The holiday season is swiftly approaching, which means you are about to be bombarded with ads for sales and deals on everything under the sun. Due to COVID, most businesses moved their promotion campaigns online. That, however, didn't make it easier to resist the temptation and not overspend.
Although there is a lot of overblown hype around the post-Thanksgiving seasonal deals, they are far from being merely marketing ploys. This is the time when you indeed can purchase essential items for less and save substantial sums. Only you have to be strategic about it. Margaret Wack, an expert on personal finances, advises careful planning and research. "Black Friday weekend can be a huge financial opportunity, but also a potential pitfall." To avoid buying things you don't need just because they are discounted, Margaret advises the following steps:
- Make a list of big-ticket items you need and search for the best deals ahead of time.
- Compare discounts on similar items from different retailers and brands to make sure you have found the lowest price.
- Have a budget set for holiday shopping and only buy non-essentials if the budget allows it.
Sounds simple enough! To help you even further, I have thrown together the list of things you might want to include in your shopping list. Mind you, these are merely suggestions.
Most university libraries provide printing services, so this might not be the essential one. Still, with crazy hours most students keep and deadlines they cut short, a desktop printer gives more flexibility and freedom. Back in my student years, I would be lost without my faithful inkjet. I would write my paper, edit it late into the night, print it out for handing in in the morning… Only to see a gazillion mistakes I somehow skipped when proofreading from the screen.
Moreover, printing out sections of the course books or other class materials can enhance your studying and revision efficiency. Print is easier on the eyes than digital reading. Moreover, when you can highlight the important stuff, make notes on the margins, and actively engage with the materials, you retain the knowledge better. According to Naomi S. Baron, Professor of Linguistics Emerita at American University, "When reading texts of several hundred words or more, learning is generally more successful when it's on paper than onscreen. A cascade of research confirms this finding."
Dorm Mini Fridge
This thing might seem like a luxury, especially if your room isn't very spacious. Yet during my years living in the dorm, I came to think of it as essential. You see, it's again about making healthier stuff readily available at your hand's reach. If you don't have a mini-fridge in the room, you will probably end up snacking on junk food because it doesn't perish as fast as healthier stuff does and, therefore, can be stashed away in the drawer or a nightstand. Think fruits and dairy products vs. chips and cookies.
There is, of course, a fridge in the shared kitchen, but c'mon. You aren't crawling out of bed where you are curled up with your laptop, cramming for exams. In the middle of the night. To walk what feels like 10 miles down the corridor. To the common kitchen. To get that yogurt. That isn't even there because someone has already eaten it – as they do on shared kitchens.
Again, this is not what you necessarily need. Maybe you want to cut down on your caffeine intake. Maybe you are a tea person. In that case, just scroll down to the next item. However, if you cannot imagine your morning without a steaming cup of fresh brew, a coffee maker can be a wise investment. Why? Because getting your morning cup from a fancy coffee shop every day can be financially ruinous for a student. Not only the coffee itself is much more expensive than the homemade. You also struggle with the temptation to add a cupcake to your order. If you make your coffee yourself, you will save money AND cut down on sugar.
I wish coffee-makers were as accessible as they are now back when I was in college. I consumed gallons of instant coffee-like sugary goo from the vending machines that were EVERYWHERE on my campus. Remember those? Hmmm, sweet-sweet nostalgia… I'll take two, please.
This clever contraption seems to the uninitiated an unnecessary gimmick that only culinary enthusiasts might want to own. However, this cannot be farther from the truth. This is absolute gold if you want to eat healthy, nutritious meals but hate to spend time cooking. My parents got me a multicooker for Christmas when I was a sophomore – and let me tell you, my life has never been the same since. This is like magic – you put the ingredients in, press the button, and go about your business. It will be done. It will be nice, and warm, and ready, and waiting for you. How awesome is that?
However, before committing to the purchase, consult your school's residential services if such appliances are allowed in the rooms.
UV Sanitizer Vacuum Cleaner
Your dorm room is small, and you share it with your roommates and their numerous guests. The smaller the living space, the more important is the cleanliness. This little handheld device is perfect for keeping your personal area tidy and safe. It's not bulky, which makes it easy to store and use, and it's going to make your life neat and healthy by killing viruses and bacteria on the fabric surfaces. Some models even include HEPA filters.
This is an excellent solution if you are allergic to pollen, household dust, dawn, dust mite matter, and other airborne stuff that tends to accumulate in pillows, blankets, and seats.
In college, you are going through pens and notebooks like a mouse through cheese. So, if you'll be able to get your hand on some bulk deal – this is a sensible investment. Highlighters, post-it notes, binders, paper clips, notepads, stapler and boxes of staples, sticky tape, accordion folders, desktop organizers, planners – you know the routine.
Planners deserve mentioning as a separate point. You will definitely need a regular daily planner to keep track of your classes, assignment due dates, study group meetings, and other stuff. Otherwise, things will inevitably start slipping your mind. You may also want to take a closer look at the weekly planner chalkboard you can stick on the wall in the common area and a desk planner that you can place above your keyboard to visualize and plan your week.
Health app subscription
There are plenty of free apps out there, but hear me out. Whether for meditation, yoga, or cardio workouts – the problem with apps compared to scheduled classes with a coach is commitment. When no one is waiting for you, you don't feel like you're obliged to show up. "Another day" becomes "another week," then "next month," then another failed New Year resolution. Whereas when you've paid for a subscription, you will want to have something back for your money. Hence, you are more likely to stick to your routine.
Don't forget that "health" isn't only about exercise. Anxiety-management, sleep, nutrition, healthy habits promotion – whatever you feel you need. Just lookout for a deal and invest in your health.
This little device is your portable movie theater, which is not as frivolous an expenditure as you might think. First of all, this is great for movie and pizza nights in your dorm. I mean, you can watch Avengers: Endgame being crammed four in a row in front of a laptop screen. However, projecting it to the wall makes it better, am I right, or am I?
Another thing is that it's good for your eyes. Focusing on the opposite wall a few yards away is healthier than being glued to the screen with barely two feet between you. Plus, reflected from the wall, the light is easier on the eyes than bright glowing pixels. When you take a break from studying, let your weary eyes rest as well!
Steamer for your clothes
You might be a wild spirit that never irons one's clothes. There is some careless chic in wrinkled jeans and a hoodie that looks like it's been through… tough stuff. However, sometimes you want to look neat (think internship interview). Living in a dorm and having limited storage space, your closet arrangement is probably less than ideal. The chances that the desired neatness just happens when you pull your clothes out of the shelf are infinitesimal.
A steamer is much more practical than an iron. You don't need a board – which is a huge consideration when speaking of a dorm room. You don't have to worry about burning a hole in that shirt. You don't get all those pesky flat creases that are impossible to get rid of. Win-win-win!
These invisible helpers are too easy to underestimate. They protect your precious electronics from power surges. They serve as cord extensions if the outlet is too far from your bed. Yet most importantly, they can make one hole in the wall into up to 12 outlets, so you and your roommate will never again have to argue about whose time it is to charge what.
However, do not confuse surge protectors with power strips. The latter merely expand a wall outlet and don't offer any real protection from electrical issues. I've learned the difference the hard way – one laptop ago. If you will see a deal on a good surge protector, it's worth investing in. Look for a protection factor expressed in joules. Usually, the higher the number, the better. The last word of wisdom – always get more outlets than you think you need right now.