Brace yourselves for back to school spending. According to a poll conducted by the National Retail Federation, out of 6,400 adults with college aged kids, nearly 30 percent plan to spend more on supplies for back to school season this year than they did last year. And much of that shopping will be done online, according to another poll, this one by Prosper Insight's & Analytics which surveyed some 6,500 consumers on the matter.
But which websites give the best deals? I'll be going back to college in the fall so I decided to investigate. The retailers I chose to look into were IKEA, Wal-Mart, Target, Dorm Co, and Bed Bath and Beyond.
Then I turned to Big Future, a college-planning site created by The College Board, to find out what kinds of items people look for. I chose a few items from Big Future's Off-to-College Checklist, and began to compare prices. Here is what I found:
|Bed Bath and Beyond||$29.99||$4.99||$9.99||$4.99||$9.99|
Bedding is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about what you'll need in college. Most college dorms supply students with twin or extra-long twin beds.
When searching for twin and extra-long twin sheets, I looked for the lowest pricing from each retailer that included the comforter and standard pillowcases. IKEA featured the lowest set, priced at $8.99. However, Bed Bath and Beyond truly went beyond by including an additional two decorative pillows. This is perhaps why the cost is a bit pricey compared to the other retailers, however for some, the two decorative pillows may be worth it.
Hoping to find something to hold everyday dirty laundry, I searched all laundry bags, bins, and baskets to find the lowest price.
Dorm Co's Cheap Pop Up Hamper priced at $2.89 was the lowest in price, however, depending on your personal preference—you may prefer a basket, bag, or bin—you may find that the extra dollar or two is worth it.
IKEA featured a plastic laundry basket for $4.99, which for some, may be better than a cheaper product that could easily tear.
Although Wal-Mart's was priced the highest, its hamper appeared very durable and sturdy. Wal-Mart did offer a "hosiery bag" for $3.99, however, since this bag was made with the intention of holding solely delicates, it quite didn't fit the criteria of holding a student's everyday laundry.
Target and Bed Bath and Beyond both offered a laundry bag, only having a one dollar price difference between them.
For more information, read "College Dorm Sheets That Will Last Until Graduation."
Clamp lamps tend to be very useful for students. These types of lamps allow students to simply clip the lamp to a desk, allowing for late study nights.
Dorm Co's lamp was the least costly out of the five retailers. However, I caught Dorm Co's cheapest lamp during a "Weekly Deal Price." What was once originally priced at $9.90 dropped to $7.37. What I found particularly interesting about Dorm Co's Essential College Clip Light was that it could be plugged in by USB or outlet. My only question when viewing this product was whether or not the light bulb was included or built in.
IKEA'S clip lamp priced at $14.99 was the store's lowest available online. Although pricey compared to the other retailers, the LED Clamp Spotlight has an LED light built in. Be aware, though, that assembly is required.
Wal-Mart's Your Zone Clip Lamp With Bulb priced at $9.00 requires no assembly and as the name suggests, comes with a light bulb.
Usually students living in dorms use a communal bathroom or share a bathroom with their roommates. A shower caddy or a shower tote can be very useful to transport toiletries. Dorm Co's Pop Up Dorm Caddy, made of fabric, was priced at $3.99, the lowest out of the five retailers.
IKEA's Shower Caddy priced at $12.99, is made of steel and was not exactly what I was expecting. This caddy featured two tiers in which a student could hang his or her stuff. This caddy could be hung anywhere, however it seems to be made with the purpose of being hung on a shower head. Good for an apartment, but not necessarily dorm room material.
Wal-Mart's Large Tie-Dyed Dorm Caddy Shower Tote, like Dorm Co's caddy, also appeared to be made out of fabric.
Bed Bath and Beyond and Target both featured a plastic shower caddy/tote, which some may find appealing and don't mind paying a bit extra.
Dorm rooms tend to be small and if sharing your room with a roommate, you probably want to use every bit of space that you can. So make use of the space under your bed.
While researching underbed storage, I found that Dorm Co's Basic Underbed Storage Bag was priced the lowest at $4.99. The other retailers, aside from Wal-Mart which sells an underbed storage bag for $6.03, charged anywhere from $8.99 to $9.99.
IKEA featured a storage box, unlike Dorm Co's storage plastic bag. This box appeared to be made out of a sturdy fabric material.
Wal-Mart and Target also sold bags. The bottom of Wal-Mart bag appeared to be made out of a sturdy fabric material. That was true of Target's bag as well which which featured a polyester bottom.
Bed Bath and Beyond featured underbed storage bags, similar to Dorm Co's bag, but it's bag had a nice feature: dividers to keep shoes. Bags without the shoe divider were priced slightly higher.
Bottom Line: Dorm Co consistently offers lower prices. However, keep in mind that there is no way to check for quality online. The cheapest product may not always be the best quality, nor may it fit your preference or needs. To help determine this for yourself, you may want to read customer reviews and product details.