Going Back to College? What’s Truly Essential for Your Dorm

Back-to-college shopping can get expensive. Besides tuition and books, there’s clothing, class supplies, and dorm essentials. The National Retail Federation’s Back to College survey reports that this year students (or their parents) will spend an average of $969.88 for dorm furnishings and college supplies. Of this spending, the top four categories are projected to be electronics, clothing, food items, and furnishings.

While this might seem like a small dent compared to the cost of tuition and housing, it can take a significant chunk out of a student’s savings or, worse, end up on a credit card. The question then, is how many of these ‘essentials’ are necessary? Regardless of how convincingly retailers market their back to college lists and attractively arrange their mock dorm showrooms, it’s doubtful students really need all of that.

Based on feedback from students and parents who have learned the hard way, here are a few things you do and don’t need as you start getting ready to go back to college.

1. Furniture and Appliances: Be Picky

It sounds plausible that students without full access to a kitchen would want their own microwave, toaster, or mini-fridge, but students often find that these are either redundant (many dorms have a common area that includes these appliances), take up too much space, or don’t get utilized much. Go light on the kitchen appliances, especially if you or your student is on a meal plan. On the other hand, appliances like small fans might be useful (and don’t cost much).

Colleges usually supply basic furniture, but if you need to fill in a few gaps, bring items from home or shop second-hand. After all, you’re shopping for items that will probably only get used a maximum of four years. The one furniture item many students recommend spending a little more on is their bed. Between sleeping and studying, a mattress pad and comfortable blankets and pillows will pay for themselves.

2. Personalize, But Don’t Deck It Out

Another category that eats over $100 of that survey average is dorm décor. It can be easy to get carried away with making a new space into a personal statement, especially if you enjoy decorating. Remember: it’s only temporary. Spending money on how your room looks isn’t something you’ll look back on as a good investment in your education.

On the other hand, saving money doesn’t mean you need to settle for an outdated dorm room. Put up a picture board, bring some personal items from home, hit the thrift shops, and choose décor items that are also functional (like a cushioned footstool that doubles as storage).

3. Don’t Forget Practical Things

If you’re too focused on dorm room aesthetics, you might forget to save some cash for practical items – the things that come in handy when your home consists of a tiny room shared with another person. For instance, things like adhesive hooks and non-mounted shelves for storage, power strips with USB plug-ins for those scarce outlets, and a sewing kit for missing buttons or small tears – are all practical things nearly everyone will find useful. They also happen to be inexpensive.

4. Start Simple and Buy for Your Needs

Despite the lure of sales and beating the long lines at the local department stores on move-in weekend (remember, there’s always online shopping with direct delivery), the best overall strategy for shopping for college dorm supplies is to wait until you’re settled in. It’s better to start with less than you need and shop for specific items than to over-anticipate your needs and be wasteful.

Want to earn cash back on all your back to school purchases this year? Apply for a Visa Signature Credit Card from First Financial! You’ll earn 1% cash back, no restrictions.*

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Signature Credit Card. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. APR varies from 13.9% to 18% for the Visa Signature Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date. Visa Signature Card Cash Back: Your First Financial Visa® Signature Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

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