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College back-to-school savings tips

As a college student, expenses can seem to be at every turn. With rising tuition fees and myriad other charges, it can be hard to know how to maximize your financial resources.

How can you save money during the college years? Start off with some savvy shopping. Follow these handy tips and hacks to save money during the back-to-school rush.

How to save money when going back-to-school shopping

Take inventory of what you have

Sort through supplies leftover from last year. You would be surprised how much money you can save by using what you already have on hand.

Reclaim old pens, binders, unused notebooks, and all sorts of other goodies. Sure, that highlighter may not be completely full, but it still has some life to it. That notebook is still half-full, don’t dismiss it. And, let’s be honest, while it was nice to get a new backpack when it was on your parent’s dime, your current backpack will be fine to haul those books around.

Start saving by shopping in the attic

Cobwebs and your older sister’s storage bins don’t sound like they make the most appealing atmosphere when it comes to shopping. But you’ll be surprised what’s hiding right at home! This is an especially great college saving strategy for big-ticket items like furniture for your dorm room or off-campus apartment.

Maybe your parents have a nice sofa they’re planning to part with. Grab it! Do you have any older (or even younger) siblings? Ask them if there’s anything on your shopping list that they have and would be willing to donate to your cause!

Shop to save, not to splurge

When your budget’s on the line, it’s important to make sure what you’re buying is what you’re going to be using. Have you ever walked into a department store and saw the cutest (but rather expensive) must-have bedding set, complete with pillows and a rug that really ties the room together?

Before you buy, consider this: Do you really need the fancy extras? If those pillows are just going to gather dust, think about buying a smaller set that includes just the essentials. That goes for computers, electronics, and just about anything you need. Don’t buy the most expensive model if a cheaper one can satisfy the same need and save you money.

Since you’re saving plenty of college cash, make all these savings work harder for you. Accounts like Numerica’s Bonus Saver can help your savings balance grow!

Mother hugging daughter while father loads hatchback car with boxes

Buy generic or store brands

Save a few bucks by skipping on fancy supplies, because really, who’s going to see that $10 tricked-out pencil sharpener? Nobody. So go ahead and opt for the plain, cheap one. Always compare your prices. While you may find some awesome deals at discount stores, their quantity may not be the same, and so you end up paying more.

Budget book buys

Another academic year brings another round of shelling out cash for college textbooks, many of which you’ll toss as soon as your classes are over (if not before).

  • There’s no rule saying you have to buy books at full price! Local used bookstores will often carry textbooks at deep discounts. Plus, you can visit online retailers or search for websites offering books on a budget.
  • A number of websites let you rent books. At the end of the semester, you return them. It not only keeps your shelves clear of clutter but can be a great cost saver!
  • If a class is going to require multiple books, figure out which ones you will need first. This not only helps to spread out the cost, but you might not get to all the readings in the class. Boom! Immediate money saved.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of word-of-mouth shopping. Find classmates who have already taken the class on your schedule. Offer to buy their books!

Talking about budget, have you created one? Our Budgeting 101 story includes free resources to help you get started.

Frugal fashion savings

Will the fashion police really arrest you if you don’t stock up on the latest styles each fall? Buying an entirely new wardrobe can set you back fast. This year, instead of buying a collection of new shirts, jeans, and the whole ensemble, get a few well-chosen accessories to complement your closet staples.

Find great deals on everything from dorm room essentials to clothes at thrift stores. Many thrift stores support great causes that give back to the community, so it’s a win-win.

Talk to your friends about a clothing swap. A piece that you’ve worn a million times may be a hidden treasure to a friend. Especially if you go to different schools, it is a great way to connect before going back to school, and you never know what “new” pieces you might add to your wardrobe.

Coordinate purchases with your roommate

Consider space and budget with this one! Do you really need two mini-fridges or two microwaves? By coordinating with your roommate, you can both save some money. If you are venturing off campus, chat with your roommates about shared room purchases. This not only helps to share costs, but it opens the conversation to bigger topics like shared utilities, food, etc.

Related stories:

● Tips and tricks to living well while spending less 
● Your budget checklist 

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