I have a son in college, and everything is crazy expensive! Saving money is more important than ever. Here are my 10 tips:
1. Buy used textbooks, or if possible rent/download. This will save you a ton of money, but you have to be on it - the good used textbooks go quickly! Also don't forget about places like amazon.com or half.com, I regularly get my son's textbooks there for less.
2. Once the term is over, sell them back! Unless you need the books for future reference, sell them back to the bookstore, or again to a place that deals in used textbooks. Some money is better than nothing, and that extra cash will help defray your expenses for next term.
3. Wait for penny sales, and stock up on the essentials. Paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, etc. won't go bad. When there's a good sale, I stock up. I mean, I STOCK UP! I also use that opportunity to donate to local school supply drives.
4. Invest in a quality backpack. Even the more expensive ones are reasonable when combined with rebates, and a good quality backback that lasts 2, 3 years or longer will save you money in the long run.
5. Comparison shop. This doesn't apply only to back-to-school! Know the prices before you go shopping, just because a store has it on sale doesn't mean another store doesn't have it at a lower price every day. Don't get sucked into the madness!
6. Check out deal sites online - they regularly will post the sales flyers several days before they come out in the Sunday paper, so you can plan your shopping trips accordingly.
7. For dorm rooms, check out yard sales, craigslist, eBay (local), etc. We picked up a great loft bedfor my son's dorm room from someone who was graduating, and didn't need it anymore. I saved several hundred dollars. I picked up some storage shelves and a rug at a yard sale.
8. Take advantage of any rewards/rebates programs available. This is a no-brainer and another one that's not limited to back-to-school. Just make sure you send off for the rebate immediately and keep copies in case something goes wrong.
9. Try to get other parents to participate in clothing swaps - especially important if your school has uniforms. Some PTA groups are starting to coordinate these and I think that's great.
10. Set a budget, and stick to it. You don't have to get it all on day 1. I shop for school supplies whenever there's a great sale, so I never worry when it's back-to-school time, because I know I have the basics covered.
I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Staples blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”