How to save money on school supplies

Though summer is just beginning, it's already nearing back-to-school shopping season. For those students eagerly anticipating their first year of college, it's easy to take that shopping list and run with it! Before you get started on checking off your supplies, take a quick read of my suggestions for what you should splurge on, what you should save on and what you might want to skip altogether.


Your laptop is one of the most important items you'll need with you at college. Yes, they can be pricey – but if you choose carefully, a good quality laptop computer can last you all four years of school. Do your research on what components are important for your specific classes and chosen area of concentration. (If you have an art concentration, for example, you might need some extra data storage for projects.) Without cutting corners on the type of laptop you buy, you might still be able to save money by getting a bundle with software. Look for these bundles, and possible lower prices, during the back-to-school specials throughout the summer. Students also often get special rates.

The next area you'll want to splurge on is the appropriate outerwear and footwear. If you're relocating to a new state or even coast, you might need to add on some staple pieces to your wardrobe. Prepare for the worst and stock up on a great winter coat and boots if you're headed to colder climates. Fortunately, winter apparel isn't in demand through the summer, so stock up now and get discounted prices. Also, make sure you have comfortable shoes for trekking around campus, even in nice weather.

Speaking of walking around campus, a sturdy, supportive backpack is crucial if you have a full schedule of classes. Splurge for a good quality bag with great straps and your back will thank you later.

Lastly, with long walks around campus, hour-long stints at the library and possible noisy roommates, you will want to invest in a quality set of headphones for your time at college. The earbuds that come with your phone or mp3 player can wear out quickly and there's a good chance you'll want a set with a noise-cancelling feature. Earplugs can also be useful.


For the following items, I suggest looking for a cheaper price tag. Depending on your living situation and whether you have a kitchen or not, you may need some basic dishes. Either way, try for something durable but inexpensive, like the kind you can find at the dollar store. When you're sharing a kitchen with roommates, the last thing you want is nice dishes getting broken or going missing. And if you don't have a kitchen available and are eating most of your meals in a dining hall, invest in one inexpensive set of utensils, plus a cup, bowl and a plate for yourself – you won't need more than that.

In your first dorm as a freshman, you might find that the beds are a different size than your bed at home. If that is the case and you need new sheets, stay frugal. There's a small chance you'll ever use those sheets again after your dorm years. The same goes for towels – obviously you don't want them to fall apart, but just stick with basics and wait to get nicer, fluffy towels for your first apartment.

When you're living on campus your first year of college, you might consider splitting a few items with your roommates. Rather than toting along a TV or mini-fridge with you, contact your future roommates a few months before move-in day to see if they'd be interesting in going in on a few items together.


As for items to skip that may be on your shopping list? My number one suggestion: a printer. You may want one because of the convenience of printing in your dorm room, and trying to avoid paying the fees in your school's library. However, consider that you will need to buy your own paper and ink for a printer, and you might not even have room for one in a small dorm room. Stick to the school library; they probably have hole punches and staplers available, too, along with a help desk to assist with any problems – and that can be priceless.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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