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Transitioning to & Saving for Dorm Life

Preparing your child for college and sending them off to live on their own for the first time can be an intimidating (and often an expensive) experience for any parent. However, with diligent planning and a focus on budget-friendly back-to-school shopping options you can create a smooth transition for both you and your child while saving money. From savvy shopping strategies to affordable alternatives, we’re here to help you make this milestone more affordable and most importantly, more exciting!

Measure Twice, Buy Once

Before making any large purchases, be sure to engage in a little bit of research that will ultimately help you avoid buying the wrong size products, products that aren’t allowed, and having to make hefty returns. Every college has their own set of rules about what is and isn’t allowed and different dorm halls on the same campus can even have differing sets of rules. Learning this information is extremely valuable before you begin shopping for items that may not be welcome. Knowing your child’s future room dimensions can help you plan accordingly before buying any furniture, decorations or appliances that don’t fit.

Make a List of What You Already Have!

Many of the basics your child needs for dorm living may already be right in your house. You and your college-bound teenager should take a couple of hours to make a list of everything they need and search around the house for items you already have that you can check off. Some of these items may include:

Small Lamp


Desk Supplies

Clothing Hangers

Bedding & Blankets

Laundry Basket

Ask Around

One of the unfortunate things about dorm supplies is they are typically only used for a year or two, then put into storage or donated after moving out. However,  you can turn this to your advantage by reaching out to friends, family, or neighbors whose kids have been in dorms and are already moved on. Ask them if they have any items left over that they’re no longer using —  you’ll be happy with one less item to buy and they’ll be happy to get one more item out of storage.

Consider Renting

Many colleges have packages available for students to rent larger items such as mini-fridges and microwaves. It’s a helpful idea to check your university’s website to see if this is an option that would work for you and your child. Not only will this save money, but many of these programs deliver these heavy items right to the room so you don’t have to worry about transporting them during move-in.

Watch for Sales & Student Discounts

When signing up for college your child receives a new school email that you should start putting to good use as soon as possible. Many stores and websites offer deals tailored toward students, so it’s a great idea to find out where these deals are before you start shopping. Websites like UNiDAYS and Student Beans offer lists of companies and brands offering a special deal solely for students.

Avoid Decor Labeled for Dorms

If certain decor  and furniture are specifically designed and advertised for dorm rooms, the odds are these items are going to be more expensive. Once you’ve got a solid list of what you need, walk past the “dorm essentials” section and focus your time and energy on less expensive general home needs.

Greater Cash-Saving Tips for Parents of College-Bound Kids

By following the tips provided, you and your child can approach their college move-in with confidence and ease. This starts with knowing you’ve made the carefully thought out decisions to alleviate the financial burden of dorm room shopping. So, now you can check one more thing off your list with less stress!