Second-Hand School

College lessons learned while second-hand shopping.

by Emma Nord

In the hunt for an affordable coffee table for my apartment, I meander through Nu2u, a thrift store on N. 7th, with my attention scattered across all its treasures. A baby blue Trek bike catches my eye; I wander past the furniture and closer to more things I don’t need: funky leggings, fur jackets, and far-out attire. I forget why I’m here. As I try some Halloween costume combinations and snap some photos, I glimpse an antique walnut coffee table—reminding me why I came thrift shopping in the first place. Hours could be spent exploring all the second-hand stores around Bozeman—examining all the nooks and crannies, taking some fun pictures, and buying stuff. But thrifting—and college—can be so much more than that.


Both college and thrifting are places to go when you’re hung over—spending money, wasting time, getting distracted. But if we have intention, and still allocate time to explore, we’re sure to leave with far more value than you thought possible.

Whether you’re on a journey to find a table for your apartment, or you just began college, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to get distracted by all the great stuff—the outdoor activities, the clubs, the parties, or the items at the thrift stores to outfit these events. If you arrive at either place without an agenda, your time and your money will wither away quickly. College is a great experience, and in Bozeman, there’s never a shortage of fun—but do you really want to be a freshman forever? If you have some goals in mind—such as getting a biology degree, running for student government, or interning for Outside Bozeman—do what you came here to do, and do the difficult things first.


Don’t Get Distracted
To limit some of the abounding distractions, get the stuff you need right away. After completing the tedious tasks, you will feel more accomplished and likely have some extra time to enjoy yourself. If you can get those chemistry courses done early, you may only have to take nine units your senior year. And when you have an impending graduation, an unpaid internship, and friends who are finished with school, you won’t want to be in a chemistry lab for six hours stressing about being “off the payroll” in a month.

Pay Attention
Even though it’s important to have goals in mind, it’s also good to pay attention to your surroundings and seek new experiences. If your schedule opens up for that film class you’ve been curious about—even if your major is biology—you may find a purposeful connection between the two and discover your niche. Students who have tunnel vision may miss out on opportunities to discover their true purpose.

Advocate for Yourself
Now that you’ve found a table—and a really great lab coat—bargain a bit. Thrift stores are one of the last bastions of bartering, where you can dicker for a better deal. Though you can’t negotiate the price of tuition, professors can be bargained with when it comes to grades. If you’re friendly and speak up at the start, most people will want to help you out. And remember, you’re not entitled to a cheaper price or a better grade, so don’t get surly.

Neither college nor thrift stores are places to waste time and money. If you set intentions, do the difficult things early, and look for ways to make the most out of the experience, you’re sure to get far more out of it than a few drunk photos and a dirty lab coat.

Some thrift stores to test out:

East Main Trading Co.
702 E. Main St.
Look for: wool blankets, cast-iron skillets, paintings

First National Pawn
1052 N. 7th Ave.
Look for: backpacks and camping supplies

Nu2u Thrift Superstore
431 N. 7th Ave.
Look for: Halloween costumes, furniture, instruments, bikes

Rethink Thrift
2630 W. Main St.
Look for: books, movies, dorm decorations

Second Wind Sports
15 W. Olive St.
Look for: outdoor gear (skiing, hiking, climbing, camping,  backpacking, etc.)

Sacks Thrift Ave.
138 W. Mendenhall St.
Look for: kitchen appliances and clothing