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Where to Find Cheap College Supplies

Gearing up for your first year at college? There are tons of ways to save on the many supplies you’ll need for your dorm room and your classes. Even if you’re a returning student, many of these tips can help you stash away cash to use for other purposes during the year or to save for paying off those pesky loans after graduation. Use these clever ideas and tricks to make sure you don’t overspend on your college essentials.

Dorm Essentials

The list of things you need for your dorm may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. There are tons of smaller items you can get for great prices as long as you plan ahead. Instead of shopping for all new items at the last minute, start looking as early as possible at garage sales and thrift stores. You certainly don’t need a brand new lamp, alarm clock, drying rack or dry erase board to outfit your room – a few used things in good condition will work just as well and still look nice in your space.


Whether you need a few things for a dorm or for off-campus housing, buying new furniture can really add up fast. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can easily save on some furniture basics. The first is to actually shop the back-to-school sales. Often, college furniture items are available at deeply discounted prices at the very end of summer as major retailers attempt to price each other out. A word to the wise, however: use this only for those items you don’t expect to last through the college years, like a very simple desk or a small bookcase.

Used furniture can often be a better option, especially if it’s well-made furniture that will last for years to come. Ask friends and family if they have anything they’d be able to give or sell you. Look at garage sales and thrift stores as well for great deals. And don’t forget to check what the college provides for your dorm or what your roommates are willing to share.


For some reason, many students feel as though they need a new set of bedding specifically for college. This may the case if your current bedding doesn’t fit the new bed provided in your dorm. But in most cases, you can use what you already have with the exception of a new fitted sheet. It’s not as exciting as getting new bedding, but it’s (mostly) free!

For those who want a new look but still want to stay on budget, consider buying a duvet. Just slip it over a bedspread you already own. It’s much cheaper than buying all new bedding, but you still get a new, grown-up look for college.


It’s likely that you’ve already heard the horror stories of students spending hundreds of dollars on their college textbooks each semester. Considering that it’s such a huge cost, cutting back here is one of your best ways to save throughout your college years. Here are a few ideas that can help spare your wallet when it’s time to start classes:

  • Buy used textbooks online. Some may be available at your local bookstore, but online prices are usually the cheapest.
  • Share with a classmate. This works best when you’re taking the same class as a roommate or close friend.
  • Go to the library. Some books are available completely free from local libraries, especially novels for liberal arts classes.
  • Get e-books instead. An e-reader will make it easier to tote your books to class while also saving some dough.
  • Rent books. If you absolutely must have the newest edition, you may be able to save by renting books.

Class Supplies

As your schoolwork is the focus of your college years, it’s only fitting that you’ll need some new school supplies, too. However, you should first take an inventory of what you already have. Most students still have plenty of pens, pencils, notebooks, index cards and other essentials left over from previous school years. You can also reuse your backpack, folders, scissors, rulers and other school basics.

If you do need some new things, look at dollar stores and teacher supply stores, where many of the basics are available at cheaper prices compared to major retailers.


What about your school electronics? Most students these days have a laptop. Before buying yours, first see whether you can use the computers on campus for your schoolwork. If that’s not a reasonable option, it’s time to start shopping. Keep track of the prices over a few months if possible so you can recognize deals. Make sure you’re not getting a laptop that’s been filled with lots of programs and features you don’t need. You can also look at refurbished laptops to get a better price. All in all, a simple student laptop can often be found for under $300 if you do your research.

Keep your other electronics simple. Get a simple phone with a cheap plan that suits your needs. Skip the printer if you’ll have access to one on campus. If you have a laptop, a tablet isn’t necessary.

Use these handy tips to make sure you stay on budget this school year. With a little planning and some smart shopping, you should be able to save a bundle on your back-to-school basics.

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