Monday, September 24, 2007

Dorm Living on the Cheap

Whether you or your children are going off to college to live in the dorm for the first time, you probably have a number of very reasonable fears about what you need to do and how you can afford it. With college getting more and more expensive, it is wise for ways to learn how to cut costs. First time dorm residents can save a bundle of money by following some simple advice and guidelines.

What to bring

You should always make sure to bring enough school supplies, like notebooks, paper and pencils. Notebooks purchased at campus bookstores, usually with college logos printed on the covers, are very tempting but usually very overpriced. You would to much better to purchase these items on sale at a discount or office supply store – preferably one not near the university, so you are less likely to get ripped off.
It’s also a good idea to bring some food. Even if you have a meal plan, you will be likely to want snacks or meals at odd hours, when the dining hall is not open. Some good dorm-friendly pantry staples include cold cereal, coffee, mac and cheese, Ramen, and apple sauce. Again, stock these before you go and you won’t need to pay rip-off campus store prices. Another good investment is a good quality microwave cookbook. There are several of these aimed directly at dorm residents which will suit your needs very well.

Another good thing to bring is some form of free entertainment, preferably something that will help you meet new people. Board games such as Risk or Monopoly are very popular in freshman dorms and will help you be at the center of the social scene, without having to spend a ton of money going out. Your high school yearbook is also an excellent conversation starter.

What not to bring

While nearly every college student on the planet has a white board, I don’t suggest you buy one of these before you go to school. If you troll the activity fairs the first week of class, you will be likely to get tons of these for free. It’s also possible to get free calendars and posters, if you aren’t fussy about your decorations. These will help you keep up with free events happening on campus, which can provide cheap entertainment for the rest of the semester.

Speaking of posters, posters are just about the only thing that’s actually cheaper to buy on campus than off campus. Generally some student organization will host a poster sale within the first few weeks of class. Check it out for some really good deals on posters.

You probably also don’t want to bring every article of clothing you own, particularly ones that need to be dry cleaned. One of the cheapest things about campus life is that, because everyone looks casual and ridiculous, you are free to look casual and ridiculous. Free t-shirts, sweats, and pajamas are the norm for walking around campus or to the dining hall. You can leave your expensive, high maintenance clothes at home.

What to do once you’re there

Make sure you take advantage of all of the wonderful free opportunities available. Chances are, you have access to free concerts, lectures and shows, a gym, and a pool. Technically these aren’t free: you’ve already paid for them. There will never be an opportunity in your life when you will have this much available to you.
Also, remember, you are there to get a good education so GO TO CLASS. The most expensive thing you can do in college is not graduate.


Amy said...

I agree completely - as a graduate of college, I learned all of these things through real life experience!!

Another tip - if you need organizational items (bins, baskets, etc) hit Target or Walmart or the like a few weeks AFTER school starts - when all the "dorm" items go on sale!