Moving away to go to school is expensive. Whether you’ll be living in a dorm or an off-campus apartment there is a whole list of things you’ll need to make sure you’re well equipped and comfortable. Those lists tend to add up. On top of it all, you have to pay for it at the same time as you’re paying tuition, putting a security deposit down, and buying books. So, how do you do it without maxing out a credit card (or two)? Let me share with you my best tips for saving money outfitting your place.
Start by asking family and friends for hand me downs:
If you’re staying close enough to home that you can bring lots of things with you to college (i.e. you don’t have to fly), it’s a great idea to ask around to see if anyone you know has a futon, a lamp, some storage crates, or a desk that they’re not using or wanting to give away. They might have been saving things up for the next time Goodwill called them or they might have been planning to have a garage sale. But giving things to a student that they know is a far better way to get rid of things. You can take it off their hands and save money at the same time!
Buy from Dollar Stores:
I love buying from dollar stores because you can often get things for your place for much less than you would find elsewhere. My favourite dollar stores are those where everything is actually only $1.00 or cheaper. My second favourites are those that used to sell everything for $1.00 but now sell things for $1.25 or $1.50. Then there are stores that call themselves dollar stores but really sell things for any amount up to $20.00. I only go to these when I’m looking for something I can’t find at the other dollar stores or when I want something that’s a little better quality. I need to be careful not to pay too much at these places, however, as I’ve found that I can find something even nicer for the same price at a regular store.
Dollar stores are great for outfitting your kitchen and new apartment. You can get great kitchenware including matching plates and bowls, utensils at a great price, and tons of other necessities. You can also buy decorative items here and craft supplies to jazz them up.
Here are just some of the things you should buy at a dollar store:
- Household items – Vases and decorative bowls, Storage containers, Picture frames, clay pots, seasonal décor, candles, lighters, shower curtains, shower curtain rings, bathroom décor
- Kitchen items – plastic baggies, napkins, coffee filters, paper bags, chip clip, baking pans, serving platters, Mugs and glasses, Dishware, beer glasses, disposable baking pans, cupcake liners, measuring cups, measuring spoons, popsicle molds, oven mitts
- Craft Supplies – scrapbooking supplies, paint, glitter, fake flowers, poster board, safety pins, pop pops, felt, foam board, sewing kits
Use Craigslist to outfit your dorm or apartment:
I regularly check Craigslist before I buy anything. My recent finds include a $100 food processor for $40, and a $120 patio set for $50. If you were going to buy some Ikea furniture, you can even search Craigslist for the furniture name. I’ve found and bought furniture that I intended to buy anyways for a quarter of the price. The one challenge is that you might need a big car or truck to transport the furniture since it’s been put together already.
But even if you don’t have a big truck, you can always buy some smaller necessities on Craigslist. Kitchen stuff is always plentiful. Desks, filing cabinets and chairs often get given away for free. You can also find great decorative pieces like artwork, lamps, vases, curtains, or candles. Have a look and pay particular attention to people who are moving – they’re often willing to give you a lower price just to get rid of whatever they’re selling.
Be crafty and make some things yourself
Pinterest is always a wealth of ideas for how to spruce up your space by being crafty, as are a number of Do-It-Yourself blogs. Many ideas involve spending little or no money and can drastically change the way the space looks.
Some of my favourites include:
- No Sew Pillow Covers
- Marquis Letters
- DIY Bookends
- DIY Flower Lights
- DIY College Decorating Pinterest Board (Lots of great ideas!)
Freecycle is a network where people give away things that they’re no longer using for free and request things that they’re hoping to get for free. To write this tip, I thought I would check to see what was currently on offer on the freecycle board in my area. I found things like a label maker, a bed, an upright piano, stuffing for pillows, a wireless router and a stacking washer dryer, all offered for the low, low price of free.
In addition to Freecycle there are other places where people are giving away things for free – you just need to know where to look. Craigslist has a great free section. Nowadays you can find tons of free TVs in there. If you don’t mind a TV that isn’t a flatscreen, you can easily get one for free.
You can get tons of great things for free, some that are in perfect condition and some that might have one small thing wrong but still work perfectly. For whatever reason the owners are unable or unwilling to sell them and that means that you can clean up.
Use Ikea to outfit your dorm:
If there is an IKEA near you this is a great place to go for cheap furniture I looked around and I can tell you that while you might find one or two items around back-to-school time that are cheaper elsewhere generally IKEA is going to be less than anywhere else you’ll also I find reselling IKEA furniture is easier than any other furniture I’ve bought.
That’s not to say that you get a lot of money back for your IKEA furniture when you sell it but that’ll be much easier to sell people recognize if you need and are often searching for pieces that will match those big deal. Q has great deals on some very cheap furniture they also have very expensive furniture to be sure to pay attention to the price before you get excited envisioning what your dorm room will look like in hand the desk is just the desk and dust I wanted the hardest things to resell.Garage sales
Check out garage sales:
Garage sales are great places to get things for your apartment or your dorm. The challenges is that you have to read about them on either Craigslist or in the newspaper and then drive to them with no idea of what you might find. While I have found great deals at garage sales I have also found that they’ve been a waste of time. It all depends on where you live, what time of year is, and what kind of neighborhood garage sale is taking place in.
I find that the best times to go to garage sales are either very early in the morning before things get picked up a break before they are supposed to close when you’re just trying to get rid of everything that they have left he’ll find the prices obviously going to be best at that time but the selection will be picked over.
Go to the thrift stores or consignment stores:
Thrift stores are great places place to find cheap furniture and household items. I love them because they have a better selection than any individual garage sale, so going to thrift stores or consignment stores is often a better use of your time.
There are two types of thrift stores. There are those that are run directly by charities themselves and those run by private companies. The ones run by charities will have the cheapest prices whereas the ones run by private companies will generally be a little more (or a lot more in some cases). There are then furniture consignment stores that will have even higher prices then thrift stores but more furniture selection and better quality merchandise.
Get free stuff when students leave at the end of the year
This tip isn’t going to help you this year, but I’m sharing it so that you’ll keep it in mind for next year. Try to take advantage of the mass disposal of things that happens every year at the end of the Spring term. Most schools only have a full class schedule 8 months out of the year, which means tons of students head off for various places during the summer. Storage over the summer can be expensive and some students who are graduating or returning to their countries after an international exchange will never be returning. With the stress of exams leading up to the deadline for vacating their residence rooms or their apartments, they often have a very short period of time to concentrate their energy on selling or disposing of the things they no longer need. That equals great deals for you.
You can typically find deals on Craigslist at this time by searching for the university area as the pick up location or by checking out flyers around campus. People often just need to get rid of things so sometimes you can get some great freebies. If something is selling for more than you’re willing to pay, make an offer that’s lower than what it’s listed for and ask them to get in touch with you if they’re unable to get what they expect for it. Oftentimes people think they can get more money for the things they’re selling than they’re actually able to since the market is often flooded at this time with similar things.
Some universities might also have an area where students can drop off free things that other students can take if they need them. I always scored great books this way, including some textbooks that I later sold back to the bookstore for a profit.
Also, check residence laundry rooms for bottles of washing detergent and fabric softener. When I was a student I frequently scored enough abandoned detergent and softener this way to last me the rest of the year.
I hope these tips help you save money while outfitting your dorm or apartment in style!
This is an abridged version of a section from the e-book The Complete Guide to a Debt-Free Education . If you liked this post, consider buying The Complete Guide to a Debt-Free Education for the low price of $14.99!