There's so much to look forward to about going back to college, students hardly have time to think about stuff like shopping for school supplies and budgeting for text books.
It took me nearly my entire college career before I figured out how much I could save if I just did a little research beforehand, and that was only after I grew tired of eating $1 frozen dinners for the first month of every semester.
It sounds entirely too trivial to be true, but learning how to budget and save money is one of the most important skills you'll learn in college. The good news is, I've already done your homework for you (don't get used to that, by the way) and found all the best deals for heading back to campus.
Freshman, you've got your work cut out for you as far as shopping goes. There are tons of websites out there that will provide lists of all the things you'll need, like Dormsmart.com, and how to get it all on the cheap.
Then, tackle the bedding first. In my opinion, Target has the best inexpensive sheets, priced from $16 for a set of twin extra-long sheets, the required size for most dorm beds. Don't skimp on the mattress topper (you'll need your rest more than ever this year), but look for less-expensive versions at Walmart, like the Mainstay memory foam for $25.
Split the list of more expensive items such as vacuum cleaners or microwaves with your roommates so you can all cut costs. For smaller goods such as plastic cups, can openers and cleaning supplies, shop at the Dollar Tree.
What you don't need
Some things students just don't use anymore are irons and ironing boards. Either throw those wrinkled clothes in the dryer for a few seconds, or purchase a small steamer. They're easier to store and to use when you're in a hurry.
Printers may be a waste of time and money, too, if your school library offers free printing. Ink can get expensive. Plus, many of your professors will prefer that you turn in papers electronically.
Also, if none of your roommates has a TV to bring to the dorm, don't buy one. Your laptop will do just fine in such a small space.
If you don't take any other advice of mine, at least listen to this. Buy your textbooks well ahead of time online to find the best deals, and do not buy them new. Your college bookstore will always have higher prices, so don't wait until the third week of class to finally swing by to pick them up.
The websites that always saved me the most money on used textbooks (and new ones when absolutely necessary) were Amazon.com and Campusbooks.com. Also, when it comes time to sell them back, look into selling online, too. The stands that are set up around campus offering cash for books are tempting, but if you take the time to box them and ship them out, you could walk away with much more money.
As for school supplies, two five-subject notebooks with folder pockets, a weekly planner, and a pack of pens should last you a whole semester at college. Most superstores will have these items on sale through August.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail