Biggest Waste of Money: Decking out your dorm

Alyssa Pry
Personal Finance Reporter

Back-to-school season means major spending, especially if you’re heading to college. This year, consumers plan to spend $54.1 billion on back-to-college shopping, an all-time high, according to the National Retail Federation. A major expense? Decking out your dorm room.

Consumers will spend $969.88 per student on dorm furnishings and supplies, and while it may be tempting to fill your cart with “essentials,” there are a few things you can leave behind as you move into your new home away from home.

Dorm room appliances

Microwaves, toasters, coffee pots, and other appliances may seem like must-haves before you head off to school, but you’ll quickly realize you don’t need them. Most dorms will have a common room with a kitchen. And keep in mind that many schools don’t allow certain appliances because of safety or fire hazard. Check the rules before you buy.

Think you really need a private stash of kitchen supplies? Try living without the items during your first semester, and if it’s something you really miss, look for the items second-hand. Or wait until back-to-school shopping season has ended — you may be able to find your item on deep discount or clearance.

Food and snacks

Many universities require freshmen to have an unlimited meal plan, which costs an average of $4,300 per semester, according to the Department of Education. That’s about $18.75 per day, and typically includes three meals. It may seem like a lot, but if you have to have it, you might as well use it. Avoid stocking up on food and snacks for your dorm room, and take advantage of campus dining options first.

Dorm decor

Let’s be real: Dorm rooms are pretty bare bones. They come with the basics: a bed, a desk and a dresser. It’s a blank slate, but filling it up can cost major bucks! Dorm furnishing will account for $6.23 billion of consumer spending in 2017. So while it may be tempting to recreate the comforts of home, you can skip the lavish dorm decor and keep that money in your wallet.

These viral roommates said they DIY’d their over-the-top pad, so take a page out of their book and stick to second-hand finds, or bring personal items from home instead of buying everything new. You will spend a lot of time hanging on your bed (because there’s not much room elsewhere…), so if you want to splurge, spring for colorful and comfortable bedding to liven up your space.

Pricey electronics

Your laptop can be your one-stop-shop when it comes to electronics — you don’t need a fancy flat screen when you can stream your movies and TV shows online. And don’t forget about the student center and common rooms, which may have entertainment options.

And skip the pricey printer — it’ll take up precious dorm space, and many assignments can be submitted via email. Visit your library or student center if you really need to print — 10 cents here and there won’t break the bank.

College is expensive enough, so avoid spending money on things you won’t need — or use. Save your cash for quarters for the laundry room….or a ticket back home to visit mom and dad.

Don’t forget!

Many businesses offer student discounts and deals. Check your university website for a list of where your ID can be used. Check out these 20 college discounts you never knew existed.

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Don’t let college be a big waste of money