No matter what you decide to study, one thing you’ll learn quickly is that college is expensive. Tuition, housing costs, class fees, books, a meal plan and more, can all add up to making college a large financial burden for many students. Despite the costs, college is one of the most valuable experiences you can pursue, and finances shouldn’t deter you from pursuing higher education that will help you unlock the kind of future you’re aiming for.
Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks, such as choosing the right dorm gear that cannot only make your life easier, but also help to save on college expenses.
Your dorm serves as your home for the academic year, so it’s essential to choose wisely when shopping for the items you’ll need. From sleeping, to studying, to socializing, your dorm room needs to serve a wide range of your needs. A well-equipped dorm room can help keep you comfortable and many items will also save you money in the long run.
Make items multi-purpose.
A great way to cut down on expenses when dorm shopping is to try and select items that can serve more than one purpose, in order to get more bang for your buck. Suitcases, for example, can serve as luggage, as well as handy under-the-bed storage, eliminating the need to buy pricey containers.
Similarly, bed risers are a great purchase because they add more space under your bed to store items and can save on more costly pieces of storage furniture, such as cubbies or dressers. When purchasing additional lighting for your room, be sure to select a lamp that either dims or can be adjusted. This will come in handy for studying, hanging out in your room, or for when you need the light, but your roommate is trying to sleep.
Be your own barista.
Whether you do your best studying at the crack of dawn or you’re an academic night owl, many college students require a lot of coffee to keep them going. Purchasing coffee is a small expense that can add up over the long run, so making coffee in your dorm can lead to significant savings.
You don’t need to invest in a fancy machine either. Buying an electric water kettle is actually the best way to go. Water kettles are inexpensive, efficient, and allow you to make both instant coffee and tea. You can even cook ramen noodles or mac-and-cheese with it! Some water kettles offer multiple settings and timers, but these are significantly more expensive, and most likely unnecessary for a college student’s needs.
Though the upfront costs of purchasing a mini-fridge and microwave can be significant, having these items can lead to reduced meal plan expenses. If your school is in an urban area, there are probably a lot of tempting and expensive restaurant options available to you, but eating out adds up quickly.
There are a wide variety of meals you can make with just a microwave and mini-fridge, many of which can be done quickly and cheaply. Luckily, to further reduce upfront costs, there are many options available for renting these items or purchasing them secondhand. If you plan to buy secondhand, timing can be very important. Most students move out of their dorms in May or June, so this is the best time to look for used options, though it does require some extra planning.
When shopping for your dorm, be sure to also consider miscellaneous kitchen items you will need such as a set that contains a bowl, plate, etc. Planning ahead means you’ll have time to compare prices and get the best deal, rather than ordering something in a rush because you need it quickly.
Not only will cooking a few basic meals in your dorm save you money by reducing the amount you spend when you eat out, but it will also help you master an essential life skill.
Utilize your school’s resources.
One of the best ways to save money on college expenses is to do a little research to ensure you utilize every resource available to you. You don’t want to waste money on items that you don’t need, nor on items that don’t work over time. That’s why doing your homework is important.
Most colleges specify all the items and furniture their dorms are equipped with. Pay attention to things like what size mattress they provide. Most colleges have XL twin beds, which won’t work with normal-sized twin sheets. Colleges will also provide information about what facilities are available to students, such as a communal kitchen or laundry rooms. Double checking these factors will help ensure you don’t buy something your dorm already provides.
Schools often also have social media groups, sometimes even for specific dorms. Discovering and joining these groups can be helpful because many students sell or give away items. It’s also a good way to connect with your future dorm neighbors.
College student discount stores.
Another useful tip when shopping for cheap dorm gear is to look into stores that offer student discounts. Many stores give discounts to students for both online and in-person shopping, and taking advantage of this can mean big savings. Just be sure you have a way to verify that you’re a student, such as a student ID or student email address. Some stores don’t advertise their student discounts, so it never hurts to ask. This is a great way to cut down on college costs if you need to save money.