I am the kind of person who proudly wears the label of “bargain hunter.” I will shop around until I find the best possible deal on whatever it is that I’m looking for, and as a result, I rarely pay full price for what I need. These habits of mine have served me well during my college career, where getting stuff cheap is almost a necessity for those of us with limited disposable income. Here are some of my favorite locations around Blacksburg for getting the absolute most bang for your buck.
First off, let’s get the basics out of the way: clothes. Since clothes shopping is a way of life these days, getting quality apparel for a good price is a big deal. There are two good places to do this, for different reasons. The first is, of course, the Goodwill on North Main. Reason being that Goodwill in general is often the first port of call for those wishing to dispose of unneeded clothing and various other sundry items to the point that the term itself has become a colloquialism for donation as a whole.
Not only are things generally inexpensive there anyway, but the regular sales put on by Goodwill sweeten the deal significantly if you’re willing to watch out for them. For instance, Goodwill has what they call a “color of the week” sale, where items with a particular price tag color will have their price reduced by 50%. The color changes every Sunday, so keep an eye out for those tags if you happen to stop by.
For the slightly more enterprising shopper, another place might be ideal. Plato’s Closet, located in Christiansburg, is another great place to find quality clothes on a budget. What’s more is that Plato’s actually buys clothing for its merchandise, so you can not only dispose of clothes you don’t need, but also make a few bucks doing so. Just keep in mind that they can be a bit selective in what they take, and they will generally only pay top dollar for what’s in season, so don’t try to unload a ski parka in the middle of summer. Shoes, however, are fast movers there at pretty much any time of the year, and few places have as expansive a selection of footwear as Plato’s. Stepping inside can feel like being greeted by an honor guard of fashionable footwear.
Clothes are definitely a good thing to skimp on, but one thing that you definitely should not get on the cheap if at all possible is electronics. Buying electronics at a thrift store is almost always a losing proposition because almost everything these stores have is woefully obsolete.
Another way to save money is properly timing the purchase of stationery. Like swimsuits, supplies like binders, notebooks, print paper, pens, pencils and so on are often sold at ridiculous markups, but only when their appropriate season draws near. So like someone who buys a swimsuit in the winter, buying those kinds of classroom supplies in the middle of summer is often the best way to get that shopping done cheap. This also gets it done early enough so there’s no need to do it once the semester draws near.
Often, the best place to do this is the Volume Two Bookstore on University City Boulevard since they have the most extensive variety of quality school supplies. Volume Two is a one-stop university bookstore, and even though it isn’t necessarily a thrift store, the prices during its clearance events make it just as cheap as one, and the sheer volume of items marked down during these events means that one can get set for an entire semester with a single visit. Also most of the gear there is Virginia Tech branded, so you can show off your Hokie pride while taking your notes. Of course, now that the semester has arrived, this particular nugget of advice might not be all that useful at the moment, but tuck it away in your mind for later.
In terms of something like furniture, other students are actually good resources. I had a roommate drop out, and he sold me his mini-fridge and a small desk for next to nothing since he just wanted to get rid of them. A lot of the time, people will put what they want to get rid of on social media, particularly Facebook.
Likewise, students planning on graduating in the near future are a good source of furniture, especially if they live off campus and have had to completely furnish their own place. Students don’t just leave couches sitting on the side of the road to watch parades. If you don’t take them, either someone else will or a dump truck will eviscerate it. So keep in contact with students looking to move, since they will be more than happy to have one less thing to move to their new place, wherever that may be.
Another place to watch out for home improvement goods is the ReStore on North Franklin. ReStore is run for the benefit of the non-profit charity Habitat for Humanity, dedicated to providing affordable housing in places across the globe. The organization is focused on rehabilitating old homes and building new ones from scratch, including right here in the New River Valley. ReStore’s inventory is heavily based around general home improvement, featuring home appliances, hardware such as doors and windows, and general furniture.
Since books are often the first thing to go when you’re clearing space in your house, most stores that sell second-hand goods will, to varying degrees, stock books. Most of the places I have listed so far are like this, though I will mention that most Goodwills will generally have more books than, say, Plato’s Closet, so just be aware of the volume of goods that these stores tend to have. That being said, there is a small used bookstore out in Christiansburg called Whistle Stop Books, found on Depot Street. Here, paperbacks go for five dollars and hardbacks for 10. Just keep in mind that they prefer you pay in cash. Whistle Stop is quite small, but its selection of books is quite good.
Being thrifty depends on shared knowledge and the vigilance of its practitioners. Frugality is quite simply not the kind of thing one gets without being told about the thrill — the visceral joy of getting something for far below its listed price. It’s almost the kind of thing you post to your social media. And it turns out that Blacksburg is rife with places where you can get some really good stuff on the cheap. I hope this information will be useful to my fellow bargain hunters, especially in this cash-strapped time of our lives.