Few things strike fear into the hearts of broke college students quite like the words “back to school shopping.” When you’re young, the prospect of going to the store to stock up on notebooks, pens, and Elmer’s glue might be exciting—it may be the one time of year you can get your parents to buy you some new stuff!
But as you get older, and especially in your college years, back-to-school shopping can inspire dread. School supplies, especially in college, aren’t cheap. You may need an expensive calculator, books, software, and more. It can quickly add up.
For perspective, just look at the numbers.
This year, 19 million college students will head to school at more than 7,000 colleges and universities, according to the 2018 back-to-college survey from consulting company Deloitte:
All of those students heading back to class mean one thing: A back-to-school spending extravaganza on everything from books to dorm furniture and electronics. Here’s what analysts are expecting from the 2018 back-to-school shopping season:
- Total spending—$25.5 billion
- Per-household average spending—$1,330
- Families in the northeast will spend the most on average, shelling out $1,483, possibly because many cities in the region have a higher cost of living.
What are students and their families spending all that money on? Anything and everything, ranging from computers to digital subscriptions, dorm rooms, and new clothes:
College students: How to budget for back-to-school shopping
It’s easy to look at these figures and feel a little anxious—spending more than $1,000 just to get ready for school isn’t a small expense, especially if you’re a struggling student. But that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily on the hook for a four-figure shopping spree.
Build a budget to see what you actually need to buy for the upcoming year. Odds are, you probably already have some essentials—like a computer, writing utensils, and clothes. So, a good rule of thumb? Don’t buy it until you need it.
That also goes for books, digital subscriptions, and more.
But if you really want to show some initiative, you can build a budget and hit a local store. Here are some budget-building tips:
- Write down what you need and how much money you have to spend. Pare down your list to what you actually plan to buy, and work within your predetermined spending limit.
- Prioritize. What do you need the most? Or, what do you absolutely need to survive the school year? Make those purchases first.
- Plan for next year, too. Make your spending count. Buy supplies, if you can, that you can reuse or take back to school the following year.
- Look for ways to offload expenses. Like we said, don’t buy it until you need it, or look for other ways to get what you need. You might stumble upon digital versions of textbooks online, for example, or find furniture next to a dumpster that’s in good enough condition.
One person’s trash is another person’s savings! And with those savings, you can start investing in some of the companies that are a part of the back-to-school scramble.