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A penny saved

Going back to school means one thing: shopping. As always, there are the basic school supplies to buy – pens, pencils, notebooks and folders. However, as college students, there are now many other costs to deal with: tuition, books, decorating the new apartment or dorm room and, of course, new clothes.

In order to avoid eating ramen noodles every day for the next year, students must learn to spend carefully. Therefore, instead of heading to International Mall they should trek to the following thrift stores:

Second Image

2419 W. Kennedy Blvd.

(813) 253-3735

This is my absolute favorite thrift store. The prices tend to be high, but there are always cool and interesting things to discover.

Instead of spending hours sorting through everything, one can save time by heading straight to the “Vintage” section to find retro fare for men and women: western shirts, guayaberas, quirky T-shirts, authentic Asian garb and studded belts (from the 1980s, not Hot Topic). The store also offers a great selection of old records, board games, luggage and knick-knacks.

Best finds: vintage “The Visible Man” and “The Visible Woman” anatomy models (creepy conversation starters for the coffee table), $2.98 and $6.98 respectively; 1980s studded wrap belt, $5.98; bingo bag with markers, cards and chips (playing bingo is a great way to win extra money – I won $500 one time), $8.98; vintage Super 8 camera, $39.93, portable toilet (for those who don’t want to share a bathroom with their roommates), $19.96

Sunshine Thrift Store

4304 S. Dale Mabry

(813) 831-4377

As with most thrift stores, finding cool things is really hit or miss. The store is huge, so plan to be there for a while. This location has a designated “Oldies” section, but it usually consists of bad polyester in every shape and color instead of unique vintage items. Finding anything of quality depends on students’ perseverance and the ability to laugh instead of getting grossed out. Consider the racks of used tightie-whities and opened bags of Depends undergarments. Men tend to fare better at this location, due to the huge selection of cheap suits, jeans and corduroy pants, but there is also a decent selection of interesting art and furniture. Just watch out for little the kids lingering in the store – one felt me up when I bent over the jewelry case.

Best finds: 1940s Paris prints, $3.43/each; 1970s silver owl bank with emerald eyes (I almost fought an old man for it), $0.40; 1980s Polaroid camera, $1.91

Salvation Army

13901 N. Nebraska Ave.

(813) 972-4777

The furniture at Salvation Army is practically new, but for the prices you might as well buy it new somewhere else. There is also a wide array of musical instruments and electronics to choose from. The secrets to getting good deals at this store is to buy during half-off sales, which occur several times a week, and to haggle with the salespeople – just make sure they can do simple math. Vintage items can usually be found in the “Boutique,” but watch out for the used lingerie in the “Sky Box.”

Best find: “This is Johnny Cash” record, $1.00

Community Thrift

14244 N. Nebraska Ave.

(813) 977-7750

I knew this thrift store was a keeper when I walked in and the 1970s hit song “Amy” was playing over the loud speaker. There’s nothing like shopping while a band sings about how much they love me! Besides playing the best song in the world, this store offers several rooms full of clothing, knick-knacks and furniture. The prices are right, and it is next to both the DMV and Labor Ready, so students can get a license, a job and cool stuff all in one stop.

Best finds: 1960s velvet suitcase, $1.61; Baroque-framed mirror (the kind sold at Urban Outfitters for $60 – to be spray painted a funky color), $9.91; Dancin’ Grannies Mature Fitness Workout video, $0.44

Plato’s Closet

13124 N. Dale Mabry

(813) 968-8383

Although not a traditional thrift store, this store appeals to most students because it carries relatively new, brand name clothing such as Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express and Hollister. Students who shop at thrift stores to find unique, vintage items should avoid this store. Those looking to buy or sell recent fashions, though, will delight in this popular fashion franchise.