5 Tips for Saving Money in College

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Tuition is a heavy financial burden, but when you also add on the miscellaneous expenses that come with college life it adds up quickly. For most students, college represents their first time away from home, which adds to the stress of managing their own budget. Students are offered all sorts of discounts from merchants and the key is to take advantage of those savings while also saving money elsewhere.

Here are five ways students can save money while in college:

#1 Buy Generic

A cool new study from economists at Tilburg University and the University of Chicago, for example, revealed that people who buy generic brands of products actually score higher on IQ tests. That indicates that students who are smart enough to get into college are prime candidates for saving money by buying off-brands instead of paying premium prices for better known ones.

As reported by CNN, “Nine times out of ten, pharmacists and doctors will buy the generic version of aspirin rather than a brand-name like Bayer. Likewise, professional chefs prefer store-brand sugar, salt and baking powder instead of brand name ingredients.”

CNN gave the example of a package of Bayer Aspirin that costs $6.29 on CVS.com. The generic CVS version also for sale on the same site costs only $2.27. Those who buy the CVS version on sale can get it for just $1.14 -a savings of 550%!

The savings on consumer products across the board can be dramatic despite the fact that the products or their key ingredients are virtually identical. Shop generic and you will save lots of cash while also showing that you, too, have a higher IQ when it comes to savvy financial sense.

#2 Cut Down on Text Book Expenses

The reason that text books are so extraordinarily expensive is because most of them are printed in rather small quantities. They are sold only to colleges and universities and, among those buyers, may only appeal to certain campus bookstores where professors specifically request them. Publishing companies also know students have few options and are almost locked-in, because they must buy their book or risk flunking the class.

That makes the market for used text books a great resource for students – whether you are shopping for bargain prices on books or want to resell your own books for fast cash. Most campuses operate their own book exchanges where you can find books in great condition at a fraction of the price. You can also find ads on campus buildings or dormitory bulletin boards. Some websites you can buy or sell textbooks include:

Other Sources:

  • Gutenberg.org –This is a website that offers more than 45,000 free eBooks. The majority of books include subjects of literature and history.
  • OpenStaxCollege.com –This company is considered one of the largest open-source textbook website with the majority of their books covering math and science. Their personal goal is to save students $750 million in text book fees over the next five years.
  • BigWords.com –A search engine for texbooks similar to how Expedia works. They will also search for coupons to apply towards your purchases.
  • CampusBooks.com – Another search engine for buying, selling, or renting texbooks (similar to how Expedia works)

Another fantastic way to save big on textbooks is to use digital e-book versions instead of hard copies that weigh down your backpack and lighten your wallet. Many educational institutions are converting to this more environmentally-friendly and less costly format. Check with your college and/or professors to see if there are e-books or open-source textbook options available. Open-source textbooks can be printed and bound for about $40.

#3 Take Advantage of Free High-Tech Financial Tools

There are tons of great tools, apps, and programs that can be really helpful in managing your budget and saving money, and many of them don’t cost a penny! Just be sure to download security updates on a regular basis when using online accounts and banking apps.

  • Websites like Mint.com, for example, can help you create and manage your budget like a pro, while also including expert information about how to be a wise saver and investor.
  • Most major banks have free apps that you can download to enable you to keep track of your accounts or pay bills from a smart phone or other Wi-Fi device.
  • Check out online banking options because they often offer lower rates and fees than traditional brick and mortar banks. There are even some banks that reward students for doing things like paying their bills on time, so be sure to shop around and find a bank that matches your goals while helping to save you money.
  • You can also set your account preferences to take advantage of text and email alerts when your payment is due or when you are hitting your spending limit.

#4 Choose the Right Kind of Plastic

A line of credit can be great when you’re temporarily strapped for cash or want to earn rewards for your purchases. Performing a credit card comparison will help you choose the best credit card is important so you don’t get stuck paying too much interest or really high fees.

  • Use our handy credit card comparison tools to review and find a card especially designed around the needs and lifestyle of a student.
  • Consider a student credit card because those are specifically designed with the young adult in mind.
  • Open a credit card that’s linked to a 529 college fund so your rewards can go towards your tuition.

#5 Always Mention You’re a Student

Just about every single merchant, service, or product out there offers a discount for students. Some exceptions you may run into include high-end merchants and services such as Coach, but as a student with student loans, you certainly shouldn’t be purchasing expensive items like that anyways. Mention to the merchant that you’re a student every single time you are about to purchase something to make sure you receive the highest discount you can. Some require you to have a copy of your student ID card on hand, so make sure you always have that with you.

*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.

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