Nightlife: Thrifting through the Holidays

Anna Hoover

Christmas is creeping up, inconveniently at the same time as finals, crazy work schedules and whatever needs to get done before the new year. As a college student, this time of year is not only stressful, but expensive — presents, whether you make them yourself or not, cost money.

Homemade Christmas card with fingerprint reindeer | Photo courtesy of woohome

Most often, I find that the homemade gifts and cards are usually inexpensive and cherished, as they are customized to the person you are giving the gift. Yet, as the season of studying comes around, we don’t have the time to make presents or Christmas cards in lieu of buying gifts. Buying gifts can still show you care and can range in prices. When a family members asks for a specific item that they need or would appreciate, it makes it easy to show you listened and remembered by giving the gift they want. The only problem: that strategy can get pricey.


I remember being in several groups, as well as my residence hall freshman year, that make everyone join in a “secret snowflake”, which is basically a secret Santa, but not holiday specific to include other denominations, which was nice, or a white elephant party. Yes, there was a budget limit of around $15, but it was still stressful if you were in several of these gift exchanges for people you barely even know. I would get a name for someone that I had only seen a couple of times throughout the semester, which would make any thoughtful gift impossible to find. It was also a learning experience, knowing that some people went dumpster diving for gifts while others went and attempted to buy towards the limit. I once got a broken, used Nerf gun that he said he found on his way home from work, so I’m not kidding about the dumpster diving part.

Goodwill is a popular thrift store chain, in addition to other thrift store locations in FoCo | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

With all that in mind, I suggest going to a college student’s best friend — a thrift store. You can find so many different items in different styles to accommodate different price ranges and preferences. Need an apartment lamp or piece of furniture, either as a gift or for your roommates — try some thrift stores for some low prices and, sometimes, better quality. I once got two giant dressers made with whole wood, not plywood or the plastic stuff glued together, for less than $20 at a thrift store. It was a great deal, considering dressers in stores that are cheaply made can still cost almost $100!

There is usually a lot of jewelry at thrift stores, and is one of the best places to find different styles | Photo courtesy of Public domain pictures

Have a friend that wants jewelry? Try a thrift store for some used jewelry with character or spunk that you can’t find in stores anymore. A lot of times, thrift store jewelry sections are the perfect place to look for generic gifts, too. Have a secret Santa and you know they have pierced ears? You could get them earrings. If they wear necklaces or bracelets, you can get those for them at a low cost, and you don’t have to stress over finding cheap jewelry at another store. Plus, thrift stores have such as wide variety of styles from the past several decades, whereas newer stores only carry “modern” styles.

Going into a thrift can be an experience, too. Take your friends or your roommates and do all your gifting while thrifting together! Try on silly hats, quiz each other to see if they know what some obscure item was used for or the prices, or see who can come up with the craziest outfit. Going with friends and browsing can make an inexpensive shopping trip into a hilarious adventure that you will remember much longer than you will keep anything you buy there. Don’t like the selection? You can always go to a thrift store a few blocks away and see what has been donated there. Sometimes you can get an entirely different thrift experience from going to the thrift store at the other end of town just because of the different donations they get.

The inside of a thrift store contains more than just old clothes and jewelry and can contain come great gift ideas | Photo courtesy of Staticflickr

So, try thrifting for the holidays. Even if you don’t think you’ll find anything there, you never know until you go. You can always use the excuse you’re being environmentally friendly by recycling or upcycling items if anybody turns their nose up at a thrift store gift. Save some time and money for your finals and finishing out the year — you’ll need it!

Nightlife Writer Anna Hoover can be reached at or on Twitter @Hoovanna17. Read more of her content on NightLife. Leave a comment!!