College-Bound: How to Save on Dorm Room Furnishings


Andrea Woroch

While overall spending on back-to-school is slightly down this year compared to last year, one category is poised to see a big uptick: dorm decor and furnishings. According to the National Retail Federation, college-bound students and their families will dish out over $126 on goods for their rooms, a nearly 25-percent increase over spending reports from 2014.

Since dorms and off-college abodes can be expensive to furnish, buying desks, futon frames and chairs from flea markets and Craigslist is a good idea. However, it's important to know what your other options are when community inventory runs thin. Plus, everybody has a style and you likely want to impart some of your flare on your furnishings!

Read on for seven ways to get college-ready for less.

Scout delivery options close to campus.
To compete with online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores are increasingly offering "ship-to-store" options to customers. This strategy is great for college kids on the move, as relocating hefty pieces of furniture across the state or country can be a cumbersome and expensive endeavor. Shop stores like Kohl's and Best Buy and get your products delivered to the store located closest to campus. JCPenney takes is a step further, offering free shipping to anywhere in the country - including dorm rooms! - on orders of $99 or more. 

Find furniture at discount retailers.
Ross, TJMaxx and HomeGoods all have selections of furnishings great for dorm rooms and apartments, not to mention cheap decor items. Look for end tables, desk chairs, dressers and even recliners and dining room chairs. Increase your savings by purchasing a discounted gift card to these retailers through Gift Card Granny, a discount gift card comparison site. Currently, you can save up to 20% off cards to TJMaxx.

Network for savings.
Remember when your parents brought your Girl Scout or Boy Scout fundraiser to their workplaces and you made bank? Well, they can take a similar approach now that you're heading off to college. Ask your parents if they'd be willing to send an email to their networks - business, social, etc. - asking if anyone has furnishings they're planning to get rid of. This will capture anyone who planned to sell or give away furnishings but hadn't posted it to Craigslist or Facebook yet, giving you first dibs!

Take advantage of gift cards.
Back-to-school is a huge event for "free gift card with purchase" offers, and while you may be tempted to go on a shopping spree with these freebies, it's best to apply them strategically. Instead of buying all your dorm room furnishings, decor items and other needed supplies in one haul, calculate which items you should purchase to score a free gift card, then purchase the rest in a separate transaction and use the gift card to offset your total expense. For example, Target is currently offering a free $20 gift card when you spend $100 on college items. Additionally, you can find Target coupon codes through sites like, and save an additional $25 off your $100 purchase through Aug. 1.

Consider craft stores.
For unique storage solutions, kitschy decor and even night stands, check out such craft chain stores as Hobby Lobby and JoAnn Fabric. While these stores specialize in fabric and craft-making, they also have tons of decor items and select furnishings that often cost much less than furniture stores. Plus, you can typically find a coupon for 40 to 50% off one item from each store and redeem it through your smartphone using a coupon app.

Shop online for savings.
Online stores like Wayfair and Overstock offer tons of furnishings and decor items available for free or low-cost shipping. These cute side tables on Overstock, for example, are currently 50-percent off and ship for just $2.95. Wayfair is advertising up to 70% off dorm-room essentials including a Mesh Task Chair for $48.99 (originally $199.99) and a chic six-piece comforter set for $43.99 (originally $92.99). It's always a good idea to compare prices, so install the PriceBlink or Invisible Hand browser add-ons to get notified if something you're looking at is better priced elsewhere. Just don't forget to factor in shipping costs!

Bring the outdoors in.
Summer is eclipsed by back-to-school season, making all things warm-weather and carefree on clearance. That includes patio furniture and accessories, and some of these items look and function just as nicely indoors. Think wicker chairs, mosaic accent tables and area rugs. For example, Wayfair currently has a stylish 5-foot square grey and beige outdoor area rug available for $64.99, down from the original price of $125.51. 

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Huffington Post, Forbes and many more. For more information, visit or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

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