Remember when back-to-school shopping was all about Spider-Man sneakers and Hello Kitty backpacks? If you’re the parent of a college student, or are one yourself, you probably long for those days again. Not only was picking the coolest backpack a heck of a lot simpler than comparing processors and storage space on laptops, it was also significantly less expensive.
Don’t let the stress of major expenses get you down this back-to-school season. We’ve been there, and have you covered with some primo savings tips as you tick off your big-ticket items.
The books. Every semester figuring out how to afford them is a fiasco. If at all possible, avoid buying them at your school’s bookstore where they are undoubtedly overpriced, even for used copies. Instead, consider renting them. Odds are you won’t be using them again after the semester is over anyways, so paying a lower price for four months of use just makes sense.
If the book is something specific to your major that will be valuable to you throughout your career, by all means, buy for keeps. Still don’t do it at the campus bookstore, though. Check out sites like Amazon (who has a fantastic return policy.) Here you’ll be able to find new, like new, or beat-to-heck-and-back books. You can choose which condition you’re willing to buy depending on your budget and how important the particular volume is to you.
Sometimes, college bookstores will be jerks and print their own special edition of the book, attempting to force you to buy through them as it won’t be available anywhere else. This is particularly frustrating for math books, as the difference in editions could be the simple change of a sign in a problem or a slight difference in page numbers. In these cases, you don’t even have to buy the book. Check out your college library’s Reserve section. This section contains a copy of every book required by professors at your school. You won’t be able to check the copy out, but if you schedule some extra study time in the library you can dodge paying hundreds of dollars for a book you’ll only be using for a few months. Some schools even allow you to make copies of the pages you’ll need, so you can cut down on the time in the library and still not have to shell out your valuable money.
So much is required of college students these days. Computers, tablets, eReaders, and the list could go on. None of these things are cheap, but there are ways to save money on them. The first thing to do is evaluate what you really need out of your technology. Don’t pay extra for features you won’t use, but make sure not to skimp on the ones you’ll need.
Another way to save is to check out discount sites like Mac Mall. Generally, these sites are able to sell you big ticket technology items by buying them wholesale. When you get them for a discounted price, they are still making a profit. It’s a business model that works out well for everyone. No matter where you shop for your technology, be sure to ask about student discounts, as these can also save you a bundle.
Utilize Your Student Life Office
For entertainment and extracurriculars, the student life office is your best friend. They’ll have free or discounted tickets to local events, info about clubs and organizations that can help you socialize and build up your resume without blowing your money, and valuable information about what your student ID can get you in your community. (Think student discounts at local restaurants and businesses, free museum admission, and the possibility of access to public transportation for free.) When it comes to your entertainment budget, student life is the lifeline that makes the difference between leading a vibrant social life all semester and going broke by the end of September.
College is expensive, but there are ways to mitigate the costs. Get creative with where you shop, utilize discounts, and take advantage of everything your university has to offer to ensure you’re getting the most out of every dollar you spend.