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Back to School Main 5 Money-Saving Tips for College Students

5 Money-Saving Tips for College Students

A college education is one of the largest investments many of us ever make. When it comes to tuition, student accommodations and other necessities, the higher ed price tag can be astronomical. Here are five tips to help college students reduce costs and prove that saving money in college really is possible.

Harness the Power of the Student ID

Your student ID won’t just get you into the dorm — it can also help you cut costs on medical care, cable and Internet service, public transportation and even less essential purchases like concert tickets. Plus, many retailers and computer hardware and software makers offer discounts and rebates to students. Look for ID-related deals during back to school sales and throughout the year for incremental savings every month.

Be Book Smart

To spend less time stressing about the cost of your textbooks and more time learning from them, consider renting your books instead of buying. “This may be difficult for freshmen who don’t have their schedules set ahead of time, but it’s perfect for people who can order in advance,” says University of Denver student Shannon Reimers. Staples’ textbook rental service, for example, can save you up to a whopping 90 percent on textbook costs, which means more money for pizza and laundry. For hard-to-find volumes, most universities have online forums where students sell or lend textbooks.

Don’t Buy More Than You Need

“My biggest challenge when it comes to not spending too much money on school supplies is deciphering whether or not I truly need the supplies,” says David Merten, a BFA acting major at Ball State University. “If I had a dollar for every notebook or set of felt-tip markers I bought and never used for a college course, I would have a much happier bank account. Take the time to sit down and figure out, based on each class you’re taking, what exactly you will need to succeed in the course. Try to find students who’ve taken that course in the past and get their advice on what you will and will not need. If you cut out the unnecessary and only purchase the essentials and supplies that will help you be a better student, then you will have an easier time in the classroom and at the bank.”

Compare Prices

Major retailers offer back-to-school deals in the weeks before classes start. Do your homework, and research specials and other discounts. Don’t be afraid to shop around for the best prices and use a price-match guarantee to save additional money. For instance, Staples’ price match program offers a 110-percent match during the back-to-school season. This is especially helpful when purchasing high-priced items like laptops for school.

Use Apps to Your Advantage

Want to save money in college? There’s an app for that — multiple apps, in fact. Download your favorite businesses’ mobile app to snag great deals on back-to-school supplies, meals at restaurants, haircuts or recreational activities. Use apps like BillMinder, which sends notifications of upcoming bills and payments and totals up monthly costs to help you keep tabs on your bank balance. Reimers swears by Venmo, an app that allows friends to easily transfer money to each other digitally. “It’s great to use whether it’s rent money or reimbursement for a beer and pizza, or spotting someone for anything, any time,” she says. It would be a great app to let your parents know about, too.

What it comes down to is this, Merten says: “The art of spending and saving money in college is asking yourself three questions: Do you need it? Will it benefit you or teach you something — and yes, I do believe pizza can teach you something at times — and will you miss out on something truly important to you if you don't spend the money? If you can answer those questions carefully and truthfully, you won’t regret those purchases later on.”

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