We may be in the heart of summer, but it's definitely time to think about school, which can include all those budget-busting expenses, especially if your budding genius is heading off to college. This is the perfect time to think about getting your hands on all of the little luxuries that will help college-bound kids turn itty-bitty dorm rooms and miniscule apartments into their fabulously frugal “Home, Sweet Home”!
Furniture – if you’re starting from scratch and need everything from beds to desks to dressers, hit your local thrift stores, where a huge assortment of sturdy furniture awaits you. Another place to try - Craigslist. Here’s something to keep in mind: If your college destination is, say, over 100 miles away, give some thought to searching the Craigslist offerings in your college town, rather than your hometown. That way, transporting items will only require a few hours with a U-Haul (rented and returned in a few hours time), greatly reducing the price of gas and charges for mileage .
Food – if you’re currently unsure about the college town’s grocery offerings, shop at your own local discount grocery before you leave. Don’t be shy about loading up on all of the essentials. Pasta, soups, rice, and (lest we forget) ramen noodles are just a few of the non-perishable staples that you’ll find at your local discount grocery for a fraction of the cost of retail supermarkets.
Supplies – Hit your local dollar store for mega amounts of school supplies perfect for college bound kids. Notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, push pins, thumb tacks, poster board, paper clips – it’s all there, and easily 50% off what you would pay in an office supply store.
Computers – Having a computer at the ready in your kid’s college dorm room is pretty much a given. In this day and age, having a computer at arm’s reach is as expected as having a phone. That being said, it doesn’t have to be the latest mack-daddy tricked out model – especially if its chief use is for reports and basic research. Buying your child an older model that was state-of-the-art three years ago is perfectly fine and will get the job done beautifully. Another thing to remember is that every college campus nowadays has computer labs scattered about for easy access by all students. No worries.
Textbooks – This is one area where costs can skyrocket within moments of starting to shop. Do yourself a favor: with textbook list in hand, get online to one of the better-known used textbook sites like the ones at Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com. Depending on how exotic your reading list is this year, you have an excellent opportunity to find textbooks for easily half off at these sites. It’s worth a look.
Clothes – if you want to freshen up collegiate fall wardrobes, head to your local consignment stores and thrift stores for a goldmine of jeans, shirts, shoes, coats… you name it. If you have any college-bound kids doing interviews (for internships, etc) this year, be sure to peruse the racks for designer suits for up to 90% off. Fabulous stuff. Hint: college town thrift stores can be legendary for fabulously frugal fashion finds. Have fun!
Kristen Hagopian is a Motivational Speaker and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. You can listen to her money-saving tips every Wednesday morning on Philadelphia’s WFYL 1180AM, (stream it live at www.wfyl1180.com!) and her book is available at her Web site www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.