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Save Money on College Supplies

Use these tips to save money as you prepare for your first semester of college.

Infographic: All information presented in graphic is repeated in article.

Buy only what you really need

  • If you live in a residence hall, you may find you don't need your own vacuum or printer.
  • Before you buy a lot of new clothes, consider what you'll really wear on a daily basis. You probably won't want to dress up for those 8 a.m. lectures.
  • Do you really need a new matching bed set with a duvet cover? You may find your old bedding is more comfortable.
  • Check social media sites and ask professors about recommended books — maybe you'll find you don't really need them all.
  • If you're not sure about a specific purchase, wait a couple of weeks after you move in — by then you'll probably have a better idea of whether you'll have room for (or even still want) a sofa.

See what you already have at home

  • It may be fun to get all new school supplies, but you might have enough basic items like notebooks, pens, folders, scissors, and even a bag or backpack, to get you through a semester.
  • Check for items like extra storage bins, hangers and mirrors at home instead of buying new.

Rent, share, borrow and swap

  • Your college or an affiliated organization may offer dorm size refrigerators and other large-ticket items for rent.
  • Check for your textbooks on rental sites if you don't think you'll have a reason to use it again once the class is over.
  • See if your roommate or other students are willing to share a textbook if you're in the same class.
  • If you have older relatives or neighbors who are moving off campus, they may be willing to lend you some furniture or other items for a year or two.
  • Check the college library for required textbooks. (If only limited copies are available, you may need to plan ahead to have one on hand just before exams.)
  • Some sites even let you borrow or rent e-books and audiobooks, and electronic versions of text books are becoming more available.

Buy used

  • Hit garage sales and thrift shops to save the most money on items like furniture, bedding and rugs. Remember to check social media sites and pages dedicated to swaps and sales, especially those used by students at your college.
  • Consider refurbished and certified electronics and laptops.
  • Used textbooks are available at several online sites as well as campus bookstores.

Use discounts

  • Your student ID will often get you a discount for electronics, software, books and services like oil changes and salon services. Be sure to ask if it's not advertised.
  • Your parents may belong to an association that offers discounts, such as AAA and other savings clubs.
  • Follow retailers on social media and sign up for emails and electronic coupons. (Be careful about opening new store-associated credit cards, though!)

Watch for deals

  • School supplies are often cheapest and most available just before school starts. Stock up now so you don't pay more later.
  • If you don't need it right away, wait for popular items, like dorm-size rugs and extra-long sheets, to go on sale shortly after move-in is over.
  • Check websites that compare prices (including shipping costs) for you.
  • Take advantage of the annual tax holiday on school supplies.

See additional tips on saving money in college.

What should you do with all the money you saved? See how making an interest payment on your student loans while you're in school can save you even more in the long run.

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