Between tuition, room and board, books and extracurricular activities, college can be an expensive proposition. But there are steps every student can take to help cut costs and still have fun without breaking the bank.
Experts suggest staying away from the campus bookstore--where books tend to be the priciest--and instead rent or buy their books from an outside vendor.
If you have no choice but to go to the bookstore, Scott Gamm, founder of HelpSaveMyDollars, says students should know their rights if books are packaged with extraneous items, such as CD ROMs or answer manuals.
“There was a law that went into effect last summer that basically said that textbook publishers can’t bundle the books anymore—they have to sell each part of the package separately,” he says. “You can end up saving money by only buying what you need.”
Finding out the campus bookstore will only give you $10 for your $200 microbiology book is a bummer.
“Sell textbooks at the end of quarter or semester online instead of selling them back to the bookstore,” says Princess Clark-Wendel, author of A Pocketbook for Hope in Tough Economic Times. “If you sell them back online, you’ll get more money from the vendors than you would from the bookstore.”
A valid student ID is a valuable perk to student life. There are many places that offer students a discount including movie theaters, amusement parks and restaurants.
“Any time you’re making a purchase, always see if there’s some sort of student discount, because you never know,” says Gamm. “They may not post it clearly outside the store, but it’s always worth asking.”
Get an ISIC Card
When studying or traveling abroad, your domestic college student ID might not have much use, but you can get an international student identity card (ISIC), which you can use at Amtrack and bus stations in addition to other places to get student rates and deals.
“You’d be amazed at the tons of student discounts you can get, from getting into places for discounts or for free at museums, discounts at different restaurants, and other items,” says Christian Gordun, CEO of Coupon Craze. “It’s a great way to save a lot of money.”
Many big-name electronic corporations extend discounts on their products to students, all you have to do is ask. Gamm, who is currently a student at NYU, says he saved almost $500 when he purchased an Apple laptop last summer.
“I showed my letter of acceptance and not only did I get $100 off the computer, they threw in a free iPod touch and a free printer, which is $100 value,” he says. “If you have your heart set on getting an Apple laptop, don’t be thrown off by the high price because you most likely will be able to get a student discount.”
While accessing, buying and downloading music should always be done legally, you don’t want to spend all of your money on iTunes when there are free music-listening services such as Pandora and LastFM. You may have to listen to a few ads in between songs, a small price to pay for hours of free music.
Students can save a lot of money by refraining from going out to eat and maximizing their meal plans that are already built into their tuition.
Some schools let students “cash in” unused meal plans/points at school cafeterias or stores for food items—a good way to stock up without spending money.
If you need to go to the grocery store, make a list in advance and stick to it.
Travel companies know how to appeal to students without a lot of money, and companies like StudentUniverse.com, offer discounted plane tickets just for being a student.
“They may want to see a transcript as well as check with your school via e-mail,” says Clark-Wendel. “You can get discounts up to 40% off when you travel.”
Students should also check out travel sites such as Expedia.com and Orbitz.com to see what kind of deals are available to them. “Many of them offer really wonderful and aggressive coupon code package deals to get some great savings, typically $50 or more,” says Gordun. “If you really think about it as a college student, an extra $50 can go a long way.”
Here are 8 ways college students can save money.