Posted on 7/27/2011 12:48 EST
The start of the semester is coming up quickly and college students and their parents are surely cringing at the prospective costs. Squandering college savings by dressing a dorm room to the nines and loading up on fancy school supplies is certainly easy enough. Sticking to a budget is definitely harder, but these cheap dorm decor resources can take the sting out of many necessary expenses.
Photo by Target
With a little help from About.com's Guide to Interior Decorating, making this bare-bones, utilitarian space inviting and conducive to studying (partying?) should be a no-brainer. This cheap dorm decor resource provides links to stories about inexpensive products, budget-friendly decor ideas, and DIY projects. Still more resources show up in OnlineDegree.net's list of blog posts on cheap dorm decor as well as on our very own blog post on cheap decorating ideas.
Environmentally-conscious students can head to Treehugger for advice on using free and repurposed supplies to paint and decorate a dorm room for less. Tips for the frugal eco-friendly set include paper window treatments or lampshades, homemade decorative pillows, and furniture finds at resale shops, Craigslist, or maybe even curbside.
The cheapest source for furniture are hand-me-downs, but eBay might also be worth checking out. A DIY Life story keeps both kinds of green in mind with resource-saving ideas for spiffing up a dorm room: string a wire along a wall and paint a bunch of clothespins that can hold artwork or homework, for example, or hang a curtain on an expandable rod to add color and texture to a room while carving out some private space.
Brick-and-mortar stores can also be helpful when trying to furnish a dorm room for cheap. Decorative touches like low-priced plants, lamps, wall hangings, and other small items abound at Ikea. The leftover bin at a flooring company is the place to look for a cheap rug and the shelves at budget retailers like Walmart and Target hold piles of low-cost bedding and towels.
We've written a previous post about an innovative service called Dorm-in-a-Box that claims to deliver such necessities straight to a dorm room. For additional tips on starting off the school year in a budget-conscious way, also read our post on How to Live on $10 a Day and download some of the apps listed in Discount Apps for College Students.
And while we're at it, let's not forget another major college expense: textbooks. The campus bookstore may be the last place to look for good buys. Convenient, perhaps, but campus stores typically charge full price on new textbooks and may carry a very limited selection of used texts. Budget-savvy students are increasingly turning to cheap textbook sites instead. Figure on savings of at least 40%. And don't forget to check out electronic textbooks for e-readers, an increasingly popular format.
Of course, no dorm room is complete without an assortment of electronic gadgets. Student.com provides tips on buying a computer (along with using a credit card wisely) and below you'll find links to our buying guides for budget products relevant for students.
Related Cheapism buying guides: fans, space heaters, mini fridges, microwave ovens, laptops, netbooks, PCs, wireless routers, universal chargers, e-readers, rolling backpacks, headphones, mp3 players, iPod speakers.
Posted on 7/26/2011 15:37 EST
Did you know that if you'll switch your Jeep Grand Cherokee to a Toyota Prius you would save almost $2000 on gas each year? Check out this cool infographic which helps you understand why should you buy a hybrid car.
Learn more at Consumer Car Reviews.com
Posted on 7/20/2011 11:12 EST
Summer may be half over but that's no reason to do without summer backyard equipment that can make the rest of the season so much more pleasant. We recently posted a couple of new buying guides that can help you choose quality summer backyard equipment for less.
Our guide to cheap mosquito traps explains the pros and cons of electric and propane models and fills you in on the chemicals used to kill the pesky bugs. Mosquito traps rely on scent, heat, or light -- or some combination of these -- to keep the insects out of your way. The best cheap mosquito traps start at $25, but these are meant for indoor use. The best cheap outdoor mosquito traps cost more (nearly four times as much) and cover about half an acre of yard. Traps are most effective if used all the time; that means morning, noon, and night, regardless whether you're sitting outdoors. Two top brands are Dynatrap and Stinger.
A second summer backyard equipment guide is devoted to cheap swimming pools. The Cheapism price range for above-ground pools starts at $200 and tops out at $900. Pricey, perhaps, but what you get is a pool with a structural frame. Experts say metal-framed pools are safer than inflatable pools and consumers note they happen to be more durable. Backyard pools are usually round, but you can also find models that are rectangular and oval. Sizes range from eight feet to 30 feet across with depths of 30 inches to 52 inches. Most backyard pools come as a kit that contains a liner, pump and filter, and skimmer. Top brands include Intex, Heritage, and Seaview Club.
Check out our mosquito traps and swimming pools guides for more pointers about which cheap summer backyard items to buy.
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Are you in the mood to revamp your living space? We found some cheap decorating ideas and resources for cheap home decor that skimp on money but not on aesthetics. A fresh coat of paint in a bold color, a vintage coffee table scored at the local thrift shop, a brightly patterned wall hanging, and mixing and matching what you've already got into new combinations are just a few quick, easy, and cheap ways to get started. So unleash your inner decorator and bask in the outcome.
The first place you might look for cheap decorating ideas is, surprisingly, your smartphone. Blanco County Times
reports on several home improvement apps, such as ColorSnap, a free mobile app for the iPhone that lets you match paint color and code. StudFinderPRO, which costs $2.99 for the iPhone but is free for Android, helps you locate a stud in the wall so you can hang that new painting. Mark On Call lends you its room design and decorating expertise for a mere $2.99. The Handy Man DIY ($1.99) makes recording dimensions for window treatments, walls, and the like so much easier.
Craigslist and thrift stores are obvious places to search for recycled decorating treasures. But do be careful about what you bring into your home: clean and gently-used
items with some life still left in them are the worthy finds. Readers posting responses to an article on BabyCenter.com
about unearthing cheap home decor gems at places like Goodwill seem to prefer regular thrift shops. They say many items sold at Goodwill aren't really cheap, nor is there a wide assortment. These frugal shoppers prefer Craiglist
or sites like Freecycle
for finding hand-me-downs
that turn cheap decorating ideas into finished projects.
Photo by West Elm
Some cheap decorating ideas call for brand new items. LovetoKnow Interior Design writer Kate Bailey suggests several places to find home decor pieces that fit your frugal budget. West Elm and HomeDecorCenter.com, for example, offer rugs at low prices. Hanging fabric panels on the wall is a thrifty out-of-the-box design idea. You'll find inexpensive options at Contemporary Cloth and Novica. Big-box retailers, such as Target, Walmart, and K-mart are additional sources of cheap home decor.
You can also update any room in your house without adding to your existing collection of furniture, knickknacks, rugs, pillows, and pictures. EcoSalon
recommends recovering pillows with old or new fabric and reupholstering couches and chairs in the living room, family room, or bedroom, suggests; getting new slipcovers does the job, as well. Move throw pillows and blankets into a different room or mix up the vases, picture frames, and candles. Try turning the living room into the den and the den into the bedroom for a fresh look to old space. Spruce up curtains with simple accents like ribbon tie-backs
or a swag made with fabric left over from last year's sewing project. DoItYourself
suggests updating lampshades with beads or fringe, and painting a plain piece of wood that you can hang above your bed.
Once we started looking, we found no shortage of cheap decorating tips. Designers interviewed by Country Living offer several. For starters, put short strings of Christmas lights in glass jars to make an eye-catching lighting piece, place colored glass jars and vases on a window sill to simulate stained glass, and lay a sheet of glass over a table and tuck photos or postcards underneath. Give your kitchen a country look or Old World feel with a low-cost rack for pots and pans that goes above the stove. New kitchen towels and throw rugs can liven things up, and if you have a lot of floor space in the kitchen, textile designer Sirpa Cowell suggests creating a long runner by sewing together cheap rag rugs. (A dry cleaner will do this if you don't sew.) And finally, a few random pieces of tile right above the sink add zip and novelty without straining your bank account.