to purchase clothing. Not only is the stuff cheap, but you’ll often find some real designer gems that have been overlooked. When you’re thrifting, be creative. Think of ways you can make the clothes fit your style by adding accessories: belts, leggings, shoes, and jewelry can turn frumpy into fashion.

Check out brand outlet shops for discount prices on new clothes. You’ll get the same merchandise found in regular stores, but for a fraction of the cost. Some outlet retailers even have online stores, which come in handy for students who don’t have a car on campus.

Forever 21 and H&M are both national companies that sell trendy duds for less. Take advantage of their sales on clothes and buy-in-bulk specials for accessories. Take note, however, that the quality can be lacking. You get what you pay for, but at least it’ll last until next season.


For cheap furniture, hit up Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or local thrift stores. You can usually find some great slightly-used furniture for a hundred bucks or less. Don’t forget, you can make old furniture look new with just a coat of paint or wood stain.

On trash day, drive around town and see if anyone is throwing out furniture that you could use. Once items are placed on the curb, they are technically free for all. Inspect the items carefully before you snag them though; you don’t want to be the cause of a bedbug infestation.

Along the lines of free stuff, Freecycle is a website where people post items they’re throwing out and are free for the taking. After you register online, search user posts to find items you’re interested in, contact the poster, and pick up your new furniture—without spending a penny.

Photo courtesy of pixeljones

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