As I write this in August, we are all being bombarded with ads for "Back to School Savings," as the retail establishment gears up for their second biggest revenue season after the December holidays.
Although this can get expensive for any parent, if your child is going off to college as a freshman, it can get even more so. Here are a few tips.
Don't Overspend on a Small Dorm Room
The first thing to keep in mind is that college dorm rooms are small -- really small. As a result, there isn't room for very much after you put in a bed, dresser, desk and chair for two people.
Find out the square footage of the room in advance and then plan your purchases accordingly. Not everything will fit. A rule of thumb: if you are transporting your child in a U-Haul, you are bringing too much!
Don't Try to Cover All the Bases
Second, don't try to prepare for every eventuality. What your child does not have might be borrowed from someone else on the floor, provided by the school, or purchased once they're there.
Before shopping, contact the school and see what they provide or recommend that you bring.
Wait to Buy Clothes Until After He/She Moves In
Third, when it comes to clothing, you might want to wait until your child is there, because students usually want to wear what's in style at the school, not what their parents buy for them.
Studies are showing that wardrobes evolve over time, so starting with little and allowing the student to add and subtract from it over the course of the school year, as needed, might be better.
Coordinate Purchases with the Roommate
Fourth, avoid duplication by having your child contact his or her roommate in advance to find out what he or she is bringing. In that way you can save money and avoid duplication.
Reaching out to an upperclassman in the school for input might also be a good idea. Schools often have new student orientation committees staffed by students that can be very helpful.
The overall thing to bear in mind is that retailers are out to make money by selling you as much as possible, not what you really need. Therefore, a little research with the school and common sense will go a long way towards minimizing the cost of college back to school.
Need More Help?
The cost of higher education can be high, with tuition, room and board constantly going up. So anywhere you can cut costs is good! If you want more information about how to pay for all of this and student loans, then download my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.
If you live in southern New Jersey and want to consult with me on managing student loan costs, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment in my Woodbury office.