33 Ideas for Saving Money While Dorm Shopping

Every year, millions of students go to college in the United States. Whether they are entering college for the first time or returning for their sophomore, junior, or senior years, they’re looking for ways to save on dorm shopping. After all, since they’re not working or they’re only working part-time, and they have to take out student loans to pay for college, they want to save in as many ways as possible.

One of the areas in which they have a lot of control over their costs is dorm room shopping. By being vigilant about spotting deals, only buying what they need, and doing their research, they can cut back on costs and stick to their budget for all their dorm room essentials.

Tips to Save Money Shopping for Dorm Room Essentials

If you are looking to save when it comes to college dorm shopping, here are some helpful tips.

1. Research Your Dorm

Before going dorm room shopping, look into how big your dorm room is and what furnishings are provided by the university. Then, you’ll have an idea of what you need to buy and can avoid spending money on things that you’ll have when you get to the dorm.

2. Check Out the Dorm Room Rules

It’s also important to find out the rules for your dorm room. For instance, perhaps your college won’t allow you to have candles or incense burning in your room, or it won’t let you bring a microwave. You’ll know you don’t need to purchase these items because they are forbidden.

3. Don’t Buy Too Much

Dorm rooms are (often) tiny. When looking into how to shop for your college dorm, less is more. Avoid buying oversized items and don’t feel like you need to get every single item on those “college dorm essentials” lists.

Think of the things you already use in your daily life and use that as a guide for what you’ll need in college. And if you find there is something you’re missing when you arrive, you can always pick it up after move-in day.

5. Create a College Dorm Checklist

Make a comprehensive list of what you need before you start shopping. When you’re in the store, don’t be tempted to spend just because something is cute or it seems like you’ll absolutely need it. You need much less than you think.

6. Take Inventory of What You Have

You may already own a bunch of things you need for your dorm room, such as a shower caddy or a small fan. Go around your room at home and take inventory of what you have so you can decide what to buy.

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7. Use Coupons

Look for coupons in your local circulars as well as online when determining what to buy for college dorms. Check out coupon websites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com , or use a browser extension like Honey to snag the best deals.

8. Shop at Discount Stores

Why pay full price when you can go to a discount store and find exactly what you need for less? Check out places like Ross, HomeGoods, Marshalls, or Dollar Stores for deals on college shopping needs.

9. Check Out Bed Bath & Beyond’s College Savings Pass

Bed Bath & Beyond offers many different products that could be useful in a college dorm. Students could sign up for the store’s College Savings Pass and receive 20% off every purchase.

10. Sign Up for Target Circle

Another retailer that has a wide selection of items for dorm rooms is Target. People who sign up for their rewards program, Target Circle , can receive exclusive access to special discounts and promotions.

11. Use Amazon Prime

Students can get 50% off an Amazon Prime membership. Sign up for the service and receive fast, free delivery on all your college dorm essentials.

12. Use a Cash-Back Credit Card

If shopping with a credit card, use one that offers cash-back. If you are searching for a credit card take a look around and review things like the annual fee or any welcome bonus.

13. Don’t Buy the Cheapest Stuff

While it may be tempting to buy the cheapest dorm room items possible, buying flimsy things that will need to be replaced may not be the best option. Items will need to be sturdy enough to last you over the next four years or so. Even if you have to pay a little more up front, it’s going to be worth it if your stuff actually lasts until graduation.

14. Leave the Printer at Home

Some colleges offer free printing services as part of tuition. If that’s the case at your school, don’t worry about buying a printer.

15. Shop The Sales

Consider shopping when stores are running sales. This could be on shopping holidays like Labor Day and the Fourth of July, or in August when college kids are getting ready to head back to school.

16. Don’t Fall for the “Great for Dorms” Tags

Be wary of items labeled as ideal for dorms. These may be marked up and it may be possible to find a less-expensive counterpart that isn’t necessarily marketed for college dorm rooms.

17. Do Price Matching

Look into the prices of products at different stores to see if they offer price matching. Many big stores have price matching policies, and they will honor your request to sell you a product at a better price.

18. Use Your College ID for Discounts

If you already have your student ID, you may be able to snag some bargains on college dorm essentials from some local stores. Keep your ID on you at all times when you’re out and about and shopping for the school year.

19. Create a Budget

Come up with a budget for your college dorm checklist and then stick to it. When you go shopping without a concrete budget, you could end up spending way too much.

20. Look for Hand-Me-Downs

Did your siblings go to college? How about your friends? They may have dorm room essentials they’re no longer using and would be happy to give them to you. Ask around and see if they have anything they’re willing to pass on before you spend money.

21. Check in With Your Roommate

If you coordinate with your roommate on things you need to buy, you will save money. For instance, maybe they’re willing to buy some cleaning supplies if you chip in for toilet paper or bring a vacuum.

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22. Try Thrift Stores

Check out your local thrift stores and hunt down bargains on dorm room essentials.

23. Buy on Facebook Marketplace

You can also find deals on Facebook Marketplace. Log on and search for deals in your area, or for merchants who are willing to ship your dorm room essentials to you.

24. Use Craigslist

When figuring out what to buy for college dorms, you can also log onto Craigslist and find local items for sale. Don’t be afraid to haggle to pay the prices you can actually afford for your college dorm stuff.

25. Shop with Cash Back Websites

Take a look at sites like Rakuten or Upromise that allow account holders to earn rewards on purchases. You can shop for your dorm room essentials and earn cashback on the items you need and love. Participating stores include Walmart, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Macy’s, and Target.

26. Use Gift Cards

Did you receive gift cards from family members and friends when you graduated from high school? Then put them towards your college dorm checklist so you don’t have to spend your own money on items.

27. Start a Registry

Your family and friends may want to contribute and purchase some of your dorm room essentials for you. Stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, and Target make it easy to start a college dorm registry you can share with your loved ones.

28. Look for Free Shipping

Look for free shipping to avoid expensive shipping costs. If you’re going to college far away from home, double check that the stores you are ordering from offer free shipping to that location.

29. Wait to Shop

If you’re on the fence about some purchases, wait until you move into the dorm. This way you can avoid spending money on something you won’t actually use.

30. Rent Instead of Buying

Sometimes, colleges will offer you the chance to rent things like appliances, like a micro-fridge, for your dorm room. If you price it out, you may find this is cheaper than buying your dorm room essentials.

31. Share Tips With Friends

You can always get a group of friends together to go shopping and share tips. If you have more than one person searching for deals, then you may have more success and save lots of money on your dorm room essentials.

32. Sign Up for Stores’ Email Lists

Stores send coupons, sale alerts, and more out to their mailing lists. Consider signing up for the mailing list for stores at which you plan to do a considerable amount of dorm room shopping.

33. Set Up Price Alerts

You can set up price alerts through tools like Honey and CamelCamelCamel to find out when college dorm stuff is going on sale so you know when to purchase it.

Bonus Tip: Best Places to Buy College Stuff

When shopping for college dorm stuff, you need to choose from the right retailers, whether you’re shopping online or in person. Here are a few stores that offer a variety of dorm room essentials:

• Amazon

• Bed Bath & Beyond

• Target

• Walmart

• Overstock

• Wayfair

• HomeGoods

• Marshalls

• TJ Maxx

• Ross

• The Container Store

• The Dollar Tree


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The Takeaway

Shopping for college dorm room essentials can feel overwhelming, but things like making a list, creating a budget, shopping online with free shipping, and sharing tips with friends can help make it more manageable, and more affordable.

Another way to help with college expenses is to use a private student loan that won’t charge you any fees. Cue SoFi’s Private Student Loans, which won’t charge you origination fees, late fees, or insufficient funds fees like some other lenders.

While private student loans may be fee-free and offer students an opportunity to pay for college, it’s important to look at all other options for college financing before borrowing a private loan. Federal student loans offer borrower protections that private student loans do not.

Considering private student loans to pay for college? Check out the private student loan options available with SoFi.

Photo credit: iStock/kali9