Smart Spending

Finding College Necessities on the Cheap

Buying the essentials for college can be a major burden on a student budget. Not only do you need to outfit your dorm, but you also need to be prepared for class with the right books and learning materials. Unfortunately, these expenses can add a lot of money to your annual tuition bill, which is already high enough in a time when the majority of students graduate with thousands of dollars in loans.  To make your dollars stretch further, you should be sure to comparison shop and make smart choices about spending.

Tips for Finding College Necessities on the Cheap

If you are heading to college for the first time or you are going back to school, here are a few tips to help you find the necessities you need for a lower cost:

  • Shop the back-to-school sales at big box stores. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target always put dorm room essentials on sale right before college kids go back to school. This is an ideal place to get items that you want to purchase brand new, such as extra long twin sheets for your dorm room bed. Don’t be tempted by all of the unnecessary add-ons that these stores offer though. The lamps and little cushions and accessories that these stores push to make your dorm cute are often overpriced and unnecessary.
  • Plan ahead and scavenge your local college on moving day. Many college students don’t want to pack up a ton of stuff when they are moving out of their dorms. As such, some students will actually leave behind or throw away unwanted dorm room items that they aren’t going to use again. You can end up with everything from dorm-size refrigerators to comfortable desk chairs that you can use in your dorm room just by being in the right place at the right time when school is letting out for the year.
  • Check Craigslist and online classified ads in college towns. Again, those who are moving out after graduating may want to get rid of their stuff rather than taking it home.  In addition to looking specifically for for dorm furniture, you can also use the classifieds to find other items you may need for college such as couches or coffee makers that people are selling.
  • Browse used book stores. Buying books is often one of the biggest expenses that college students have. You don’t have to buy brand new books from your school book store, though, and you can usually save a lot of money by exploring local used book stores and online stores such as and eBay. When you are shopping for books, think carefully about whether you need the absolute newest edition of the book or not. The older editions can often be bought for pennies on the dollar and a book that is out of date by just a year or two may not have many (or any) substantial changes from the latest model that costs hundreds more.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can keep costs down when shopping for college necessities and you can avoid blowing your whole budget on the items you need to purchase to be ready for back-to-school.