Starting college can be an extremely stressful time. Moving away from home, taking on more responsibility, homework, research, roommates. The last thing you want to worry about is how you're going to afford everything you need for your classes or new dorm/apartment.
As many of you know, Brad started this website while he was in college after seeing the ridiculous bookstore prices on the materials he needed for class. He realized there was a whole shopping world online where everything could always be found at a better price.
Whether you're working your way through school or are the parent of a child about to start Freshman year, shopping online for all your back-to-college necessities can be a huge money saving strategy.
Save Money on Textbooks
Each college student spent around $1159 on textbooks and supplies in 2010-2011 year. The costs of buying textbooks is arguably the most aggravating part about college costs, as you usually end up wanting to return the book, but get nowhere near what you paid for it back in return. Textbook renting is becoming more popular and can end up saving you hundreds. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are two of the most well known companies to offer this.
Amazon boasts up to 80% off textbook rentals and offers the convenience of downloading them to your Kindle (apps are also available for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android device, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry to make it more convenient for those who do not own a Kindle). You can choose the length of the rental, between 3 and 360 days, so you only pay for the time you use it. Make notes, highlight and use it just as you would a regular textbook, but at a fraction of the price and without the hassle of selling it afterwards.
Barnes & Noble allows you to rent books in 60, 90 and 130 day intervals and do have the option to extend your rentals from 15 to 125 days longer depending on your needs. These books are actually shipped to your house. This is preferred by some students as they like to have physical copies of books, however it does come with more rules. Highlighting and notes must be kept at a minimum; they will charge you the full price of the book if it is deemed unusable for another student.
An example of savings: Intermediate Accounting sells for $183.38 as a hardcover on Amazon, but you can rent it at Barnes & Noble for 60 days for $27.50, an 85% savings! Prefer an e-book? You can rent this same book for 1-month from Amazon for $47.86, a $74 savings off the hardcover price.
Not ready to take the renting plunge? Be sure to purchase used books and buy them online. Sites like Amazon.com or Half.com are excellent resources to get your books at a percentage of the cost of the bookstore. By all means, never buy your books from your school bookstore. You're paying the retail price, which is always a huge no-no.
Saving Money on Food
We've always been huge supporters of buying everything online. Just as we would never tell you to go buy books from the bookstore, we also cannot support buying meals from the cafeteria and other school stores. Again, Amazon Grocery is a great resource for stocking up on all your shopping list items. Plus, they offer a Subscribe and Save option, which gets you 15% off your order, you can cancel this recurring order whenever is convenient for you. Some of their sales also stack with the subscription discount, like this 12 Pack of Vita Coco coconut water, which is delivered to your door for $17 after all discounts.
Since Amazon rarely offers coupons, and instead has most of the lowest base prices we've seen for most things, you can join Amazon Prime to make these deals a little better. With a .edu e-mail address, you can get 1-year of Amazon Prime, normally $79, for free. Plus, 1/2 off your renewal fees after the first year. With a Prime account, you get free 2 day shipping with no minimum and $3.99 1-day shipping.
*Note: I've had a Prime account for over a year now and I can't even explain to you how much I use it. If I need a book quickly, I can have it the next day without having to pay a $20 rush fee.
Discover Student Discounts and Perks
Students are huge shoppers. Most will even shop without discounts and not give it a second thought. For some, it is their first time worrying about their own finances and having an income they can call their own. We cannot stress enough that you should avoid doing this. Always, always look for discounts. The more you refuse to pay full price, the more retailers will try to get you to buy their goods at a discounted price.
We've found 39 Stores and Retailers that offer student discounts. You can also get a discount on your cell phone service fees (and some accessory costs) with an e-mail address from select universities. Apple has an Education Store that offers students discounted prices. And the list goes on.
A great way to find other supplies you may need, think printer paper and toner, for less is to look at office supply stores. Restockit.com is a great resource for back to school needs with the lowest prices on many items. Also visit our Back To School Guide to see all the deals our team has already found and tested for you.
We always stress trying to buy everything online and utilizing online coupons to enhance back to school sales.
Don't fall into the trap of spending all of your income because you no longer live at home! The bills will catch up to you and you'll soon have to live on ramen. Save money on everything you can by never settling for retail price, and you'll be living the good life once senior year rolls around.