"Everyone has things they aren't using," Dewkett says. "What may be an extra set of plates and clutter for an aunt, may be a saving grace for the college student."
First-time students can turn to family and friends for more than a used microwave or rug, though. Those who have been to college recently – or have children who have – can offer advice about what to purchase, she says.
4. Scour Craigslist: The online classifieds site can turn up cheap or even free treasures, says Fauth of Money Crashers.
A quick scan of free items for the Champaign-Urbana area, home to the University of Illinois, turned up recent listings for free futon frames, toasters, microwaves and televisions.
Freecycle is another website students should check for furniture that is low or no cost, Fauth says, emphasizing that students want to skimp on furniture.
"In all likelihood it's going to get pretty beat up over the next four years, so it's just not necessary to drop a wad of cash on it," she says.
5. Use shopping apps: Some things, such as sheets and mattress pads, students are better off getting new. Discount stores such as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are perfect for these items, says savings blogger Kendal Perez, a self-professed shopaholic and bargain hunter.
But between coupons, clearance and back-to-school sales it is good to shop around to ensure you are getting the best deal. Instead of spending hours scouring department stores and websites such as Overstock.com to try and score the best deal, tech-savvy students can download mobile shopping apps such as Amazon Price Check, which allows users to scan the barcode of an item to see if it's available for less via the online retailer.
Priceblink can help student and parents shopping online, too. The browser add-on automatically pulls up prices from multiple merchants when shoppers are, say, checking out a bedding set on Macy's website.
Coupons can also offer a deeper discount, Perez says. Instead of clipping 20 percent off squares from ads in the Sunday paper, she suggests students use apps such as Coupon Sherpa to maximize their savings.
Trying to fund your education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for College center.