The “back-to-college” time of year is exciting, but it can also be a little tough. The summer is winding down and the new school semester is revving up. You might be just starting to dive back into a normal routine after a few months of internships, summer jobs and vacations. To top it all off, you’re now faced with the necessities required to make this semester a success…and some of them come with a hefty price tag.
We understand your anxiety. Backpacks, laptops, textbooks, supplies – it all adds up! But there are ways to be smart about your semester planning and avoid back-to-college budget busters.
Compare prices before you buy
Take the time to shop around before you buy. What you sacrifice in convenience, you’ll likely gain in savings. It can be tempting to pick up your school necessities at the local campus store; however, you might find that items in your campus store have been marked up. You could even suffer from a smaller selection than if you were to venture off campus or online.
If you do choose to shop online, you can even leverage a service like PriceBlink.com, a browser add-on that automatically scans other merchant sites for better prices as you’re viewing a particular item. This can come in particularly handy when looking for more expensive items like tablets and laptops. No matter how you choose to go about it, taking the time to find the best price for your semester necessities is likely to pay off in the long run.
Identify campus resources
You might have more money-saving options on campus than you realize. Have you considered checking your school’s library system to see if you can simply borrow various textbooks, supplies or even entertainment items? The options might surprise you. Many libraries have begun loaning out more than just books, including CDs, iPods, tablets, games, videos and more.
Libraries are a great resource but be sure to branch out to other campus services as well. Are you thinking of hiring a tutor this year? Some campus groups will volunteer their time for free. And make sure to take advantage of community print stations on campus to save money on dorm room printers, ink and paper. Many campuses allow you to use your debit card to access these printers at the fraction of the cost you would otherwise spend.
Rent, don’t buy
While there might be a few choice textbooks you really want to own, odds are there are textbooks you wouldn’t mind turning back in at the end of the semester. Many campus stores provide an option to rent used textbooks for much less than the cost of purchasing new books. You might also check various online forums in your area for options to rent or purchase used textbooks at a reduced rate.
Leave the car at home
You might have already learned that bringing your car to college can be pricey! Many campuses charge significant fees per semester to park your vehicle nearby. You can keep that cash in your wallet by planning to use local transportation rather than your own car. And you’ll likely see some padding in your monthly budget due to your savings in gas money.