How To Save Money on Furnishing Your College Apartment – MarketWatch

After shelling out money for tuition, textbooks and school supplies, it may seem financially daunting to furnish your college apartment. Even if you live in a furnished dorm, you’ll still need to bring bedding, towels, lamps, dishes and utensils — not to mention clothes and snacks. An apartment or rental house will require all these things plus some basic furniture and decor.

Fortunately, college students have options for saving money on everything from moving services to pantry staples.

Saving Money on the Move

Most college students who are moving into a dorm choose to transport their belongings themselves. However, if you’re living in an off-campus apartment or renting a house, you may want to hire a professional mover.

Request quotes from the best long-distance moving companies and ask if they have any discounts that apply to your move. Even if they don’t offer student discounts, they may have special rates for small moves or early reservations.

Here are some other ways to save on the move:

  • Book your move as far in advance as possible.
  • Move on a weekday rather than the weekend.
  • Ask local businesses, friends and family members for free boxes.
  • Buy furniture at college instead of moving it from your hometown.
  • Use towels and bedding instead of bubble wrap.
  • Pack everything yourself or enlist friends to help.

If you don’t have many large items to transport, you may be able to load up your car or rent a van instead of hiring a full-service mover. Keep in mind that you must be at least 18 years old to rent a moving truck, and some companies may have a higher age requirement.

Saving Money on Essential Items and Furnishings

Consider what you really need before shopping. Impulse purchases can wreck your budget, so make a list and stick to it. Ask family and friends for input and do some research to ensure your list includes everything you need. Then, limit purchases to only those items.

College Apartment Essentials

Here are some of the basics you’ll need for your college apartment. Your list may vary depending on whether you’re moving into a dorm, studio apartment or multi-bedroom rental with roommates.

  • Bedroom furniture: Mattress, bed frame, dresser, nightstand, desk, lamp and chair
  • Bedding: Mattress cover, sheet set, pillow and comforter
  • Kitchen and living room furniture: Couch, coffee table, dining table, chairs, TV, media console and lamps
  • Kitchen items: Silverware, plates, bowls, mugs, cups, serving and cooking utensils, knives, cutting board, mixing bowl, colander, pots and pans, microwave, toaster/toaster oven, coffee pot, measuring spoons and cups, can opener, dish towels, oven mitts and bakeware
  • Bathroom items: Bath towels, hand towel, washcloth, bath mat, toilet paper holder, wastebasket, toilet brush, plunger, shower curtain, curtain hooks and curtain liner
  • Miscellaneous: Storage bins, trash cans, clothes hamper, hangers, vacuum, mirror, iron and ironing board, and broom and dustpan

Don’t forget about food, pantry basics and items such as trash bags, toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries, hand soap and cleaning solutions.

Ways to Save on Essentials

Before purchasing brand-new essential items, take inventory of what you already have. For example, your family may be happy to let you take your bedroom furniture with you to college, but be sure to ask rather than assume.

Next, ask friends and family members if they have anything you could take off their hands. For instance, if your aunt is getting a new couch, she may be willing to give you her old one. Or, you might find that your grandparents have some old furniture sitting in their garage or attic.

Below are other ways to save money on essential household items and furniture:

  • Plan ahead and shop sales. Keep your shopping list handy and be on the lookout for good deals. For instance, you can spend the summer before college browsing garage sales and clearance aisles.
  • Split costs with a roommate. If you choose to live off-campus, find some roommates. With one or more reliable roommates, you can split the cost of housing, food, utilities and furniture.
  • Purchase multipurpose items. Multifunctional items let you cross two items off your list with a single purchase. Examples include storage ottomans, futons, transforming tables and compact seating. You can also carry this approach into your kitchen with air-fryer toaster ovens and Instant Pot-style multi-cookers.
  • Browse bargain stores and thrift shops. You can purchase many college essentials at dollar stores, thrift shops and outlet malls. You can also save money by choosing store brands or generic versions of products.
  • Look around for free items. Often, you can score free furniture and household items through online marketplaces, such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. In addition, many recycling centers and dumps have space set aside for items that residents no longer want but are “too good to throw away.”
  • Shop sales and discounts. Retailers have sales for nearly every holiday, from blockbuster Black Friday deals to Labor Day mattress sales. Sign up for rewards programs to score members-only offers, and look for student discounts and high-value coupons.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, too. Chances are, you have at least one friend or family member who loves bargain hunting. Enlist their help as you look for the best prices.

Saving Money on Additional Accessories

Once you cover the bare necessities, you can shift your attention to nonessentials. These include decorations, snacks, entertainment and hobbies. Most of the tips above apply when shopping for these items, but here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Learn to make your favorite dishes at home. If you’re craving a particular entree, appetizer, or dessert, look for a copycat recipe. When you can make your favorite meals at home, you’ll be less tempted to blow your budget on takeout.
  • Portion snacks ahead of time. Buying preportioned snacks may be convenient, but it isn’t very cost-effective. Instead, use plastic bags to separate full-size packages of chips, nuts and other snack foods into snack-size portions. Use meal prep containers to make grab-and-go dipping snacks, such as baby carrots and ranch dressing, apple slices and peanut butter, or pita chips and hummus.
  • DIY your decorations. The internet is full of DIY project tutorials. Use your college apartment as an opportunity to indulge your creative side by handmaking decorations. Look for inspiration online or see if you can recreate an expensive piece you love.
  • Take advantage of free trials and special offers. Most streaming services offer free trials; some even have discounted student plans. In addition, theaters often sell discounted tickets on a specific day of the week, and amusement parks and other attractions offer season passes and group discounts.

Whatever you like to do in your spare time, you can probably find a way to do it on a budget.

The Bottom Line: What Are the Best Ways To Save Money on Furnishing Your College Apartment?

Ultimately, sticking to the essentials is the best way to save money. Build a budget and a shopping list and resist the urge to indulge in impulse purchases. Sales and student discounts are two reliable ways to save. You can also save money by checking thrift shops and bargain stores first.

With creativity and careful planning, you can get everything you need for your college apartment — and still have a little cash leftover for the things you want.

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