College on a Budget: Tips for Incoming Freshman Before Heading to School

Disclosure: This article is sponsored by Amazing on a Budget by

It’s the first day of August! It seems like this summer has just flown by. For me, this is the first August since I started Kindergarten that I’m actually not getting ready to go back to school. It’s such a weird feeling, knowing that I’m completely done with school. However, for many, they are getting ready to leave home and start college for the first time. And for that reason, I’m hoping to lend some of my experience to those kids (and their parents) getting ready to start this exciting new journey!


I think one of my favorite parts of getting ready for college was buying everything for my new dorm. It was so fun picking out new bedding, a lamp, and items for the kitchen. I lived in Heritage Halls at BYU, which were apartment-style dorms. I lived with five other incredible girls, and my freshman year holds some of my most dear memories of college. I plan to talk about surviving your freshman year (at BYU, most specifically) next week, so I won’t get too nostalgic yet, but I loved it. However, buying everything I needed for that first apartment wasn’t exactly cheap. Here are some tips on how to save money on the items you buy before you even head to college!


Determine Your Budget

Before you do anything, decide how much you can spend. I’ve found it’s much harder realizing you don’t have enough money for what you want to buy, rather than deciding in the beginning how much money you actually do have. That way, you can know exactly how much you can spend, which will help you know where to shop. Walmart has an awesome tool they recently launched called “Amazing on a Budget”, and I wish they had this back when I was getting ready for my freshman year of college. Basically, it helps you find what you need, based on your individual style and budget. Here’s how to get started with it. 

Head to Amazing on a Budget. From here, you can select which checklist you want to use (dorm room basics, household basics, apartment essentials, health must-haves, technology updates, storage solutions, fashion and apparel, or create your own.) Then, a list of suggested subcategories will pop-up, and you can select what you need from there. From there, it will take you to another page where you set your budget. You can make this anything you want! After selecting your budget, you select “See your Recommendations” and it will give you ideas of what you could buy, based on the budget you set. I tried it out on a few different categories, and I thought it was so neat. Even if you don’t have a child going to college, this is also a great way to determine the best prices for household products you may be needing to purchase, or if you are redecorating a room! You can print your check list, or use it to buy items online.

SeparateWants versus Needs

You need a bed spread. However, you don’t need 1000 thread count, egyptian cotton sheets. If you have a budget, really decide what is necessary. If you can’t afford a computer, consider looking into renting one. I know at BYU, you could rent a laptop for about 20-30 dollars a month, and a desktop for even less. 

There are obviously things you need, and you shouldn’t get the cheapest thing ever, because you will want the things you to last the duration of your time in college. But deciding whether or not something is completely necessary can help save lots of money. 

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Talk With Future Roommates

One of the most helpful things one of my freshman roommates did was send out a document that listed everything that we needed for our apartment. From there, we all signed up for what we wanted to bring. This made it so we didn’t end up all bringing baking dishes, and no one bringing silverware.  It also helped us come stocked with essentials (paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies etc.) so we didn’t have to spend that money right away when we got there, and worry about finding a story to buy it at.

We didn’t have Google Documents (at least, not that I knew of) back when I started college, but now, this would be a perfect place to start this list. Just email it out to roommates ahead of time, and everyone can updated it as they go. And, just in an effort to be helpful, I’ve created a document that you can make a copy of with all of the things an apartment could possibly need. Feel free to make a copy of it and send it out! It can be easily tweaked, depending on what kind of apartment you will be in and what is already available in the apartment. 

Check out Dorm Room Layout (including square feet!)

I think that most schools will make a layout of an apartment/dorm available online. Don’t just rely on pictures — I’ve found that pictures tend to make rooms look bigger than they actually are. Pay attention to the square feet as well. You don’t want to think you have room for a big papasan chair (or something of the like) only to get there and realize it doesn’t fit. This can help you also visually decide how much stuff you should bring (though, I highly recommend bringing as little as possible!

Review Dorm Guidelines

BYU provided a list of suggested items to bring, and I’m sure most other schools are similar. Pay particular attention to the type of sheets they recommend. I’ve heard that a lot of universities have long twin beds, so you can’t just buy any old twin sheets. The guidelines and suggestions may also tell you if the apartment is equipped with things like a microwave. I had some friends who lived in the traditional dorms, and they brought a microwave, because those rooms didn’t have one, and it was nice not to have to run to the common area to use one. You also want to make sure you don’t accidentally bring a prohibited item! If you have any questions and can’t figure out the answer online, be sure to call your housing place before you go. 

Now, these are just ways on how to keep spending to a minimum before you get to college. Having enough money when you are in college is a different story, and I’ll talk about that more another time. Be sure to use Walmart’s Amazing on a Budget and some of these tips though, and hopefully you’ll have a little left over before starting your exciting adventure at college. 


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