Preparing for the first year of college is an exciting time for incoming freshmen and their families. However, the seemingly never-ending shopping list can make the move-in process tedious and costly for both students and their parents. According the National Retail Federation (NRF), over one-third (37%) of parents with college students plan to spend around $900 on everything from textbooks to dorm room supplies to gadgets.
Prep for your freshman year without blowing your budget by following these savings hacks!
Don't buy what you already own.
The extensive list of recommended dorm room essentials will make your head spin (and your wallet disappear). While some suggested items like “bedding to fit an extra long twin mattress” are necessities, items like towels, hangers and pillows can likely be packed from home. Plus, do you really need to buy an alarm clock when your smartphone does the trick? Review the list then check off items you already have (or simply don't need) before heading to the store.
Split costs with your roommate.
Since you'll be sharing tight quarters with another incoming freshman or two (or three!), you can likely get away with sharing certain dorm room goods like a mini fridge or a printer. Contact your roommates ahead of time to discuss those items that will be shared among everyone and how to effectively split the cost of big-ticket purchases. Consider downloading a bill-splitting app to simplify this process!
Stock up on penny deals.
When it comes to basic school supplies like pens, notebooks, folders and sticky notes, it's best to search for penny deals offered during the back-to-school shopping rush and watch for rotating discounts every week. For instance, you can currently snag one-subject notebooks, erasers and glue sticks for one-cent each from Office Depot, plus a five-pack of pens or 12-pack of mechanical pencils for as little as a buck. You can access circulars online or via the Flipp app for quick comparison.
Use coupons to cut costs.
As retailers ramp up marketing efforts during the second heaviest shopping season of the year, you can find endless deals to soothe your budget. Before buying anything, search for a coupon or promo code online at sites like Coupon Sherpa, where you can find 15% off dorm storage with a Staples promo code or $10 off select orders of $50 or more with an Office Depot coupon. Otherwise, tap into store apps like Target's Cartwheel for an extra 10 to 45% off various college needs from bedding to printers.
Buy used clothing.
While every freshman wants to make a good impression, buying a new wardrobe is unnecessary and will set your budget spiraling off track. Whether your wardrobe needs a refresh or additional garments to accomodate the temperatures in a new town, check out your local consignment store or browse like-new but gently-used options at sites like Thredup.com and Poshmark to save up to 90 percent.
Go the rental route.
It's like no surprise that textbooks represent the biggest line item in your college budget. The National Association of College Stores (NACS) estimates the average student spends $655 on these study essentials every year. To save big bucks, skip the overpriced campus store and head straight to an online textbook rental site such as Chegg and CampusBookRentals.com to save over 70 percent. To ensure you're not slapped with any fees at the end of the semester, keep the book in pristine condition and avoiding highlighting or marking up the margins.
Flaunt your status.
As a college student, your school ID brings with it loads of discounts on everything from speciality electronic retailers like Apple to clothing stores such as J.Crew. In addition to year-round discounts, stores offer even deeper discounts during back-to-school season for students. Study up on a complete list of student discounts and never leave home without your ID!
Know when to shop.
Shopping at the end of July or the first weekend in August can result in sales tax savings on everything from clothing to computers if you live in one of these 16 states. Experts agree that August offers the best deals on basic supplies and laptops, while September's Labor Day sales will see savings on appliances and cookware. Meanwhile, October represents the best time to buy fall apparel as clothing retailers begin prepping for the winter season. Lastly, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have historically offered some of the deepest discounts on gadgets including smartphones, tablets and laptops, so hold off until the holidays for these purchases!
Search for open box or refurbished.
NRF's survey found that many colleges and universities require incoming and current students bring their own computer, so a new laptop is likely on the top of your shopping needs. Instead of investing in the newest and most expensive model, search for open box or refurbished options. Best Buy typically has open-box items set up on their salesroom floor, while Newegg has a webpage dedicated to these lower-priced options with discounts on open-box laptops ranging from 10 to 40 percent. Apple also offers refurbished MacBooks and iPads, so always check these options before you buy.
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