How to Save Money on Freshman Year College Expenses
Getting ready to send your student off to college for the first time? Better prepare your wallet.
Back to college spending totaled $46 billion in 2017, with parents spending an average of $1,347 and students spending $1,051 on average.
If you're gearing up for the back to school shopping sales, here's how to save money on the most important things your new college freshman will need.
Skip the campus bookstore for textbooks
Textbooks can easily eat up a huge chunk of your college spending budget. The average student spends $579 on books and other course materials.
Buying textbooks on-campus is convenient but there are lots of other options that may be more budget-friendly, including:
- Shopping for textbooks through sites like Amazonor Chegg
- Checking out textbooks from the campus library
- Scouting out textbooks at used book stores
- Purchasing an older edition, which may be cheaper than buying new
- Opting for an e-book version of a textbook
- Renting textbooks instead of buying (both Amazon and Chegg offer textbook rentals)
Another key tip for saving on textbooks: wait until after classes begin to buy. That way, your student can check the course syllabus and double-check with their professor to find out which textbooks they actually need to have.
Shop tax-free sales for computers and school supplies
If your freshman needs a new laptop, printer or other essential school supplies, shopping for those things on tax-free sales weekends can help you save a few bucks. You can check this site to see if and when tax-free sales holidays are happening in your state.
If you can't take advantage of a tax-free weekend, shop around for deals on school supplies and electronics. Sales typically start to roll out in July but don't rush to buy right away. You may actually find the best deals by waiting until September, when back to school sales start giving way to early holiday sales.
Check out sites like DealNews or Slickdeals, which compile the best deals and promotions from online retailers. These sites make finding bargains and tracking down coupons for laptops and other school supplies easier.
Try cash back sites to save on dorm gear and accessories
If your student's living in the dorm or staying off-campus, they'll need some basic items to feel at home. That includes things like towels, sheets, a shower caddy, lamps and curtains. If they're living in an apartment freshman year, they'll also need furniture, pots and pans, dishes and cutlery.
Earning cash back on those purchases can translate to instant savings but what if you don't have a cash back rewards credit card? Cash back rewards sites like Ebates, Ibotta and TopCashback are the solution.
These sites let you browse cash back deals from online retailers. When you find the cash back deal you want, you just click through to the retailer's website, make your purchase and earn cash back. It's a really simple way to get a discount on dorm supplies and furniture.
Save on student travel with a travel rewards card
If your student's heading off to college across the state, or across the country, getting them back home again for holidays and school breaks could quickly add up. Using a travel rewards credit card to book airfare can help you save if you're earning miles towards free flights.
You could also rack up more miles for travel by letting them use the card to pay for every day purchases at school, like groceries, meals not covered by their student meal plan or entertainment. But, do encourage them to save on those things by asking for a student discount up front or using a coupon app like SnipSnap.
Set a budget early and have a plan
If you're footing the bill for freshman year expenses, it's important to discuss spending and set boundaries with your student as soon as possible. For example, if you're adding them to your credit card as an authorized user, spell out what things you're okay letting them charge and how much they can charge each month.
Remember also to use the right card if you're charging freshman year spending. Your Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard® is a great option if you're buying a pricey computer and you need to take a few months to pay off the balance. The low APR means you won't get gouged by interest charges. On the other hand, a travel rewards card makes more sense for covering student travel.
Finally, set a clear budget for what you plan to spend to get your student ready for freshman year. Make a list of everything you think they'll need and estimate how much each of those things will cost. Knowing what you want to spend before you start shopping can help you stick to your budget.
All content and photo provided in this blog is supplied by Rebecca Lake and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
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