The National Retail Federation’s Back to College survey reveals that spending on dorm and apartment furnishings is on the rise. Two in five families (about 42%) spent an average $105 on new bedding, small refrigerators and microwaves.
For some families, that figure may be way too high, and for others it could be far too low.
Regardless of your spending plans, be aware that doling out cash year after year on dorm furnishings can really add up.
And when spending on dorm decorations and dorm furniture goes unchecked, these expenses can easily become one of numerous hidden college costs that families encounter without even fully realizing how much money has gone out the door.
Fortunately, as I explain in my book, College Secrets, there are ways to save money on college dorm furnishings and decorations.
Here are three easy ways to slash spending on dorm merchandise so you can save your money for what really matters.
Set a shopping budget
Parents need to talk to their teenagers and college-age students about creating a realistic back-to-school shopping budget based on your family’s circumstances.
The goal should be to determine a pre-set spending limit that you both agree to — and you do it before you go shopping. That way, you establish expectations and your kid learns to live within his or her means.
If you determine that you can spend $500, then $500 is the limit. Not $505 or $525 or $550. Stick to your budget no matter what.
Should you have trouble sticking to the pre-determined budget, don’t fall into the temptation of saying: “I can always put it on a credit card.” That’s just getting yourself into unnecessary debt, and adding interest charges on top of your payments.
A better strategy is to re-think what’s in your shopping cart. Put back stuff that’s really just a “want” and not a “need.” Also, look for lower-priced merchandise compared to the more pricey items you may have originally selected.
Seek out used items
Another very doable way to save money on dorm furnishings is to resist the urge to buy everything new.
Who says every single small appliance or piece of furniture has to be fresh off an assembly line just to go into a modest college dorm or apartment?
Instead, look for used appliances that are in good condition. You can get them from local yard sales or off eBay or Craigslist.
Part of the college experience is (or should be) living the true life of a college student. There’s no shame in living modestly. Think of it as character building. Besides, you’ll have more than enough time later – after you graduate and get a job – to upgrade your lifestyle and think about going more upscale with your household furnishings.
Don’t buy certain things at all
As a college student trying to furnish your living quarters, you should consider skipping on some items altogether. Students can connect with their roommates before school begins and coordinate who will bring what items.
There’s no point in having two mini-fridges or multiple microwaves in a dorm room. So just have one student bring one of those items; the other roommate can bring another appliance.
These three simple tips can help you save money on college dorm furnishings and decorations for all the years you are in school. Embrace these concepts and you’ll avoid over-spending and racking up needless student debt as well.