Student Life

Living on a College Student Budget: What Not to Buy New

Save your hard-earned money by purchasing the following pre-owned items.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

December 17, 2020

Living on a College Student Budget: What Not to Buy New
Save your money -- and Planet Earth -- with sustainable, student living.
For college students, it can be hard to scroll through your social media feeds and see ads for cute clothes, must-have gadgets, and luxurious island getaways. After all, you’re a student, which means you’re living on a student budget and those items are out of reach. Fortunately for you, though, you’re a college student in an age when sustainable living, diminishing carbon footprints, and thrifting are all the rage. Furthermore, it may not be a passing trend at all, but rather a new way of living that more and more people embrace. If sustainable living, thrifting, or even living within a strict budget are new concepts for you, check out our breakdown of what you can afford to buy second-hand and where.

1. Clothing

Ok, so saying that you have “second-hand”clothes may not garner the kind of attention you want for your wardrobe, but saying that your outfit is thrifted or vintage certainly will. Thrift stores are seeing an increase in activity thanks to a return of 90s trends. After all, they’re chock full of fanny packs, crop tops, and oversized sweaters. Plus, hitting up your local thrift store is an adventure in and of itself.
If you don’t live near a thrift store, try ThredUp. It is the largest online consignment shop, with clothes and accessories for women, men and kids. You will find your favorite brands there as well as some oldies that are new to you. Plus, you can actually sell your old, unwanted clothes on the site, brining in more money for, well…clothes. Buying used clothing isn’t just good for your student budget, it’s great for the Earth. More and more companies are thinking creatively about how to make clothing with sustainable practices in mind. Right now, Patagonia seems to be at the forefront. In addition to evaluating how they’re making clothes, they’re also encouraging their followers to buy pre-worn products. Through their Worn Wear line, you can purchase some of their top, pre-owned products at a fraction of the cost. Patagonia and ThredUp state that if you buy a used garment, it “extends its life on average by 2.2 years, which reduces its carbon, waste and water footprint by 73%.”

2. Books

If you’re new to college, you’ll soon find that your textbooks are your best friends. They go everywhere with you – to class, to the library, and back to your dorm room. In the process, they can get a little banged up, especially during those all-nighters when you’re maniacally flipping back and forth between chapters. That’s why you should never buy textbooks brand new. Well, for that reason…and for the fact that someone else just bought the book brand new last semester and is ready to sell it. So, it’s practically brand new. There are a variety of places to buy used textbooks. has been in the business of books since 1996. Here, you can find deeply discounted textbooks – and sell them when you’re done! Amazon and Barnes and Noble also have used textbooks and rentals. Finally, check our campus bookstore for cheap textbooks. Students will often sell back their books after the semester, and you can get them at discounted prices.

3. Tech Gadgets

In the tech world, second-hand laptops, phones, and tablets are referred to as “refurbished.” There is an entire process that a gadget must go through in order to be considered refurbished. The device will have been repaired and updated to feature the newest operating system from the manufacturer; however, the price for the device will be a fraction of the cost if purchased new. Many technology companies, like Apple and Dell, offer refurbished products at discounted prices. Major retailers, like Walmart and Best Buy, also have refurbished products for sell on their websites. They aren’t just limited to laptops and tablets either. You can also find refurbished televisions or gaming systems there. If you’re looking for even lower prices and want a previously owned device, you could also consider asking your IT Department on campus whether or not they sell older products to students as well.

4. Apartment Living/Dorm Décor

Figuring out what you actually need to bring to college is a delicate dance. The first year, you very likely bring EVERYTHING on every college campus packing list you found on Pinterest. By your senior year, you’ve pared down significantly to only items you need. Whichever year you find yourself in – as well as wherever you find yourself on the spectrum between the two aforementioned points – there’s one thing you don’t need: to spend your money on brand new products for your apartment or dorm. Each May, college students across the country leave thousands of objects behind that they won’t need for next year (it’s true: many colleges will host massive yard sales for local residents after students have departed). You can cash in on their “junk” and make it your treasure for next year by buying, or simply taking, what they no longer need. There are multiple ways to swap or buy previously owned items for your apartment or dorm. First, try Facebook Marketplace. You can perform a simple search to find exactly what you need near your location. Other great websites for buying items second-hand are Depop, eBay, and Etsy. Need some ideas on what to scrounge these sites and yard sales for? Keurig machines, microwaves, furniture, rugs, storage containers, dishes and utensils, any décor. The options are endless – unlike your student savings account.

The Sustainable Student Life

As we head into the New Year, think about how you live as a college student and how you can make it more sustainable. Buying items second-hand or that are previously owned isn’t a statement about your personal wealth. In fact, you’re a college student; you shouldn’t have any personal wealth! Everybody has to start somewhere, and you can start by saving your money and living more sustainably by reinvesting in previously owned items. You only need them for one to four years, and you can give an object a second life by purchasing items second-hand. Your wallet will thank you – and so will Planet Earth.

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