The Cutting Edge: Back to School

Tips to help cut back on school spending

As students prepare to pack their suitcases to return to school, they are also thinking about the associated costs, — including books, furniture, and transportation—of the return. The National Retail Federation estimates retail spending on back-to-college purchases will be down 7% this year compared with last year. NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin said in a press release, “college students are learning a hard lesson. When economic times are tough, fun purchases take a back seat.” As you head back to school here a few additional resources to help you be frugal:

It’s free: If you’re looking to decorate your dorm room or apartment, check out Craigslist, (www.craigslist.com). It’s free section lists items people in your local area are giving away. Another resource is Freecycle, (www.freecycle.org) an environmental Web community that recycles furniture, clothing, bikes, or appliances instead of throwing them away. If you can’t get it for free, take a look at the back-to-school sales at your local big box stores.

Planes, trains, and buses: Getting to and from school to go home for the holidays, special occasions, and the end of the term break can be an expensive enterprise, but there are many available options that won’t take a large bite out of your bank account. Megabus (www.megabus.com) offers competitive rates to Greyhound, but has limited routes. The earlier you book your seat the cheaper the ride will be, says Coach USA/Megabus President Dale Moser. Prices range from $1 to $45. Amtrak, Greyhound, and CheapTickets have joined Student Advantage (www.studentadvantage.com), a nationwide discount club offering students savings on travel purchases. With a Student Advantage card, which costs $20, users can save up to 15% off travel fares nationwide as well as discounts on food, clothes and books.

Slightly used: The National Association of College Stores recommends buying used books because you can save up to 25% off the cover price. Shopping online at places such as www.collegeswap.com, where college students post books that they are no longer using for a fraction of the price, could also help to save money in the long run. The NRF also advises students to shop around online and compare prices to find the best deal before you make a purchase.

Packing It Up: PODS and U-Store-It facilities and devices offer great options when it’s time to prepare to pack it up and store your things. Prices vary from state to state, so call around. However, a U-Store-It spokesperson says that facilities near college campuses offer bigger deals. U-HAUL offers student discounts through their college connection program, which allows students to find deals or a rideshare partner. This can be a great option for students who want to move for a bargain and with little hassle, so visit www.uhaul.com, to find the biggest bang for your buck.

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