The life of a college student can be tough at times when your bank account’s funds seem to sink faster than your paychecks can keep up with, but innovative Facebook groups, thrift shops and bargain shopping deals are becoming trendy ways to keep you financially afloat.
Over the past few years, bargain shopping has remained not only an affordable option for students, but it has transformed into a creatively trendy way for students to get anything between furniture to clothes and even cookware.
East Carolina University students have caught on to the trend, basking in the benefits of reselling their used (and sometimes new) clothes, furniture and other possessions. On the flip side, students are able to buy secondhand items at a lower price than retail while keeping up with the latest trends.
How to navigate the world of bargain shopping
There are many variations of bargain shopping. Thrift shops, antique shops, second hand stores and online platforms are a few of the options utilized by students around the country.
Andrea Carter, an ECU alumna who graduated in May 2018, said her experience with bargain shopping has been entwined in her life since a young age. She said she used to go to thrift shops and yard sales when she was younger with her mom.
“Ever since the age of five, I’ve loved going into thrift stores. I’d probably go at least once a month, if not more than that,” Carter said. “(I also like) shopping on Pirate Gals. I also like to find free things on the side of the road. I know that sounds weird.”
Pirate Gals is a “secret” Facebook group where women who attend ECU or Pitt Community College can join to buy, sell or rent items at a lower cost than retail prices. The group currently has just over 7,000 members and 8 admin who moderate the group. Upon reaching out, admin members of the group Pirate Gals declined to comment to The Hook.
Carter said she bargain shopped a lot during her time spent at ECU. Carter added that as a student, she spent several years renting houses, a living accomodation where she had to provide the furniture.
Utilizing bargain shopping techniques allowed for the cost of living to be kept low, which made it possible for Carter to save hundreds of dollars. She said she furnished and decorated her living spaces by finding furniture on the Grid people were getting rid of, getting deals on Pirate Gals and shopping smart.
Carter was excited to note that the most common item she’s found for “free” is furniture.
“I think going frequently is the best way to do it (bargain shop),” Carter said. “Knowing the demographic of the area I found that in bigger cities like Raleigh, Atlanta (GA) and Charlotte, where there’s more disposable income the clothes are better."
Carter explained that she’s found more items in Greenville around graduation season and move-in/move-out time. She said timing and location is “everything” when it comes to bargain shopping.
DeAnna Barbour, a senior hospitality management major at ECU, described bargain shopping as a hobby of hers, where she finds something “unique and special” at the best deal she can find.
Barbour said price negotiating has been a large part of her experience with bargain shopping. Her mother owned an antique store for a couple of years where she learned about the value of secondhand or antique items.
“Overall, the people who are coming and doing bargain shopping really are in it for the game of it. They’re not trying to make a quick buck or anything else, is what I’ve noticed,” Barbour said. “They really enjoy talking about the pricing of things, trying to get the best deal.”
Barbour said her favorite part about bargain shopping is going out to see what others are selling, and how purchasing it could benefit her life.
“As someone who has definitely lived off of a couple hundred dollars a week I have made things work with very little, like going to Goodwill to find your furniture,” Barbour said. “Having a little bit of skill and finding the value in other stuff would be really great for students because there is only so much money and time you have on your hands.”
Barbour has used Facebook Marketplace and the group Pirate Gals to buy items. She’s purchased secondhand textbooks, clothes, furniture and decor by using these platforms.
Barbour said Pirate Gals and Facebook Marketplace have been helpful resources she’s used to her advantage while at ECU. The quality of the items she’s found haven’t presented negative surprises either; everything she’s bought so far has appeared to be the same quality as advertised.
“I think using Facebook Marketplace and bargain shops and everything else you’re still giving life to something that has a little bit left that someone can find more life in later,” Barbour said.
The stigma around bargain shopping, Barbour explained, has been that it’s mainly for “low income” people when that’s not the case. She said the form of shopping has become more popular in recent years, in part because of lifestyle and fashion YouTubers who post “Thrift with me” videos, where they find designer items at second hand stores.
In Greenville specifically, Barbour recommends for students to bargain shop at Plato’s Closet, Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill.
“I think there’s been a change in tune, but I feel like there’s still a stigma around it. Like it’s (bargain shopping) for people with low-income, but that’s definitely not the case,” Barbour said. “Anybody can go to Goodwill and find something great.”
Pro Tips from Len Rhodes, Executive Director of technology information and operations
CHECKLIST FOR BUYERS
Make sure you budget for your purchase.
Do you actually need it?
Don’t become emotionally involved in the item.
Always be willing to walk away from the negotiation if it’s not up to your standards.
Set a maximum amount you’re willing to pay, and don’t go over it.
CHECKLIST FOR SELLERS
Set a minimum you’re willing to accept and don’t go below it.
Don’t be afraid to throw out the first number when negotiating.
Come to a fair price you’re willing to accept.
PIECES OF ADVICE FROM LEN RHODES, FINA 1904 Professor
Budgeting isn’t bad- it’s liberating.
Get in the habit of tracking what you spend.
It’s your money- you’re the boss.
Take personal finance.
Take 24 hours to think about if you really need to buy that thing you want.