I’ve grown up with the mindset that with a little research and effort, I can almost always find what I’m looking for at a discounted price. Once I got a job and started using my own money more often, this became even more important, because price tags looked a lot more like number of hours worked. Are 10 hours of my life really worth that new top? Do I really need to eat out, or can I deal with another night of cereal and a pb&j? Usually my shopping consists of searching for one or two specific items, but then college shopping (aka dropping hundreds of dollars) became a thing.
If you’re already in college, you can probably relate to this, but if you’re just getting to that part of your life, let me tell you: college shopping is a real eye-opener. There are SO MANY things you have to buy, and a lot of it isn’t cheap. School supplies, food, clothing, and dorm decor are just the basics; what about a mattress cover? A shower caddy? Oh, your classes are far apart? I guess you’ll need a bike too. Things add up quickly, and as soon as you think you’re done, 5 more things get added to your list. College shopping isn’t going to be cheap by any means, but there are several ways to find the things you need at reasonable prices, and here are some tips for your trip!
Create A List
Shopping with a list is one of the only tricks that prevents me from buying way more than I need. Not only will it keep you accountable and on track, but you won’t have to worry about forgetting something if you have it written down. Looking at other students’ lists is a great starting point, and I posted my own for reference! When creating your list, be sure to think about how much room you’ll have, and what items you already own. Some dorms may be big enough for a futon and table, while others will only fit the furniture provided.
Related: The Ultimate College Shopping List
Search Online First
Before heading out to the store, searching online can make finding sales an easier and quicker process. Many stores hold their sales both in-store and online, so you can make of the list of them and only visit those in person. If you’re lucky, you might find some special sales that are only available online, which aren’t always obvious! For example, I bought my comforter from Target, and ended up having it shipped for free at $20 less than it was in-store, even though there wasn’t an obvious bedding sale going on. You don’t need to do research for everything on your list, but the big items like bedding and furniture are worth the time!
Look For Student Discounts
Once I got my ID, I started using it everywhere. You’d be amazed at how many great stores offer student discounts. My favorites are J.Crew/J.Crew Factory and Madewell, which both offer 15% off when you show your ID. Last week, I got this necklace at J.Crew Factory (originally priced at over $50) for 60% off, plus the additional 15% discount, making it only $12. These discounts are magical. I even wrote a post listing all of the student discounts I could find for reference!
Shop At Discount Stores
Kind of obvious, but stores like Ross and Marshall’s have great deals on everything from dorm decor to kitchen supplies. I bought all of my tupperware, plates, clothes hangers, and other organization items from Ross, and most of it was 50% less than the original retail price. The tough thing about these stores is you can’t go in expecting to find something, because their inventory changes all the time. It can also be hard to find items that match, so these stores are better for finding miscellaneous items on your list.
If you’re heading into college this year, you probably have a few friends that already went through this phase and may have some things to get rid of. If you’re looking for something basic like plates or a comforter, ask your older friends if they have extras or are simply getting rid of their old ones. They may offer them to you at a great price, or even give them to you for free! Of course, you won’t be able to ask for something overly specific like a certain color or pattern, but the price tag might be worth the trade.
Related: 12 Dorm Room Must Haves
Where have you found the best deals on college essentials? Let me know below!
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