By Andrea Woroch
This year’s crop of freshman is already gearing up for their first taste of college life. A main component of all that mad preparation is buying the basic necessities to outfit a dorm room. Some are happy to just throw twin-bed sheets, desk lamp and laptop into a box and call it a day. Others, however, know there’s a lot more to getting things in shape than this.
Just buying the basic necessities, however, can run into a pile of cash, so whoever is footing the bill may want to take a gander at these cost-saving tips.
1. Shop Sales-Tax Holidays Just in time for back-to-school, 12 of the 17 states hosting sales-tax holidays this year occur in early August. Taking advantage of these holidays will ensure savings on everything from clothes to computers. Check out this guide from Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine to see if your state is participating, and when.
2. Price it Out Price comparison sites will save you time in the hunt for dorm room deals. Price Grabber will locate the lowest prices on computers, printers, MP3 players and more. And the soon-to-be-released InkJetWilly.com will find you the best deal on ink cartridges once the fall semester is in full swing.
3. Get a Rebate Rebates abound during back-to-school promotions, so keep your eyes peeled for deals and be sure to chat with sales associates to learn the details. For example, Best Buy is currently offering a 20-percent instant recycling rebate when you bring in an old fan or vacuum for a Dyson.
4. Shop on Craigslist Craigslist is a great resource for previously-owned compact refrigerators, desks, futons or even a bike for riding to class. Buying all these items new will certainly break your budget, so remember to take advantage of lower cost alternatives. This strategy is sure to get you on the right financial foot as you head into the next phase of your life.
5. Use Student Discounts Laptops and tablets give you the flexibility to escape dorm-room distractions and take your work to quieter places like the library or local coffee shop. This a good time to upgrade that high-school computer using one of the reduced-price student programs offered by Dell University and Apple Store for Education. Find other student discounts here, and be sure to take advantage of your status for savings.
6. Shop Special Sales In the retail world, back-to-school time is almost as lucrative as the holiday shopping season, which is likely why Target is extending its “Black Friday in July” promotion into “Summer Cyber Week” this week. Take advantage of deals on electronics and everyday essentials like bedding and cleaning supplies.
7. Swap or Sell Your Stuff Swap your old DVDs, video games and high school books in exchange for dorm room necessities at sites like Swap.com. You can also sell your gently used clothing at consignment shops for money or credit towards a new (to you) wardrobe.
8. Get Gift Cards with Purchase Retailers are gearing up for back-to-school in a big way, offering gift cards with the purchase of college necessities. Get a $100 gift card to Apple when you purchase a Mac computer before September 21. If a tablet is more your style, you can get a $50 gift card with the new iPad. Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble is offering a $50 gift card with the purchase of every Nook tablet (16GB).
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.