According to the National Retail Federation, the average family is expected to pay $688 for back-to-school expenses. TheStreet.com asked students and shopping experts to brainstorm a quick list of unnecessary items for students heading back to school. Here are some items you just don’t need to waste money on:
1. School Supplies
Just because an item is on the suggested supply list doesn’t mean you need it, regardless of the price. 10 reams of notebook paper? How about five and call it a day. Also, try to stay away from novelty supplies like light-up pens that will drive the teachers crazy.
2. Shop at Home
Check your closets and desk drawers to see what items you already have. Be strong! Just because your little one wants that new Justin Bieber backpack doesn’t mean they need it. Gather up what you already have at home and you’ll be surprised how much you can knock off the list without going to the store.
Pre-packaged lunches from the grocery store are super expensive. It may take a little more time, but you’ll save a ton if you make lunches at home. A Lunchable is about $5 – for that you can get deli meat and cheese to last the entire week.
For students not yet in college, tablets top the “unnecessary items” list. Most teachers won’t even allow them in their class and if they do, there probably isn’t open WiFi. Don’t let your kids trick you into believing they need a tablet, either. If they’re going to write school essays, they’ll need a seperate keyboard and printing is very difficult from a tablet. Save this big investment for your older kids.
For college students, buying a printer for the dorm room might seem like a no-brainer… until you need to replace the ink cartridges. Most college libraries allow you to print at little to no charge. Many professors don’t even ask for printed papers anymore and instead ask students to email their work. You can save hundreds by nixing the printer.
For students heading to college and living in dorms, it’s best to check with the school ahead of time to see if the dormitory provides mini-refrigerators. Many dorms will already have them. And no, Jimmy doesn’t need his very own fridge in his room to store his Mt.Dew.
When living in the dorms, headphones or earphones are the best option, instead of stereos or portable iPod/iPhone speakers. Some dorms have “quiet hours,” where playing loud music is prohibited, making it a safer bet to purchase headphones, rather than fancy speakers.
8. Window treatments
Whether you’re living in a dorm or even an apartment off campus, check to see if the dorm or your landlord will provide the window treatments.
9. Desk lights
Desk lights are a common back-to-college item and while on the inexpensive side, buying a desk light might be a waste of money because many dorm desks come with a light. Desk lights can be dangerous too – if you do purchase one make sure it is low-wattage so there isn’t a risk of fire when your kid leaves it on for three days straight.
Wait until after your kid has attended a few class sessions to see if they even need the books. Many professors will list books as part of the curriculum and then never even use them! Also remember eBay as an option – always go for the used book route.
Find more back-to-school tips for military moms on SpouseLink!