By Andrea Woroch, Guest Blogger
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Living in the dorms represents a great introduction to college life. The convenience factor alone is a selling point, but the social benefits are also enormous. Some lifelong friendships are hatched within dorm walls as students bond over challenging tests, annoying busywork and other campus happenings.
Despite these perks, dorm life isn’t all sunshine and roses. It also represents the first time you’re responsible for such expenses as food, laundry, toiletries and more. To help with this reality shock, here’s a list of dorm room essentials and ways to save on each item.
1. Bedding and Towels
Splurging on 400-thread count linens isn’t a luxury you can afford right now. Thankfully, there are some tricks to saving on quality linens and pillows. Light colors are usually cheaper than bold hues and patterns, plus they’re easier to clean. Skip cheap pillows from Target and Walmart since the synthetic material gets clumpy after a few weeks. Instead, shop T.J.Maxx or HomeGoods for name-brand pillows priced up to 75 percent off regular retail.
If you’re due for a new computer, consider a refurbished laptop to save some cash. Before you balk at the term “refurbished,” know it doesn’t mean “broken.” Refurbished simply means the item can’t be sold as new because it was returned by the previous buyer, either because there was a problem or a change of heart. The manufacturer will fix any issues and repackage the system for resale. Both Apple and Dell sell refurbished laptops with the same one-year warranty as new models.
3. Printer and Ink
Though many college assignments can be submitted through online platforms, some professors still require printed documents. Additionally, it's nice to print out copies of syllabuses and study sheets for taking notes. When shopping for a printer, opt for a multi-function model that includes scanning and copying capabilities. Office supply stores offer sweet deals on printers, but replacement ink is where they get you. Print frugally by stocking up on cheap printer ink from Inkjet Willy in advance.
A small fan may seem like a random purchase, but it’s actually a little-known dorm room essential. In addition to circulating air in a characteristically stuffy space, it helps drown out distracting noises from your floor or roommate. This popular model is just over $15 and will likely last you through your entire collegiate career.
That shabby backpack from high school won't cut it when trying to make a fashionable impression at college. A more stylish and sophisticated alternative is a large tote that can fit campus essentials like your tablet, books, snacks and makeup for in-between lecture touch-ups. Keep an eye on designer deals via flash sale sites like Ideeli or HauteLook where you can score savings of 50 percent or more.
The key to saving money on dorm room decor is to take a minimalist approach. Since you’ll be studying in your dorm room often, you don’t want clutter to compete for brain space with biochem homework. Use this guide to find your design direction and buy a few items that show off your style without overindulging your budget. Plants are a cheap way to make an otherwise drab space look lively, and there are some varieties that survive with very little TLC.
Free samples abound in the personal care industry, making it possible to survive until Mom and Dad can replenish your supply during winter break. In addition to requesting samples from product counters, find free beauty samples from websites like Mr. Free Stuff or load up on deluxe samples from Sephora with your makeup order.
Stockpile non-perishable snacks for cheap midnight snacking since frequent trips to the campus convenience store can add up. Buying items in bulk will save you big, so consider purchasing a student membership to Sam’s Club. For less than $40 per year, you’ll have access to cheaper-by-volume food products, laundry essentials and more.
The common area likely has a refrigerator for your use, but there’s nothing like reaching for a cold soda or yogurt snack during cram time. To save on this expense, shop around for a used mini-fridge on Craigslist. As long as it’s in working order, a used refrigerator will do just fine after a good scrubbing. You can also contact your dorm roommate to see if she’d be interested in splitting the cost of the appliance.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized money-saving expert who is passionate about helping consumers discover new ways to live on less without sacrificing. As a sought-after media source, Andrea has contributed to leading news programs such as Today Show, Dr. OZ, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends and CNN, and has been quoted by New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Better Homes & Garden and many more. Follow Andrea on Twitter or Facebook for daily savings tips!