Going away to college is an exciting time for students and parents. But lost in the excitement of meeting roommates and choosing classes, it’s easy to miss a simple truth: going away to college is also a very expensive time.

A college dorm room is a home away from home. A home that will need to be outfitted with all sorts of things: sheets, computer equipment, maybe even furniture. Things many students don’t factor into the cost of going to college.

Save money on your back-to-school shopping and outfit your college dorm with these 4 money-saving smart shopper tips:


The Cost of College Is More than Tuition

So, you’ve done the math on tuition, fees, room and board, and think you’ve figured out what college is going to cost. Not so fast. Smaller expenses – like sheets for the extra-long bed, or a mini-fridge to stash those dining hall leftovers – can really add up. In a profile on an incoming college freshman, ABC News reported:

According to the National Retail Federation, college students and their families will spend nearly $46 billion, an average of $836.83 per family, on back-to-college supplies this year. And the average, estimated, full-time undergraduate budget – including books and supplies, transportation and dorm expenses – totals $3,291.

That’s a lot of work-study hours.

Dorm room with bedding, fridge, printer, and decorations

You might not think of it until you go shopping, but the cost of dorm room gear can add up!

But there are ways to get a lot of this gear without skimping on college experience. Use these tips, and there might be enough left in the fund for an extra trip home to see Mom and Dad… or a killer spring break.


Tip #2. Use Deal-Watcher Sites and Apps

Decide.comlets you set price alerts on items like laptops and tablets. It also offers reviews, so you won’t end up making an expensive mistake. Priceblink is another web app that will automatically comparison-shop for you within your browser window.


Tip #2. Buy Used

If there’s anything the Internet is good at, it’s matching people who don’t want stuff anymore with people who do. College textbooks can be shockingly expensive, especially the 15-pound, full-color, glossy editions common in intro science courses.

Fortunately, there’s a thriving market in used textbooks on sites like Amazon and Half.com. You may also be able to rent a book for a fraction of the cost through sites like Rent-a-Text.

Or, if you’re ready to go completely paperless, Boundless is an app that has developed alternatives to a number of popular intro subject textbooks.

Tip #3. Avoid the Campus Bookstore

Prices there can be marked up as much as 40%. Plan ahead, and bring items like paper and notebooks from home, or order them to be shipped to your dorm. You can probably only get a school-logo coffee mug for grandpa on-campus, but go elsewhere for actual books.


Tip #4. Leave the Car At Home

If you’re not saving money by commuting to school (thus making mini-fridge considerations null and void), skip bringing the car to campus.  Students spend an average of $200 a month on gas, according to ABC news. That’s a pretty high price for getting to be the “guy (or girl) with a car.”


Preparation is Key

On a tight college student budget, it’s worth taking the time to comparison shop for everything on your list. Waiting to buy things last-minute or on-campus can cost you.

Share your savings secrets for back-to-school shopping in the comments! The class of 2017 will thank you.


See Also

How to Make the Most out of College with 1 Easy Online Investment Tool
Smart Money Guide: How to Pick the Best Financial Planner for Your Needs
Student Travel Safety Tips for a Scam-free Spring Break 2013

About The Author

Christina Newhall is a freelance writer, editor and perpetual learner. She resides in Los Angeles, and enjoys educational podcasts, ambitious baking projects, and sci-fi TV.

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