Prepping for College: The Average Cost of School Supplies

First Seacoast Bank • September 27, 2023
Books and a laptop are a couple of things driving up the average cost of school supplies.

Going to college is an exciting milestone in life. As an 18-year-old, you’re now an official adult, and with that newfound independence comes the responsibility of managing your finances. One of your first challenges may be the cost of school supplies.

College tuition aside, textbooks, dorm necessities, and everyday expenses can quickly add up and put a strain on your budget. In 2022, the National Retail Federation (NRF) expected households of college-bound students to spend over $1,000 on school supplies and necessities—just for that school year.

The good news is there are many ways to save money when prepping for college. Here are some tips on how to get ready for school as a financially savvy student.

5 Ways to Lower the Cost of School Supplies

1. Create a Budget

A budget is your best friend when it comes to financial planning. Budgets help you keep track of your expenses, income, and savings. 

Start by listing all your monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, food, transportation, and entertainment. Determine how much money you have left after paying your bills and allocate a portion to saving. Stick to your budget and avoid overspending on unnecessary items.

2. Rent or Buy Used Textbooks

Textbooks can be a huge expense for college students. To save money, consider renting textbooks or buying used ones. Check online for deals and discounts offered by websites like Chegg, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. You can also look for your college's textbook exchange groups on social media and buy or sell textbooks from other students.

Depending on your preferences, you may also be able to find digital copies as .pdfs or .epubs, which you’d be able to read on a tablet or Kindle. You may even be able to share books with classmates to split the cost, but it will depend on the course and your combined schedules.

3. Use Student Discounts

As a college student, you’re eligible for various discounts on products and services. Take advantage of this perk and save money wherever possible. Many retailers, restaurants, movie theaters, and museums offer student discounts. Always carry your student ID card with you and ask if they have any special offers for students.

4. Shop Smart for Dorm Supplies

Moving into a dorm can be exciting—it’s a space you get to decorate and make your own. There’s already furniture provided (typically a bed, desk, and dresser), but you’ll need some things like sheets, blankets, and maybe new pillows. 

All of this can add up, and it’s easy to go overboard. Start by making a list of the essential items you need. Look for deals and discounts at stores like Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Then, save the rest for when everything goes on clearance.

Another way to lower the cost of school supplies is to see what your family doesn’t want anymore or is looking to get rid of. If you’re moving into a house with other people and need dishes, see what your parents might have in storage instead of buying new ones.

5. Cook Your Own Meals

Ordering out can be tempting, but it can also be pricey. Instead, utilize your meal plan through the dining hall and keep whatever food from a grocery store you can in your room. A minifridge is a great addition to any dorm room and can help you keep some essentials, like jelly for peanut butter and jelly.

If you have access to a kitchen, consider cooking your meals. Not only is it healthier, but it's also more budget-friendly. Look for easy recipes that you can prepare in bulk and freeze or reheat later. You can also meal prep for the week and bring your food to campus.

Need Some Help?

Preparing for college can be overwhelming—especially for the first time. With some planning and smart shopping, you can save money and still enjoy your college experience. 

And, of course, if you need anything, First Seacoast Bank is always here to help. We offer student loans in partnership with New Hampshire Higher Education Loan Corporation (NHHELCO), low-rate credit cards, and rewards checking and savings accounts—but we also have plenty of information about financial literacy and education that will help you in the long run. Contact us today to learn more!