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College Shopping Without Going Broke

After printing out our KnowsyMoms College Shopping List, you’ve probably realized that there are more than just a few purchases that need to be made before your kid leaves the nest. We know from experience that this realization alone may have you feeling anxious. After all, just figuring out how to pay for tuition, room and board is overwhelming – now they need us to buy new stuff for their dorm? And what about textbooks?

You could get carried away and buy every little thing you think they’ll ever need, but is that really necessary or fiscally smart? And how can you save money on the must-have items for college? Relax and get organized. Here’s how:

1.    Look at the Essentials on our list and figure out what you already have at home. For example, in the bedding department, you probably have a pillow your kid won’t want to part with and a twin blanket or comforter that will work perfectly. You WILL most likely need to buy a set or two of the Twin XL sheets that fit the majority of college beds (but check the school’s website to check the bed size). Note: twin blankets fit XL beds but twin sheets won’t! Throw a box of office supplies together from items you probably have at home (stapler, calculator, ream of paper, pens and pencils).

2.    Ask your student to talk to their roommate(s) to avoid bringing duplicate items that can be shared. Go through the KnowsyMoms list and figure out which items would be best to share (like a microfridge, area rug, cleaning and kitchen supplies, printer and ink). Decide who will buy what prior to school starting, and which items they can shop for together when they get there.

3.    Create a budget with your student. Decide together which items you want to buy now, which items you will send from home, and which items you will wait to purchase when you get there for Move-In Day or come to visit on Family Weekend. It is important for kids to have some insight into the additional expenses that getting a college education involves, beyond tuition loans. If your student will be sharing the load, work out who will pay for what.

4.    Comparison shop online before you buy. has everything kids need for college and comparing prices for a particular item is a breeze. Read reviews to make sure you are getting the quality you want. The upside of Amazon shopping is they’ll ship everything directly to your kid at school and they have great prices and a huge selection of products. When you order, make sure you have the shipping address for the college mailroom handy (check school website) and include your kid’s cell phone and email for tracking purposes.

5.    Take advantage of student discounts and coupons that are widely advertised and available. Apple has an education discount for college students that saves up to $200 on a laptop, and they typically offer a $100 iTunes gift card with purchase on top of the savings. Bed Bath & Beyond sends out 20% off coupons regularly, via mail and online. Visit their website and get on the mailing list. You can usually use as many coupons as you have since they never expire (despite words on the coupon to the contrary). Ask friends who don’t have kids going to college if they have any extras they are willing to give you. Check your newspaper for other coupons for stores you might want to consider.

If you take the time to get organized, compare prices and take advantage of discounts and coupons, you and your student will be able to really enjoy shopping for college together. You’ll also be teaching your kid a little something about fiscal responsibility and purchasing power in the process… all part of a great college education!

And for savings on textbooks, check out our post on College Textbooks.

Want to know more?

Tips to Ensure Back to College Shopping Doesn’t Break the Bank (ABC News)

(Part I) Buying Stuff for College: The Perfect Shopportunity

(Part II) Buying Stuff for College


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