The end of July signals the end of an era: you’ll no longer be a kid living at home with Mom and Dad. As August peeks through amber sunsets, you and your best friend lay out, poolside, wincing at the onslaught of college preparations.
College excitement often means furnishing a new place to live for the first time. As amazing as that feeling is, it’s equally overwhelming knowing that you have to buy bedding, decorations, and everything else that you’ll need to live a life on your own.
Starting a new school is nerve-racking enough. With classes to attend, a new environment to adjust to, and often no friends to go with you, shopping to start your first living space on your own can blow your mind. And trying to stay in your budget makes it almost impossible, since the only things you can afford right now are towels and socks.
Check out your future digs before you do anything, so you’ll know exactly what you’ll need to provide. For example, your dorm may provide a bed, mattress, and desk. Many schools have a list of “what to bring” posted somewhere on their website or on campus.
If possible, talk to people who’ve lived there and see if there’s anything they suggest bringing that may not be on the school’s list.
7 Steps to Furnishing Your Dorm on a Budget
Don’t despair. There are ways to get what you need and stay within a budget tighter than Lady Gaga’s bustier.
1. Make a plan.
Figure out exactly what you’ll need and make a list. Once finished, go through and give everything special consideration. Do you really need three different kinds of lotions? Do you need a rice cooker and a pot? How can you condense your list so that you’re using less “stuff” and, therefore, have less to buy?
2. Shop at Mom’s.
You know your mom has LOADS of stuff you need, so before paying for anything, check her linen closet, junk drawers, and kitchen cabinets for essentials. She can save you tons, and she’ll usually end up with new stuff in place of it — so she wins, too.
Check out Freecycle.org for things you need that you don’t find at Mom’s. Freecycle offers loads of stuff that people are getting rid of for free. You’ll find lighting, curtains, and just about anything you need. There are usually pictures of the stuff being given away. If not, don’t bother; you’ll find you have to throw it away yourself.
4. Be thrifty.
Learn to shop at thrift stores and consignment shops. When you’re on a budget, these are places to get great deals on necessities like unique decorations for the walls, used furniture, and kitchen utensils.
5. Try Craigslist, Ebay, and Oodle.
If you can’t find what you need at the thrift shops or Freecycle, try sites like these. They’re like online garage sales. Make sure you can check out the items before you pay for them.
6. Make some sacrifices.
If you don’t NEED it, as in you can live without it, then you don’t buy it. That’s a sure-fire way to save money.
7. Hint to (or flat out tell) your mom that you’d love to have a “Going Off to College Shower.”
Create a registry at Target or Walmart and list it on the invitations. Some may look down on this, because it’s a bit out of the ordinary, but once upon a time, we balked at kindergarten graduations, too. Soon you’ll be cementing a new tradition for incoming freshmen just like you!
Whether you need a little or a lot, shopping around for the best deals will make you among the smartest frugal freshmen on campus.
How did you furnish your dorm on the cheap?
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