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Back to College: What to Buy

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Back to school season has come around again and that typically presents an added expense for many families.  If you’re a college student, this can be a very large burden to bear, as students are responsible for not only tuition fees and housing, but their school supplies, required  textbooks, food, clothing, dorm room essentials, and more. This all starts to add up fast. To help cut down on costs and stretch your budget, let’s talk about what you should buy and what you should skip.   Take Inventory of What You Have  One of the biggest mistakes most students make is buying things they already have.  Unless this is your first year as a college student buying supplies, chances are, you already have a lot of what you need.  Be sure to organize and properly store your supplies and essentials at the end of each school year to make them easy to find and account for at the beginning of each new one.  Look around the house and see if there are any supplies that you can use such as pens and pencils, paper, art supplies, and more. You may also have a mini-fridge sitting forgotten in the garage somewhere.  All of these things will help you save money on the smaller things and you’ll be able to put it towards other necessities.  Look For Sales Early: What You Should Buy There are some essential items that you know you’re going to need.  Look for sales throughout the summer to help make sure you don’t end up overspending by waiting until the last minute.   Basic School Supplies: Pay attention for sales on common school supplies that you don’t already have lying around.  Notebooks, paper, pens, highlighters, a planner, and other stationery aisle type of items are items you will need.   Food: You should also look into purchasing non-perishable food items that you can store, easy to cook meals (ramen, of course!).  This will help save money year round since you won’t be purchasing overpriced takeout meals each night. Mini-Fridge: While this may seem like a splurge, it can go a long way with saving money in the long run.  You can meal prep and keep your drinks nice and cold. The convenience of course, is a plus.    Toiletries: A shower caddy and bathroom essentials, as well as other items that you would typically use daily should be ready beforehand.  Again, don’t overbuy. Look at what you have already and only purchase what you need. These are all items you’re going to need no matter what, so there’s no reason not to jump on them during a good sale.   Tech: Make sure you have all your tech gadget needs covered such as a good laptop and a flash drive to save your work on.  These are must-haves that will save you a bunch of time from having to schedule time at the library computers.  What to Avoid Many of us get really caught in the excitement of looking for dorm room items to decorate with.  This is an area where you can really save a lot by focusing more on what you need, rather than trying to let your inner interior decorator shine through.  Here are some items you can skip out on that will help you make the most of your budget. Printer: You don’t need your own printer, as your school library will have many available to you.  Some may offer free printing, have a printing allowance per semester, or charge just a few cents. You also won’t have to worry about buying ink. Expensive Bedding: Okay, so everyone would love to sleep on silky smooth Egyptian cotton sheets, but save that luxury for when you have a great paying fancy job.  Hit up a local target and get simple bedding that will serve its purpose.   Kitchen Supplies: Don’t go on a binge and purchase all kinds of kitchenware that you won’t end up using.  Think about your actual habits and weigh this against the limited cooking options that many dorms provide.  You’ll be sharing kitchen space with many others, and if you’re not a big cooker, purchase a few single necessary items and skip the full, expensive sets. Cleaning Supplies: You are a college student.  As much as you may like to think you’ll be super organized and really big into cleaning your space, you very likely won’t be and much of these will be left in a corner of your closet in the same box you brought them in.  Keep it simple and just pick up some Clorox wipes and check with your school to see if there’s a community vacuum cleaner you can use from time to time. Otherwise, simply purchase a broom and dustpan from a local dollar store.   Back to school shopping can be stressful, especially when doing so on a limited budget.  Be sure to weigh your wants and needs, and consider making a list to help visualize what your overall spend may look like.  Always be on the lookout for sales and use what you have at home whenever possible to help save money.
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