Personal Finance

10 Tips – Back to School Savings For College Students

It’s back to school time and most university and college students are probably looking forward to a long winter of tough studies, late night Ramen noodles and figuring out how to cut costs in order to get by on not very much money.

Here are some suggestions from a current student who has done some research in the field and came up with the following tips.

1) Laptop

Are you looking a new laptop? There are a lot of sales going, but you can save by asking for another $50 to $100 off. If you are interested in Macs, be sure to get the free iPod Touch through Apple’s back to school promotion. By the way, do not get the extended warranty plans. Most credit cards give you a free year of extended warranty.

Potential Savings: $50 to $200 for laptop purchase, $80 to $100 for using credit card extended warranty.

2) Beer

Molson non-alcoholic beer costs about $5.99 a dozen. Regular beer costs $24 a dozen. By going non-alcoholic, there is about a 75% savings. There is less calories as well. A suitable solution for many people

Potential Savings: $1.50 for every can of beer.

Potential Annual Savings based on 60 cans of beer: $80.

3) Cell Phone

Retention, retention, retention. Do you have a retention plan? If not, call in to get one. Why pay $50 a month when you can pay $30? Since you get more with a retention plan, there are fewer worries about overage as well. If you do not need to talk a lot, check out 7-Eleven SpeakOut Wireless.

Potential Monthly Savings: $15 to $40.

Potential Annual Savings: $180 to $480.

4) Internet and TV

Big players are giving great promotions to new student customers for internet services and TV services. Be sure to call in and ask to be put on the promotions if you are already a long time customer. TV isn’t always necessary nowadays. You do save quite a bit by not getting the TV channels

Potential Monthly Savings: $10 to $50.

Potential Annual Savings: $120 to $600.

5) Home Phone

If you have a cell phone with a retention plan, it is most likely that you do not need a home phone. Skype can be a good option if you need to call a lot. If you really need a phone, make sure you bundle and call in for the best plan.

Potential Monthly Savings: $10 to $30.

Potential Annual Savings: $120 to $360.

6) Credit Card

Some student credit cards do not have rewards. You should definitely have a credit card with cash back or a good reward program. Looking for the best cash back credit card with no annual fees? Check here for information on best canadian rewards credit cards.

Potential Monthly Cashback: $5 to $10 based on $250 to $500 spending a month.

Potential Annual Cashback: $60 to $120 based on $250 to $500 spending a month.

7) School Supplies

There are some crazy back to school sales right now. 18 cents for a 80 page notebook!!! A fraction of the regular price!!! Stock up. Stock up.

Potential Savings: $1 per notebook and lined paper, Various for other items.

Potential Annual Savings: $20 to $100.

8) Textbooks

Brand new textbooks from the bookstore are very, very expensive. Many courses do not need textbooks to prepare for exams and many textbooks are available in the library. My rule of thumb is that if I need to use a textbook for more than one course, I will get the textbook. Getting the textbooks for courses that are harder and more important is a good idea too. There are so called “international versions” of textbooks that are bought and shipped from outside of North America. These usually cost $30 to $40 each, a far cry from regular textbook price of $90 to $150 each. Buying international versions from Ebay or other resellers would work.

Potential Savings per Textbook: $60 to $120.

Potential Annual Savings based on 10 courses: $600 to $1200.

9) Personal Hygiene Items

There are a lot of personal hygiene back to school packages at various supermarkets and drug marts. I buy a few and stock up on them for the whole year. Some of the best deals out there.

Potential Savings: $10 to $30 per package.

10) Travel Costs

My experience is that and offers the best prices for airplane tickets within Canada, but you need to try to catch the various sales. However, international flights tend to be cheaper when booked through a broker rather through the internet in Canada. I usually ask two to three brokers for the same route before making a final decision, because different brokers have access to different systems and different tickets. From past experience, I have saved around $400 per trip. By the way, do not buy various form of travel insurance due to the high mark up and basic common carrier travel accident insurance is free through many credit cards.

Potential Savings: $200 to $600 per international trip.

More information on how to travel cheap.


By trying to save here and there, it is possible to save at least a thousand dollars a year by getting some of the best deals out there and being flexible about things. Most students have a tight budget and any savings is a good idea.  For more savings ideas check out 397 Ways to Save Money book review.

Also check out get your back to school educational finances in order.

Photo Credit: monkeycat

17 replies on “10 Tips – Back to School Savings For College Students”

“Molson non-alcoholic beer costs about $5.99 a dozen. Regular beer costs $24 a dozen. By going non-alcoholic, there is about a 75% savings. ”

Have you ever heard the saying “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”?

Dillon: Non alcoholic beer tastes pretty good to me. There is .5% alcohol in the beer, which is enough for me.

Everyone seems to have problem with non alcoholic beer. There are people who are not able to tolerate high levels of alcohol. Non alcoholic beer is the perfect solution.

There are perhaps five people in Canada who drink non-alcoholic beer and it seems most of them read Four Pillars. I have seen all of one person buy, order or drink one since they’ve been introduced.

I think a better way to save money on beer is to go with a cheap beer (lucky lager). You can get a 24 of cheap bear for 26.40 including deposit of $0.10 per bottle.

One major problem with the non-alcoholic beer is if you ever tried to drink it in front of other people you would have to explain yourslef every single time. Whereas university is one of the few times when you won’t have to explain yourself for drinking those cheap beers.

To Everyone: Everyone seems to have issues with the non-alcoholic beer. I get the picture.

How about the other points in the post?

I’ve tasted non-alcoholic beer. I’d rather buy a case of A&W root beer, thanks. At least it tastes good and I can get a sugar buzz. If you like caffeine, go for Barq’s instead.

As for your other points, by all means check out all the flyers and buy as much of your school supplies and hygiene products at the cheapest price possible. However, make sure that the supplies you’re buying are okay with your instructors. Don’t load up on $0.10 reams of lined paper when it turns out that you’ve bought narrow lined and your instructor demands wide (or whatever).

I couldn’t imagine getting through a course without my own textbooks. I happen to be a bibliophile and don’t like my books marked up so it’s new for me. If I was desperate to save money I’d either buy used or buy new and sell them once I passed the courses.

I’m not familiar with cell phone retention plans (possibly I should be)but I agree that a landline is not necessary. Bundling services definitely saves money. Even if it’s only $5/month, that adds up month after month, year after year.

And I’ve found WestJet to be much cheaper than Air Canada. Depending on where home is and where you’re going to school, sometimes it saves money to cross the line, fly out of Bellingham or Seattle and take something like Jet Blue, even when you take the exchange rate into consideration.

As for the laptop, *some* people can get away with a netbook. If you’re one of them, you can save maybe $350 over the cost of a laptop. You could buy a lot of (real) beer with those savings!

The rest of the suggestions are quite good – and apply to students and non-students alike.

I think the most important message is tho live within one’s means. Not only are student incomes paltry, but a few mistakes financially during that period can really have major impacts on the next few decades of one’s life – debt is the obvious one, but spending habits are largely formed in this period.

@Mike – The ONLY reason I made it through grad school was because I was surrounded by alcohol 😉

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