Back to School Savings for College Students

back to school college savingsRemember 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

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.

The Technology

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.

 

Back to School Cool–Part I: Top Three Tops

We know; it’s not even August yet! But we like to stay ahead of the game and keep an eye on things so you can get the best deals. Every Wednesday until September, we’ll post something you need to know about fall shopping. If you’re thinking about organizing your shopping experiences now, let us help you by giving you the heads up. For the first installment, we’re giving you the most essential must haves that you may even still have in your wardrobe from last year. Next week, we’ll talk about ways to refresh last year’s trends. For now, make sure you snag these items first because they’ll take you from hot to cool effortlessly.

1. A Preppy Sweater

8 - Sweater
From Yoox $100

It’ doesn’t matter if you don’t classify yourself as “preppy.” This is one item that you can funkify by pairing with leather skinnies and a chunky necklace. Or, you go totally classic by pairing with khakis and pearls–no one will even know it’s the same sweater and that look never goes out of style. Nonetheless, I lightweight sweater will take you from cool end-of-summer nights to crisp fall days. How versatile is the one pictured here? Check it out at Yoox for $100.

2. The Oversized Sweater

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Joie Sweater from The Real Real ($95)

We are in love with this look. We love it with a pencil skirt if you’re a mature college student (funk it up with cool sneakers) or skinny jeans. You can hide everything but your style in this sweater. A long necklace finishes the look. We love it in casual cable knit or in this sleeker version from the Real Real–our favorite consignment shop. This one is high end Joie for $95, originally retailing for about $225.

3. Lacy Blouse

From ASOS $64

This look comes in so many shapes and sizes. Get it in black with a edge, or trying a flowing silhouette for a romantic look. These tops are SO versatile. Dress them up with a mini skirt, or down with a pair of distressed jeans. The contrast of edgy and feminine will keep you fashion forward. ASOS has pages of options for this type of look. You’ll definitely find something to suit your body and style.

Make these three key items first on your shopping list. You can dress them up on the days when Johnny Cool sits next to you in class and dress them down on days when comfort is key.

Back-To-School Shopping Tips for the 2015-2016 School Year

back to school shopping

We know, we know.  Summer just started!  But it’s already time to get ready for next school year.  Back-to-school sales are here, and it’s a great time to hit the stores.  Here are some of our top tips to save on your K-12 student for the 2015-2016 school year.

Evaluate What You Already Have

Compile the list that your child’s school sent you of necessary supplies with the list you undoubtedly have going in the back of your mind. Include everything from clothes to shoes to backpacks to colored pencils.  Then take inventory.  You may be surprised to find that you already have many of the items that you need.  Does your child really need an entire new wardrobe for Fall 2015?  Probably not.  When you go through their closet, take note of which items they’re short on, and buy them a few key pieces instead of loading up on everything, including what they already have.

Consider Growth Spurts

At different ages, kids grow at different rates.  If your child is due for a couple of inches, you may want to buy lower quality for a lower price.  The pieces won’t have to last as long, so there’s not a huge advantage to spending more money on them.  A great place to start looking in these instances is Walmart.  They have basic school uniform pieces starting as low as $4.47.

If you have a child who is probably going to stay the same height, like many late-teenagers, buying higher quality to last the entire year makes more sense.  Because they won’t be outgrowing their clothes, you won’t have to buy them as often, which means you should be concerned about how long they will last.  If your school enforces a uniform policy, Macy’s has deals on pieces starting at $13.99.

Rebate Away

Big box office supply stores, like Staples, are known for their rebates.  When you couple them with sales, you can get items like crayons, notebooks, and colored pencils for free.  Sometimes you can even make money off of the purchase.  These rebates run year round, so watch them closely for the next months as you’re getting ready for school, but continue to watch them over the next year.  Stock up when you find a great, free deal so you’ll be prepared for 2016-2017, cutting down on the time and money you spend shopping next summer.

Purchase Smart

There are certain brands worth spending a little more on.  Get to know them.  For example, Jansport backpacks are a great buy.  Not only are they made well, they also come in trendy designs your kid will actually like.  On top of all that, they stand behind their product so firmly that if it ever becomes nonfunctional for any reason, they will repair or replace it.  That means if it tears, the zipper rusts out, or the bottom rips under the stress of five textbooks, you get a new one.  For free.  Buy a Jansport once, and never have to spend money on another backpack again.

How To Save Money in College

It’s an American tradition that college students are broke. But don’t fret. There are ways to make the most of your college experience by being savvy and frugal.

1. Begin looking for a job now. There are tons of part time jobs on campus and you won’t have to worry about them scheduling around your classes–they understand. Look in the campus paper classifieds or call your advisor to see if she or he has any suggestions. It may not be glamorous, but a few hours a week puts a little change in your pocket.

2. Look for an RA position if you’re at least a sophomore. Most RAs get seriously reduced boarding cost, if not free. If you get an interview, do your research because these are coveted positions.

3. Rent your text books cheaply. There are lots of ways to do this. Campus Book Rentals, Kobo, or Chegg are great places to start. Buying previous editions is also cheaper and typically, there are only minor changes in order to keep people buying the book. Just do this at your own risk and discretion. And the best part? We have coupon codes for even CHEAPER books!

4. Prep some of your own meals. Most students living on campus are required to buy a meal plan. But you do have options. Purchase a smaller meal plan and bulk buy healthy food from Costco, BJs, or even Wal-Mart. Taking yourself shopping every few weeks for cost effective meals can save you bundles.

5. Take advantage of campus amenities. Likely, your school has lots of free entertainment. Instead of going to the movies, see what rentals are available at the library, or see if a club is holding some kind of activity (and hey, join the club). Join the gym on campus, attend games, and other fun things happening on campus. Don’t be too cool for school.

6. Rent stuff, don’t buy it. First of all, you can split the rent on the minifridge with your roommate. Second, you don’t have to get rid of it or move it when its time to move.

7. Volunteer. We know, this doesn’t sound like a way to make money, but reconsider that trip to Cancun. Instead, you can travel nearly for free to a high need area and help out. You’ll be happier with yourself and won’t be nursing a week long hang over. Doing good things does wonders for your self worth.

8. Don’t use a credit card. Just don’t. EVER. And NEVER, EVER sign up for credit cards on campus. Even if they are offering a free t-shirt. Repeat: NEVER.

9. Carpool. Gas is expensive. No matter how lazy you’re feeling, driving the .5 miles to class daily is only going to cost you in the end. Plus, it’s a free way to exercise. If you’re not up to it, just suck it up and take the bus.