If you’re dumping your change jar more often, just to get enough coins to get by, you’re not alone. More and more of us are running out of bills faster than ever.
Just thinking about spending money to head off to the dorm or new apartment is enough to make you put your head under your pillow and hide. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how to stretch your dollars.
Ten Ways to Not Break the Bank
1. Start with a List
Get organized with a master packing list. You can’t plan ahead if you don’t know what you need. This will help you maximize your budget.
2. Shop at Home
Begin to shop for the items on your packing list at home. What do you own that you can take with you instead of buying a duplicate? What’s in the house, closets, garage or attic that could be useful in your dorm or apartment?
3. Make Do
Find a way to make do with something you already own- like last year’s winter coat or backpack. It probably still has life in it. For example, is your backpack still sturdy but dirty? If the zipper works and there aren’t any rips, then try washing it. That could save you from buying a new one. Check to see if it has a cleaning label in it. I’ve had good luck spraying it with stain remover and washing it with laundry soap in the washer. Due to the fact that it has zippers that snag things and may have ink in it, I wouldn’t wash it with any clothing. Hang to dry. If it is sturdy but a seam has split open, you can probably have it sewn at your local shoe repair shop.
4. Grab Your School Supplies
Packing all the supplies you can find will help keep you from spending money in campus bookstores, which often don’t promote sale prices to their captive audience. Open desk drawers, closets and last year’s backpack to find rulers, scissors, glue sticks, highlighters, pencils and half-used notebooks. Hunt up those 3-ring binders from last year's classes and find a way to give it a new label. It’s not middle school so no one will care if it isn’t cool enough or new enough.
5. Communicate with your Roomie
Sometimes, people are just too busy to work things out or get stressed thinking about approaching a new roommate that they haven’t even met. Just keep in mind that the other person has their own shopping list for that dorm or apartment. Anything on that list that you can share, and avoid duplicating, will save you both money. The best way to do this – and to end the year peacefully- is for you each to choose an item to buy and bring. It is better for one to own say the fridge and the other to own the microwave then to have to figure out how to cut both of them in two parts later.
6. Shop with a List
All the stores are out to get your dollars with their clever dorm or apartment merchandise. It’s bright. It’s fun. It’s going to cost you. Pay attention to “need” versus “want” as you shop. Buy only what you need. See how your budget looks before you cave in to something you want but isn’t necessary.
7. Use Ads
Concentrate on the stores near your house. Gas is too expensive to drive all over town to save a buck. Look online and compare prices. Pay attention to shipping costs and take advantage of sites offering it for free.
8. Buy Extras
Yes, I know this is about saving money but if you’ve found a good deal, then stock up. Essentials such as shampoo, deodorant, printer paper and your favorite soda are great must-haves. Rule of thumb: If you know that you’d run out at midnight to buy more, and then get extras now.
9. Think Like You Are Hungry
One of your biggest costs is going to be food, even if you buy a meal plan. College life means staying up late and being hungry late. It means sleeping until the very last second and needing some breakfast that you can grab and take with you. Plan to pack what you love. Coffee drinker? Avoid coffee shop prices by taking a small coffee pot. Buy a case of granola bars. Stock up on snacks you can afford like mac-n-cheese or microwave popcorn so you don’t call for an expensive pizza.
10. Label everything!
Who can afford to have to replace anything? Get a permanent marker while you're out shopping. Label everything!
Lea Schneider is a professional organizer and member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. She has hauled things up nine flights of stairs and organized dorm rooms at Ball State University, University of Kansas and Florida State University. Her company, Organize Right Now provides solutions for home, office and life through consultation and hands-on organizing. Contact www.organizerightnow.com or call 850-477-2582.