Student Life

Budget Savvy Back to School Shopping

Elizabeth Hoyt

July 09, 2018

Budget Savvy Back to School Shopping
Learn how to shop smarter so you can save on all your back-to-school shopping!
Heading to college is exciting…and expensive! Whether you're going for the first time or returning for a new semester, there are likely items you'll have on your back to school shopping list that quickly add up to one hefty sum. Wise shoppers stretch dollars, so don’t overspend on things you don’t have to (which is pretty much everything, by the way).
How? It’s easy – just shop smarter! The good news is that, once you begin saving, you'll likely start shopping smarter regularly and stay thrifty throughout the year, too! Not sure how to become a thrifty shopper? It's a lot simpler than you may think.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you shop smarter for all of your college needs:

1. Learn Dorm and Housing/Apartment Do’s & Don’ts

Your awesome wall hanging won’t look so awesome in a box under your loft. Make sure you’re going to be able to hang it – along with other dorm restrictions before you buy. You can easily find out from the school what is and is not allowed in dorms or your rental property, including: items hanging on walls, painting and electronic items, etc.
Additionally, many schools have commonly used items available for students in the dorms, so you don’t need to purchase them.
Takeaway Tip:
Check the do's and don'ts before you buy so you don’t end up wasting purchasing and packing items you don’t really need!

2. Back-to-School Promotions

Have you ever heard of a back-to-school sale? We thought so. If you know of stores that have some or many items you need for school, check if they will have a promotion available any time in the near future. There are a lot of stores that are notorious for their back-to-school/college promotions. Some even allow you to create a registry to make it easier to keep track of items you need or want as gifts. Check out retailers, such as: • ASOS
Barnes & Noble
Bed, Bath & Beyond
The Container Store
PB Teen
College promotions actually aren't very hard to find - you just have to be looking!
Takeaway Tip:
Research back-to-school promotions. That way, you can be prepared to buy when the time – and the prices – are just right.

3. Coupon Clipping

You know the spot during online checkout that asks if you have a coupon code? It's time to stop ignoring it! One quick Google search for coupons online will demonstrate how easily accessible they really are for most retailers. Before you buy, check for coupons and coupon codes on sites and apps like the following: • RetailMeNot
Coupon Cabin
The simplest way is just to type "(name of store) coupon code" into your search engine and see which sites have coupon codes for the website you're shopping at. It doesn't always work - but it takes about a minute and it's definitely worth it when it does come up.
Takeaway Tip:
Whether you’re shopping in-store, do your research beforehand so you can be prepared with coupons for your college gear. When shopping online, always double check for coupon codes because it could save you loads of extra dough!

4. Discount & Competitively-Priced Stores or Apps

There are plenty of awesome discount and competitively-priced retailers that offer amazing deals on items you'll need for college. Try shopping stores like: • T.J. Maxx
There are also of plenty of apps that feature awesome home goods for less. When it's back to school season, they often feature college and dorm essentials for steals! Check out these apps (which have websites, too) that feature different sales each day: • One Kings Lane
Joss & Main
Rue La La
Check out any of these stores and apps for college necessities like towels, bedding, electronics and other dorm essentials. You’ll get a lot more bang for your buck, which means you’ll have money left over to spend on other things you absolutely need like books, for instance.
Takeaway Tip:
Shop at discount or competitively-priced stores - believe it or not, you will actually get more for your money.

5. Discounted or Refurbished Electronics

This is only a route to take if you're shopping at a reputable electronics store or retailer, because if something does go wrong with the product, you will be able to ensure you have a warranty (it's recommended you get one). It is not, however, recommended to buy expensive tech products through random users online because they are never guaranteed to work and there is often no course of action if you are taken advantage of. When considering the purchase of a refurbished computer, laptop, tablet or any other product, make sure you do your research beforehand. Ensure you know what you're looking to purchase (model, specs, etc.) - students who are knowledgeable about the electronics they are purchasing would probably be best-suited to take this route (or ask friends who are knowledgeable to help). Some examples: • Did you know that Dell has an online outlet? Through the outlet, you can find deals on desktops, all-in-ones, printers, monitors and more.
• If purchasing an Apple product, you can save a lot by purchasing a refurbished product - just ensure that it's through the company so that it's an Apple Certified Refurbished Product in case something goes wrong.
• Tech stores, like Best Buy, also offer refurbished products. And, since you're buying from a reputable company, you can be confident in your purchase. Takeaway Tip: Before you make expensive tech purchases, check out refurbished or discounted products. You may be able to afford a way nicer model that way!

6. Hand-Me-Downs

There’s nothing wrong with being thrifty and getting some used items! Hit up family, friends and neighbors to see what they’re willing to discard and donate to a student on a budget. Old furniture is especially useful and, even if you don't like the look of it, keep in mind that there's always a way to paint, cover or re-create it so that you do. Consider for example, an old, ugly dresser. A fresh coat of paint and some updated knobs can take it from grandma to grand. Don't like the designs on the drawers? Use shelf liner to cover the front of them before you replace the knobs. Remember, there are tons of websites and apps that exist for that very reason! If you're looking for unique ways to update old or used items, check out the following websites/apps: • Pinterest
Takeaway Tip:
Someone else's trash may be your treasure – plus, it’s likely free or, at the very least, a lot cheaper than shopping retail. Also, there are always ways to revamp items to make them look cool - you just have to think outside of the box (or find someone else that does).

7. Classifieds

Before you buy a high ticket item, remember that it’s going to get a lot of wear and tear throughout the next year (or, perhaps, the next four plus years). Since it’s not going to last the test of time, why not try to get it for free? Sites and apps with classified-style listings are are brimming with items that others no longer want or need. Try looking on the following sites and apps: • Craigslist
Ebay Classifieds
Note: Never meet with someone offering to give or sell an item by yourself. Always arrange to meet in a public place and make sure to take a parent with you to ensure your safety. After all, that should be your number one priority!
Takeaway Tip:
Frequently perform some quick searches online for free items in your area, as they are updated all day, every day. Talk to family and friends to see what items they no longer want or need because you just might!

Do you have any other thrifty back to school shopping tips?

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