College students decorate on a budget using thrift finds

Goodwill, the Salvation Army and the Encore Shop are a selection of retail outlets where you can purchase decor on a budget. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Let’s face it: setting up your college living space is tricky. Between tuition, books, housing costs and endless trips to Radina’s, most students don’t have a lot of cash to spare on furniture and decor. Although the home of your Pinterest dreams might not seem feasible on such a slim budget, you can get close with the help of your local thrift spots.

Luckily, there are plenty of thrifting spots in Manhattan. While Goodwill reigns supreme as a catch-all for any home essentials, the Salvation Army on Poyntz Avenue is another great option. Eccentric vintage finds are in high supply at Grandma’s Trunk on Pillsbury Drive, and for thrifting addicts who want to justify their purchases, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church is home to The Encore Shop — a small secondhand store that supports the church’s philanthropies.

(Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)
(Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Manhattan boasts some bargain hotspots, but good thrifting isn’t limited to local wares. There are plenty of ways to buy secondhand online through sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, especially for furniture and electronics that run expensive when buying new.

Successful thrifting has a lot to do with strategy. While finding good furniture and decor can seem like a straightforward task, there’s usually more to it than meets the eye. Consider asking your favorite thrift store what days they restock to maximize the success of your shopping. Most thrift franchises designate this task to Mondays and Tuesdays. This way, you can make sure you get the first pick of new items.

Many thrift stores also offer sales and promotions. Items with tags of a certain color (which changes weekly) are always 50 percent off at Goodwill, and for just $5 students can buy a Goodwill discount card which knocks 10 percent off the cost of every purchase.

You might not always find exactly what you’re looking for when bargain-hunting, but it can be fun to make do with what you find. A handmade quilt from the linens rack could make a unique tablecloth, and an armful of miscellaneous picture frames could be hung together to create a statement wall. Vintage books can class up a nightstand, and a plate from someone’s old wedding china can store jewelry.

(Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)
(Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

One of the best parts of decorating a college living space is how low-stakes it is. Most students aren’t hosting upscale dinner parties or trying to impress in-laws, which means that you should absolutely buy that ironic tapestry or comedically ugly mug collection tucked away in the aisles of Goodwill. Thrift stores might not carry the freshest interior design trends, but a little creativity and humor can expand your options endlessly.

Thrifting is a helpful and fun way to make the most of your college budget, as long as you’re not afraid of a hunt. As the saying goes, one man’s Facebook Marketplace listing is another broke college student’s treasure.