You’re on your own now (sort of) and every dollar counts, so Offers.com made a tell-all guide on all the best ways to save, whether you’re heading off to college for the first time, or coming back for your final semester. Check out these 12 little-known money-saving tips below, and watch your savings grow.
1. Take an Inventory of What You Have
The first thing on your path to saving the most when heading to college is to take a thorough inventory of items you already have. Check your house for clothes, school supplies, electronics, and home products to gauge what you own. This will give you a clear view in your mind of the items you need and help you prioritize the bigger ticket items with the smaller purchases you need to make.
2. Never Pay Full Price for Textbooks
Most people know about the increasingly ridiculous prices of textbooks, yet they are absolutely necessary to succeed in your coursework. Dodge the overpriced textbooks from your local university bookstore, and use sites like Chegg to get up to 90% off the original price of your textbooks. And if your textbook order is over $50, they throw in FREE shipping. Money saved + convenience? Sounds good to us.
Plus, Chegg offers 30 minutes of free online tutoring through their trial package, so take advantage and get ahead of your studies while you can!
3. Get FREE FOOD (at places better than your dining hall)
Many students would be surprised to learn how many different fast food stops and restaurants offer FREE food if you know how to look for the deals. Offers.com has a comprehensive category section for the best fast food & restaurant deals. We also have a guide of all 100+ places you can get a free meal or perk on your birthday, so celebrate by cashing in on your special day!
Also, to maximize even more savings, check out Offers list of 100+ of the best student discounts and deals, covering everything from pizza to personal insurance.
You can also download apps like Hooked, a free mobile app for college students to discover exclusive, short-term offers from restaurants around campus – often offering freebies and great deals for food.
4. Stream Music for Half the Cost
Being a student has a lot of perks, including deals on many music streaming services. Spotify offers a deal for 50% off their Premium service for students – making it just $4.99 a month – with a valid university email address. Additionally, Apple Music also offers college students a discounted membership to its unlimited music streaming service for $4.99, a 50% cut from its regular monthly rate of $9.99. TIDAL, the newer streaming service with exclusive content & high-definition music, offers a half off discount for students too.
5. Always, Always Look for Local Student Discounts
Most cities and towns with colleges in them have a variety of merchants offering student discounts on items and services. You can find discounts for movie tickets, beauty and salon services, car services and much more. Just do a quick Google search on “college discounts in ____”, and you are sure to find at least one thing you can save on! You can also find great savings on experience, entertainment and restaurant deals through Groupon.
Offers.com has a list of 125 of the best student discounts, organized by category and savings rate. You can find deep discounts on food, entertainment, housing services and more.
6. Take Advantage of Online Coupons
Most people don’t know that there are hundreds of thousands of coupons online for almost every store and item under the sun. An important factor in saving money when going to college is checking online databases like Offers.com to see if there are any deals on the item you need (there most likely will be). There are online coupons for every category imaginable – like tech, clothing, dorm essentials, and more – so be sure to be thorough before making your purchase.
7. Shopping for New Clothes? Check Overstock Stores
If you want to buy brand name clothes for when you head to college, always make sure to check out overstock stores, such as TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross. These stores have amazing prices on quality clothing, shoes, and accessories, oftentimes with deals as high as 90% off. (!!)
And if you’re a real fashionista, you need to stop through Nordstrom Rack or Last Call by Neiman Marcus to get the best savings on high-fashion items ranging anywhere from 20-75% off original market price! Shop the best Nordstrom Rack & Last Call by Neiman Marcus deals here.
8. Know Your Meal Plan Options Before You Commit
Meal plans can be a great way to save on food expenses, but every college and university differs, so it’s important to check your options to get a comprehensive understanding of what you are paying for. Use tools like the MyFico meal plan calculator to find out if your meal plan is worth buying or if it’s just costing you more money.
Many schools require freshmen living on campus to sign up for a meal plan but offer varying plans and budget-friendly options. However, some students say that they save more money by making their own meals so make sure you choose wisely when selecting the plan for you. Most meal plans can even be covered by financial aid.
9. Get Quick Cash in a Pinch
Every college student has had moments where money is tight, and you feel like you’re stuck with no funds. There are several ways to get cash to hold you over for a weekend when money is low. Start by selling your old clothes for cash at places like Plato’s Closet & Nordstrom Rack.
If you have any old textbooks or novels that you no longer need, sell them at a discount bookstore. Most college campuses will have multiple book buyer merchants nearby, and you can always sell them at places like Half Price Books or Barnes and Noble. You can also use sites like Book Scouter to enter a textbook’s ISBN # and automatically see how much 50+ online merchants will pay for your used textbook. Amazon also has a book buyback program, advertising that they pay up to 80% of the value of the used book.
You can also sell items like used cell phones, movies, and video games, so get creative and check that old pile of boxes in your closet to get some quick and easy cash!
10. Set up automatic withdrawals
For discipline, set up an automatic monthly deduction from your checking account and increase the amount you are contributing each year. Better yet, some employers offer the ability to contribute to a 529 savings plan through payroll deduction, so if you have a college job you can automatically start saving without thinking about it. The concept of “out of sight, out of mind” will serve you well when in a pinch for money, and will help you achieve a sizable savings account by the time you graduate. If you don’t plan on having a job through college, set aside a portion of the money from your student aid or parents each month, and you will be glad you did!
11. Apply for a student credit card
Student credit cards are a great way to start building your credit and gain rewards like travel points or cashback payments. Keep in mind, this is only a good idea if you are a responsible spender and never spend more on your credit card than you can actually pay back. A lot of students rack up debt they can’t pay back, so be very cautious when thinking about applying. But if you’re a responsible spender, student credit cards are an awesome money-saver. There are lots of options for student cards, and you can choose based on the different perks and restrictions. Some cards offer cash back on grocery purchases, gas and other daily necessities, and you can often score rewards for air travel and responsible spending. To find out the best card for your lifestyle, check out this handy blog on of a variety of student credit cards here.
12. Know the Right Times to Shop
You may be in a time crunch preparing for college, and luckily, many stores begin to offer sales in August for the back-to-school rush. But a lot of the real quality savings begin around October, when the back-to-school chaos has wound down. If you can, wait until October to buy your new wardrobe, and you will see tons of quality sales – oftentimes up to 50% off the market price in season.
You can find all the right times to shop your big-ticket items and everyday essentials on Offers here: What to Buy Every Month of 2017.
This article was contributed by guest author Carson Yarbrough.