Make school easier, take educated approach to minimize costs


By Cherie Lowe

College students are just beginning their trek back to the classroom. Dorm move in day brings with it plenty of unexpected expenses. Tuition prices alone present a challenge to most families sending a student on to higher education.

Add in books, fees, technology needs and household goods and the financial demand spirals quickly out of control. If you know or love a college student launching into their next educational experience (or if you are one), you can’t miss these tips to save more money when you head back to campus.

Share the burden of costs

If you plan on rooming with another student this fall, avoid the spending trap of duplicating the purchase of household goods. Space is a premium in most dorm rooms, so there’s no need to crowd your precious square feet with two of everything. Make a plan to split up the purchase of goods between the two of you. For example, one student can purchase a small refrigerator and another a futon.

Or one can bring a coffee pot while another a microwave. Try not to split the actual cost of these items because you can’t divide them in two pieces when the school year finishes and students may head in a different direction the next year. Instead, choose items of a similar price point and then divide and conquer.

Work those social media channels

But before you head to the store to purchase big ticket appliances (or even small ones), see if anyone you know might be willing to give them to you or sell them at a lower cost. When one of my dear friend’s sons headed off for his freshman year, I posted on Facebook asking if anyone had a futon they’d like to sell. In a mere 20 minutes, I had four offers of free futons. You might be surprised how quickly your needs are met without spending a single penny.

Skip the big book fees

Textbook fees pack a punch at the beginning of a semester. However, there are a few ways to keep the total tab a bit lower. Buy used as often as you can, whether you shop online or in a college bookstore. Avoid miscellaneous purchases in the bookstore. T-shirts, notebooks, highlighters and pens can all be found more affordable at big box retailers.

You can also rent some books online from sites like and Don’t forget to go through an online cashback site such as Ebates to increase your savings, too. You may even be able to check out a text or two from your campus library, too.

Maximize discounts

Your college ID helps you score significant discounts on everything from museum admission to laptops and even food. Most of these discounts require a current college ID and/or a .edu email address. Do a quick internet search on “College student discounts” and your search will easily yield more than 100 retailers willing to give students a price break on their products.

In all of your shopping, kindly ask (or search the website) if a college discount is available. However, be careful not to make extra purchases just because you score a discount. It’s not a good deal if you don’t need the stuff.

Anyone who’s attended college or put a student through college knows that the expenses quickly add up. You’ll need every ounce of frugal creativity available to keep the extra costs low so you can focus your financial efforts. Pay attention to every penny and make the most of the new adventure of pursuing your passion and degree.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to