Ballin’ on a Budget: Thrift Shopping in Boston 101

photos by Maeve Kelley-Portillo

Tired of your closet, but minimum wage just isn’t cutting it? Have a themed party coming up, but not willing to drop the bills on a costume you’ll only wear once? As a college student living in Boston on a budget, shopping can be a struggle. However, these lesser-known thrift shops can help alleviate this problem and rejuvenate your wardrobe. The art of thrift shopping can be tricky at first, but once you know what to look for both you and your wallet will be happy with the results.

Buffalo Exchange // 180 Harvard Ave, Allston

Selection: 5/5

Price: 3/5

Organization: 4/5

Buffalo Exchange is perfect if you are looking for a great selection of trendy, current, and sometimes brand name items in great condition. During my most recent trip, I spotted a shirt I was eyeing at Urban Outfitters a couple weeks ago that was originally $49, for only $13. The store is organized clearly by size, with both women’s and men’s sections. The founders of Buffalo Exchange are also committed to supporting the communities and environments they operate in, by having environmentally conscious practices and by giving to charities. If you’re going to check it out, remember to bring your own reusable shopping bag!

Urban Renewals // 122 Brighton Ave, Allston

Selection: 3/5

Price: 5/5

Organization: 4/5

Urban Renewals is great for finding anything from dresses to vinyls at super cheap prices; however, it requires a little more perusing than Buffalo Exchange. Urban Renewals is a huge warehouse with clothes organized by article and color. It also features a section for books, shoes, and furniture. In stores like this, I would usually skip the grungy-looking sweaters and funky ‘90s pantsuits and go straight to the men’s section for the $3 flannels and T-shirts.

The Garment District // 200 Broadway, Cambridge

Selection: 4/5

Price: 4/5

Organization: 2/5

The Garment District can be a little overwhelming at first — half of the first floor is just a huge pile of clothes to sift through; however, items are priced at $2 per pound of clothing, and $1 per pound on Fridays. You’d be amazed at how much you can get for this deal — from a couple sweaters to several shirts, depending on the size. The second half of the first floor is shared with Boston Costume, so it’s ideal for finding everything you need for Halloween or themed parties. New items arrive daily, so the selection is always being refreshed. The vintage department has a great selection from every era, but can be a little pricey — the ‘80s windbreakers go for $25 to $35, and are super cute.  

Audrey Small’s Declassified Thrift Store Survival Guide

photo by Maeve Kelley-Portillo

photo by Maeve Kelley-Portillo

First-year international affairs student, California native, and seasoned thrifter — Audrey Small has been thrifting for five years. Here are her top five tips and tricks to make the most of your thrift shopping experience:

  1. If you want to find environmentally friendly, cheap, and unique pieces that fit your personality, try thrifting instead of wholesale.
  2. Make a day of it — go with your friends and work on DIY projects together.
  3. Start with sweaters and outerwear, then shirts and pants, and finally shoes and accessories at the end. You can’t bring the latter into changing rooms.
  4. You cannot go into a thrift store as if you’re shopping at a normal store. Sometimes things won’t jump out at you as being wearable right away, but you have to think about what you can do with the material at hand — it may be different from its original purpose. For example, look for jeans you can distress; or T-shirts you can cut or turn into a dress.
  5. Revamp your wardrobe by finding an individual piece, like a silk scarf or a jacket, that can freshen up a non-thrifted outfit that you’ve exhausted.