Home Resources Tips to Save Money in College: Back to School Edition

Tips to Save Money in College: Back to School Edition


The fall semester has begun. I am in my final year of grad school and I can’t believe how quickly my studies have gone by. My degree is in higher education administration and I’ve been working in higher ed for many years. Over the years, I have developed a good sense of how to save money during back to school shopping trips. More importantly, how to pay nothing at all on useful tools for school!

After all, who doesn’t like a good bargain? I hope some of these tips will help you skip the average market price and more on having fun this semester.

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. This is at no extra cost to you!


 Software purchases are any college essential that you can save some serious cash on as a student. Below I have listed some free software options that can help you throughout your college years. 

Probably the most common software mistake students make is unnecessarily purchasing the Microsoft Office Suite. As a student, you can get the entire suite for free by visiting their website and entering your student email address. Please save that coin! 

Other Useful Suggestions:   

  • Zoom – Free – Group video calls.   
  • Slack – Free – Chat app for group projects   
  • nTask – Free – Assign project tasks.   
  • Microsoft Word -Free – The majority of universities have a deal where you can download the entire office suite for free with a student email address! Never pay for software when you do not have to! 


Higher ed requires that students use technology for the majority of their coursework. As a distance education student myself, having a reliable computer is essential for my success in the program. However, laptops can get expensive! Yet, there are ways you can actually save big on technology that people often overlook.

One of my biggest tips is to embrace purchasing refurbished technology. Personally, I bought my Mac Book Pro refurbished directly from Apple five years ago and it still works like new to this day. Keep in mind that often you are only buying the brand name and not necessarily a superior piece of tech when you pay full price.

Need a little extra reassurance? I would recommend purchasing the extra warranty to protect your product should it stop working. CAUTION: Always do your research and my advice is to avoid buying from unfamiliar 3rd party sellers. Read the terms of your purchase because some sellers specify that the standard Apple warranty starts from the time the seller receives the laptop from Apple. As such, I’d say just to be safe to protect your product with the extra warranty purchase to prevent any frustration. 

Need to keep costs low? A budget-friendly alternative is Chromebooks which run off Google apps. You can find Chromebooks and their variations for around $150.00-$300.00 dollars. It all depends on the brand and specifications. Just be sure to do research on Chromebooks before you purchase one to make sure it’s a good fit for your needs since they do not run on a traditional Windows or OS X system. As for myself, I have one for travel and the battery life is superb! 

Need a FREE laptop? If you meet the qualifications, there are also organizations that offer free or heavily discounted laptops to students from low-income backgrounds. Non-profits such as Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse or Computers with Causes are excellent resources to lend a helping hand. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your school if there are any assistance programs or grants you can apply for. Many universities offer assistance to students based on financial need. You never know unless you ask! 



Whether you are an undergraduate, graduate, or postdoc, you will be juggling multiple priorities throughout the year. Not only am I a grad student and blogger, but I also work full-time as a staff member at Harvard. Time management skills are the key to being successful in college.

This is why I recommend that every college student invests in a tangible planner that inspires them to utilize it. For the fall semester I picked up a 2019-2020 from TJMaxx for just $7.99. I couldn’t resist the adorable travel aesthetic with gold accents. TJmaxx/Homegoods are a great spot to check for discounted yet stylish stationery supplies.

If you want to invest a bit more money in a planner then I would recommend Day Designers. They have numerous styles and sizes to fit your taste. I always like how Day Designers have sections for not only your monthly and weekly calendar, but also areas to jot down your goals, achievements, and more fun sections.

Why not just put everything online?

While I do note important events in my Google Calendar, I personally prefer to write assignment details in length in my planner. This is important because everyone should recognize that technology is not invincible! All it takes is one system outage to wipe out an entire calendar. Better safe than sorry! 


  • Day Designer, large planner, 20.27   
  • Pink Hardcover, marble weekly and monthly planner, 14.95   
  • Budget-friendly Tip – TJ Maxx & Homegoods – Find the stationery section for some cheap steals! It’s typically by the clearance aisle.


 Your university will always have a library that you can get all kinds of resources from. However, I recommend that you take advantage of the public library in your areas as well. Often you can sign up online and receive a digital library card number. Your library card number gives you access to many free resources. 

Kanopy or Hoopla, for instance, are free streaming services that you can access with a library card. Personally, I have these channels on my Roku TV at home. You can enjoy free movies, television shows, and even courses without paying for a streaming service. 

Love ebooks or audiobooks? Download the free Libby app and simply add your library card number. This gives you access to free ebooks and audiobooks to get you through your commute to school. 

Also, why pay for textbooks if you don’t have to? ALWAYS check your school’s library, the public library, and Google Scholar to see if any of your textbooks are available through digital access online. This can save you hundreds of dollars! This semester I was lucky because both all my textbooks are available online for free. 

Do you have any tips on how to save on college essentials?

Drop a comment below! 


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