Whether it’s your freshman year of college or not, you have a college dorm checklist of things you need. But you are a college student and you don’t want to spend a lot.
The trick is to shop smart and know the best money saving tips to get you the stuff you need without breaking the bank.
Money saving 101
Like most things in college, money saving is a learning process (if only they offered a course in that, right?). But you can get ahead of the curve by learning to not only shop smart, but also how to protect what cash you have. Anisha Sekar’s “50 Money-Saving Tips for Students (Ramen Isn’t One of Them)” posted on October 16, 2013, for nerdwallet.com shares some great tips on how to teach you to shop smart.
For instance, not everything has to be new. Scope out consignment stores, as well as eBay and Craigslist, for some bigger ticket items you may need off your college dorm checklist. Sekar also recommends paring down any duplicate items you may own. For instance, if money is tight, you can probably get by with just one winter coat. Finally, the author says, “Saving money means protecting it too. Watch out for traps designed for naïve students like store credit cards. Tricky terms and conditions and complex interest rates can sneak up on you when you least expect it.”
Save money, have fun
But college is supposed to be fun! You don’t want to have to worry about money saving all the time. Sure stretching your cash can be a drag, but a bigger bummer is coming out of college with major debt in the form of credit cards and/or student loans. To keep your out-going expenses as minimal as possible, Trent Hamm wrote “7 Big Money Savers for Your First Year at College,” posted on U.S. News & World Report’s money blog August 12, 2014.
- Don’t buy your textbooks until your first class. Ask your professor if all of the books are required. Are older versions acceptable.
- Use public transportation. Sure having your own car is great, but you will be paying for gas, repairs, insurance and parking. You can save money by taking the bus.
- Lighten up on the meal plan. Opting for a two-meal-a-day plan can save some money if you make use of less expensive snacks in-between meals.
- Go to campus groups’ meetings. Not only is this a great way to meet new people, but also there is often free food.
- Avoid credit card sign ups. “If you decide that you do want a card, there are many, many better cards out there than the cards being pushed by the people standing around on campus trying to get you to sign up.”
- Rent appliances. Check if your school has an appliance rental program. A mini-fridge seems like a necessity, but it’s something you won’t have any need for after college.
Mini fridges, microwaves, oh my!
Speaking of appliances, they are probably at the top of your college dorm checklist and, odds are, they’re also some of the most expensive items on your list. So what are the best money saving tips for these purchases? One way to shop smart for these items is to check with your college about what appliances are allowed and which aren’t. The July 2014 Consumer Reports recommended their affordable top picks in “Best small appliances for college students” by Izabela Rutkowski.
- Blender—Save money (and time) in the mornings by whipping up a smoothie. Consumer Reports recommendation: the Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender 51101, which comes with a travel lid.
- Coffeemaker—A pod coffee maker may cost more, but it requires less clean up and brews right in your travel mug. Consumer Reports recommendation: the DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio EDG455T, which takes up less space than most.
- Iron—You could have an interview or something and want to look nice, right? Consumer Reports recommendation: T-Fal FV4495 Ultraglide, which has auto-shutoff, an important safety feature.
- Vacuum—Because you and the roommate are going to be responsible for keeping your college dorm room livable. Rutkowski’s recommendation: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser 33A1, an inexpensive hand vacuum cleaner that’s great at cleaning bare floors and good enough on carpet.
Finally, fans aren’t a category that Consumer Reports tests, but they recommend them for all college students. The author wrote, “Tower fans are great space-savers and can be found at a good price at many big box and department stores.”
What are your best money saving tips for that college dorm checklist? Let us know in the comments.