college budget
Thrifting makes for fuller wallets, trendier clothes and a trendier you. (Illustration by Dorothy Timan, Indiana University)
College x
college budget

Find some fashionable styles without the unfashionable costs.

With the upcoming school year just around the corner, it’s time to go into panic mode. You haven’t gotten anything done, you haven’t made any money to boost your already tiny college budget and you definitely haven’t been active enough to achieve that full-body transformation you were hoping for.

Don’t worry, all hope for a productive summer isn’t lost. You still have back-to-school shopping to look forward to, but you must be strategic. How can you look cute and at the same time show your fellow classmates all that personal growth they don’t know you haven’t achieved?

This is where the concept of personal branding comes in. Personal branding is the way you choose to present yourself to others. Building and maintaining your personal brand is an important part of growing up, being confident and looking put together. What’s the first step? Revamping your closet to match your brand.

Since you are a college student and it’s already been established that you’re lacking in the financial department, you must find a solution to your wardrobe needs that’s college budget friendly. Today’s most popular solution to this problem is simple — explore your thrifting options.

Thrifted clothes are coming back into style and are a perfect way to update your wardrobe on a college budget. Because vintage and ‘90s fashion have been trending over the past few years, it’s easier than ever to find cute clothes for even cuter prices. Luckily, there are plenty of different thrift store chains for the trendsetting college student to choose from in order to find these cute clothing items.

The cheapest options are always going to be thrift shops like Goodwill, Salvation Army and Savers. These stores accept donations at no cost and pass the savings on to their customers. With a combined store count of well over 10,000 locations worldwide, students will have no problem finding at least one of these shops near campus.

For those whose budgets are a little more flexible, resale shops might be the way to go. The most well-known resale shop is Plato’s Closet, with over 470 locations. Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads come in second and third place for popular resale shops, with a combined total of less than 100 stores.

These resale shops are a little more particular about their merchandise. Employees handpick different styles to sell depending on the needs of their location. This selectiveness makes for much better luck finding high quality clothing, but it also significantly ups the clothing prices.

To ease the burn of that empty wallet in your pocket, these locations allow you to sell your gently-used clothing for cash or store credit. This makes it easy (and fun) to expand your wardrobe and allows you to regularly cycle out your clothes. Consumers can then choose to either use their store credit or receive cash, though usually at a fraction of the return.

Thrifting can be much easier on you and your budget than the traditional trip to the mall. It’s way more satisfying to cut a deal for a $3 shirt from Goodwill than to buy the exact same thing from Brandy Melville for $30, that’s for sure.

Thrift shopping at brick-and-mortar stores is a great way to be more creative with your wardrobe and to build your brand. The late 2010s is known as the age of social media, so it was only a matter of time before influencers, the masters of personal branding, took notice of thrift shopping at brick-and-mortar stores and wanted in on the fun.

The fashion savvy users of Instagram have taken on a whole new approach to thrift shopping. Fashion accounts will post pictures of their one-of-a-kind pieces on their feeds or stories. Users who are interested in that piece of clothing will comment on the post or direct message the account owner. As a result, account owners cultivate impromptu but lucrative businesses through social media.

One of the Instagram accounts to spearhead this method of trade is The Break (@shopthebreak). This account will post stories and pictures of their unique, thrifted finds and users can DM the account owners to secure their purchase of items that they like. The Break also has a user-friendly website where shoppers can easily find inexpensive clothes based on style and size.

Another account with a similar business model is I Am That (@iamthat_shop). This online shop boasts a large selection of unisex clothing, a distinguishing factor from other thrifting accounts. All purchases are streamlined through their website, but unfortunately most of these finds are a little too pricey to fit a college budget. Only the most dedicated style-hunters will find the best deals on this account.

For those students who follow fashion trends religiously, thrift accounts on Instagram just might not cut it. If you’re looking for a constant stream of budget-friendly fashion, a thrifting or resale app could be more beneficial. With these apps, students can find thousands of listings that have the potential to solidify their brand or even explore new trends that could make it stronger.

If you haven’t heard about Poshmark yet, you probably live under a rock. Poshmark is the most popular resale app to hit the market, with over 40 million users. The platform aims to give its consumers a social media experience geared towards a type of thrifting that is a happy medium between brick-and-mortar stores and Instagram shops.

On Poshmark, users can buy clothes from other users and create their own listings from their account. The quality of clothing can vary from casualwear bought at Forever 21 to Louis Vuitton formalwear verified by the app itself. With such a wide range of options, any college student is guaranteed to find clothes that expand their wardrobe horizons and fit their brand and expense range.

ThredUp is another popular re-sell app that follows a similar structure to Poshmark. ThredUp is known for its convenient features that make its app user-friendly for even the least experienced online shopper. Discounts and promotions are also common with increased user activity, making it the ideal app for those cursed with a small  college budget.

Thrift shopping may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “revamp your closet,” but it is certainly one of the more economic solutions to your clothing blues. Now you can feel more confident and blow your classmates out of the water with your new style. Suddenly, you appreciate the opportunity to buy high-quality clothes at lower prices, especially when your personal brand starts to show through.

In the real world, you want to look put-together and confident, whether you’re walking into a job interview or going out on a date. Now that you have the tools to keep your closet updated without breaking the bank, you can rest easy knowing you’ve already taken the first few steps towards building your personal brand, and your confidence.

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