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Aug 08 2016
by Emma Doherty

I Kept The Receipts From My Pre-College Shopping And Discovered A Hidden Cost of College

By Emma Doherty - Aug 08 2016

For nearly all college students, going back to school requires much more money than paying the housing deposit, textbooks and meal plans. Many colleges have items that, although are not required, are necessary to acquire while attending - like towels for example. I made it my mission to keep all of my receipts for the items that I bought for college, and the cost that I paid for them over the course of the summer. I quickly figured out that although colleges do not include these expenses in the cost of attending these colleges and universities, they play a key role in the student and family's ability to be able to afford attending these colleges and they add up very quickly.

The first receipt I saved was from a Target store. While Target offers a great variety of back to school items, their prices tend to be slightly more expensive than their competitor stores such as Walmart. My roommate and I opted for their slightly more expensive bedding options because we had a vision of what we wanted our perfect dorm to look like, and also figured that although we could probably find a cheaper option online, shipping costs and the unknowingness if the bedding will arrive before our move in date made it more reasonable to opt for the Target option. I also bought two towels, a hand towel, a decorative pillow and a desk lamp. 


Table lamp: $14.99

Twin XL Comforter: $19.99

Bath towels: $11.18 (2 at $5.59 each)

Hand towel: $5.00

Decorative pillow: $14.99

Total: $66.15

The next receipt I kept was from Bed Bath & Beyond - the deemed "college central" of all stores. I went in already knowing that prices here would be most expensive and chose to limit what I would be purchasing here. I chose to only buy furniture here. I bought three stacking drawers that will fit under my bed, and offer more storage without taking up too much living space in my dorm room. I was fortunate enough to have been given a $50 gift card (which is a fabulous graduation gift to all the parents, relatives and friends of upcoming graduates who are reading this) which really helped me save some money because the furniture here is pretty darn expensive. 

Bed Bath & Beyond  

3 Stacking Drawers ($18.99 each): $56.97

Total: $56.97

One factor I had completely forgot about while shopping for college was beauty and hygiene products. It is very easy to overlook these items because while most of us are still under our parents roof we don't need to think of buying things like soap, or a lint roller. However, CVS offers lots of coupons for regular shoppers and has great deals posted online every week. I highly suggest making a list of things that you believe you will need before hand because it is very easy to forget things. As I write this now I realize I forgot to buy toothpaste, another essential that has gone overlooked. 


Ibuprofen: $6.49

Shampoo and Conditioner: 2 for $7 (3.50 each)

CVS Brand Sunscreen: $3.79 

Lint roller: $2.49

Charging Cable: $19.99

Dry shampoo: $8.99

Blonde Treated Hair Shampoo (I color my hair and use this to preserve the color): $6.29

Vision Eye Drops: $3.69

Benadryl: $4.59

Total: $63.32

My least favorite part of college shopping is the actual "back to school" supply shopping. I chose to go to Walmart because the are notoriously known for having cheap school supplies. I can remember the excitement of picking out a new pencil box and pencils as a little girl, but having to shop for college comes with an overwhelming. dreadful feeling. 


Bic Pens: $4.97

Bic Mechanical Pencils: $5.24

Post-Its: $1.12

Sharpies: $9.94

3 Notebooks ($2.76 each): $8.28

2 Folders ($2.47 each): $4.49

Paper: $0.82

Index Cards: $1.44

Total: $36.30

Overall, the hidden costs of college are variable depending on what you deem as a necessity versus a luxury item. There are also so many ways to save money when back to school shopping, I found the most helpful was honestly coupon clipping. I would spend hours looking through flyers, newspapers and online trying to find coupons. Also, don't be afraid to shop around! Just because a store claims to have the best prices doesn't mean that you have to buy from there. Always do some research online first, not only for the cheapest prices but also product reviews. You may end up spending more money if you buy a cheap item that breaks and has to be replaced in a few months, rather than spending more upfront for a long-lasting product. I hope after reading this you will understand the importance of starting to save wherever you can, as well as figuring into your college expense plan all the "hidden" payments and costs, that as you can see add up quickly. 

Final Total: $222.74

Lead Image Credit: Melanie Rands via EcoStore


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Emma Doherty - University of North Georgia

Emma Doherty is a nursing major at the University of North Georgia. Emma enjoys the outdoors, classic literature, music festivals and traveling. In her free time she can be found binge watching Netflix, writing or critiquing prose with a coffee or tea in hand at your nearest Starbuck's, or aspiring to be the next Galileo. Follow her on Instagram: doherty97

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