Whether you’re reading this as a parent of school-age children, or as a college student trying to navigate a more independent lifestyle, back-to-school time usually equates to an uptick in spending. By learning some key economic lessons, however, you can manage your expenses wisely. Let’s start class with some helpful hints:
BE A SAVVY SPENDER
Establish a budget. It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping for back-to-school clothes at the Garden State Plaza or for school supplies at the Staples around the corner in Hackensack, if you don’t have a budget or list prepared, you’re likely to spend more money. Before you even think about shelling out a dime, research prices online or in local stores and build from there. If you have kids, use the budget as an opportunity to discuss priorities with them. If they want an expensive backpack or a pair of Jordans, they can help decide where money can be saved in other areas to afford those items.
Reduce textbook expenses. With the sometimes shocking cost of textbooks these days, it’s important to know that campus bookstores are not your only resource. Today, you have multiple ways to acquire course materials, including renting books, downloading digital versions or buying used books online. Search engines that compare the cost of buying or renting a specific textbook across multiple websites can be tremendously helpful. BigWords.com, for example, collects prices for used and new books, as well as rentals and e-books, taking into account shipping costs, coupons and promotions, to boot! Better yet, if you know someone who’s taken a class you’re enrolled in and the textbook requirements haven’t changed, ask if you can borrow or buy their book (maybe they’ll even give it to you)!
Shop used. You can find much more than just discounted textbooks, and it’s more convenient than ever before. Clothes and other school needs, such as dorm room furniture and décor, can be found at second-hand shops, yard sales, and on websites such as eBay and Craigslist.
CASH IN ON SAVINGS
Clip (or copy and paste) coupons. Just as you would scan your local circular for coupons and deals before going food shopping, it’s a good idea to check for coupon codes or promotions while shopping for school supplies, both online and in-store. Coupons.com and RetailMeNot are popular resources that aggregate free shipping, discounts, gifts and other promotions from stores everywhere.
Savor student savings. One of the perks of being a student is that savings are often targeted specifically to you! Here’s a great example: through September 18, Apple is offering education discounts on laptops, desktop computers and tablets. As a bonus, qualified purchases can choose to receive a $200 credit for either a pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones or Beats Solo2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones!
Reap the benefits of rewards programs. Retailers, banks, and credit card companies may offer rewards programs that can come in handy around this time. UChoose Rewards, for example, is a debit card reward program where you choose where to shop, then watch your points add up and decide what to get with all the points you earn. If you are an NVE customer, you can register your NVE Bank Debit Mastercard® for UChoose Rewards® and start earning points to use at some of your favorite retailers today!
Keep an eye out for sales. August is the peak back to school time, followed by January. You can often find great deals shortly afterward, when stores are liquidating their back-to-school aisles and reducing their stock. After the second week of September, you can find unsold overstocked school supplies for up to 90% off.
TAKE CARE WITH CREDIT CARDS
Credit card companies view the average college student as a very attractive customer, as many tend to focus on the short term rather than their cumulative financial future. On one hand, credit cards provide security in case of emergencies and allow students to build a credit history, an essential for qualifying for loans, auto insurance, rental applications and more.
On the other hand, credit cards can be very tempting to make impulse purchases. This can often lead to debt and bad credit scores that can follow you long after college ends.
A good first step is becoming an authorized user on a parent’s existing account. If you’re a parent, it allows you to monitor spending; for you students, it’s a smart way to build good credit.
Because you’ve been an excellent student simply by researching this topic, here are a few more tips for saving this back-to-school season.
Get social. Some retailers offer special deals and sales to their Facebook, Twitter and other social media followers that are not otherwise publicized. Follow the official pages of your favorite stores to stay in the loop.
Find discounted gift cards. You can buy unused gift cards at discounted rates on websites such as giftcardgranny.com and use the cards to make purchases at the associated store. This might be the closest thing to “free money” you’ll find!
Buy basics in bulk. Pay attention to any great deals on basic supplies — notebooks, paper, pens, etc. — during off-seasons and clearance events and buy in bulk. This way, you’re all stocked up for this school year, and maybe even next year, too.
For information on NVE Bank’s UChoose Rewards Program or other NVE products and services that can help you to save and grow your finances, go to www.nvebank.com. You can also visit one of our NVE Bank neighborhood branches, conveniently located throughout Bergen County, and speak with one of our Branch Associates, or call us at 1-866-NVE BANK (683-2265).