Back to School Savings

or, things I wanted to say to the teenage shopper at Target.
Seeing as I am currently unemployed, I’m sure these tips will still come in handy for myself and others who are not going back to school.

She was leaving the store with her dad, a cart full of dorm room “essentials”, and some charges on her parents’ credit card. It was pretty obvious that she is college-bound, leaving home in the next few weeks. As I watched her walk away, I wanted to sit her down and tell her all the things she needed to know about going to college and saving some money. Her parents probably don’t know any better – from the looks of her purchases, she is probably their first child going to the big school. Any parent who has already sent a child to college would have already known Tip #1:

1. Don’t buy what you don’t need.
This, dear teenage consumer, includes that neon green folding chair sitting in your cart. I’m not talking about cozy butterfly chairs or pod chairs, but the plastic church picnic type that usually require a bit of caution upon landing. You won’t be needing that chair, but you could probably use the $9 (that is the actual cost of the chair pictured, also available in black and white). Colleges provide desk chairs, usually more comfortable and industrially sturdy, for your study time – that is, if you even use a chair while cracking the books. And folding chairs don’t make for comfortable lounging. Beds, however, make for comfortable and readily available (and FREE!) seating options.
1b. A little research comes in handy when doing dorm room shopping.
Make mental (or written) notes when visiting college campuses or talk to students who have already lived in your dorm. Find out what you can leave at home, what’s essential, and what comes in handy. You won’t need a full-length mirror if there’s already one permanently mounted to the back of the door. You won’t need shelving units if there are book shelves built into the walls. AND you won’t need toasters, 5-arm lamps, or candles since they are more than likely prohibited by your school. ALSO talk to your future roommate to figure out what they are bringing. Perhaps they have inherited a mini-fridge from their older brother who inherited it from a roommate who… etc., which means you won’t need to buy one.
Bottom line: You don’t need to buy everything on the list, or rather, everything the commercials make you think you need.

2. Make friends.
This is an obvious tip for your social life, but your wallet will also thank you for it. Remember that mini-fridge that was passed down from generation to generation? Free, thanks to some friends. That’s how I scored the mini-fridge that I used for 3 years. During my first year, I lived across the hall from some juniors who were leaders on our floor. The apartment they were moving into for senior year already had a fridge, so they gave it to us for free. They got the fridge off their hands, and we got a free fridge. After I graduated, I passed the fridge on to one of my friends. I also passed along a loveseat and a rocking chair, both of which I got for free. It’s amazing what people want to get rid of. I have also been able to get free clothes from friends – and strangers, too. Whether it was the changing trends or the Freshman 15, they had plenty of clothes that they didn’t want anymore. Some floors set out boxes in their common areas, as a mini-Goodwill of sorts, where you can rummage through and take what you want or leave things of yours for someone else to claim.
Bottom line: One man’s trash can be your treasure, though you don’t have to go dumpster diving to find it.

3. Buy second-hand.
Speaking of Goodwill (or Salvation Army), buying second-hand is a great money saving tip and a fun outing for friends. The Salvation Army by my campus, or Sal Val as we lovingly call it, has half-off Wednesdays on top of the outrageous bargains you will already find there. It may take some searching, but you can find some quality items for great prices, including some vintage wear or ridiculous 80’s dresses that make for some fabulous costumes. Besides the money saving, it’s fun to go through the racks with friends and see what fun[ny] outfits you can put together.
Bottom line: Buying second-hand gives you first-hand savings. It’s like giving your wallet and your wardrobe a high-five.

Well, it’s now after midnight and apparently I’m out of ideas (for now). Stay tuned – I will update when I can think of something other than “Don’t spend money”.

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One thought on “Back to School Savings

  1. Man, speaking of the GoodWill and buying second hand items. I remember my younger days and my trips to the flea market. There was a ton of really good finds and some antiques that ended up being worth a lot more than what they were being sold for. I love finding a good bargain. The goodwill store has a lot of vintage items too, stuff that would be really cute to experiment with. =)

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