Savvy Ways to Save When Heading Off to College

Across the country, recent high school graduates are transitioning to freshman at colleges and universities. There will be many decisions facing the nation's next crop of college students, from where to live to what courses to take to whether to join an academic club or fraternity/sorority.

Perhaps the most vital decisions current and future college kids must make are financial ones. For most students, college is the first time they'll be managing their own money. While money management is most often a trial and error process for college kids, there are tricks to money management that today's teenagers and young adults can use to their advantage.

* Don't be late. Being late for class isn't a good way for students to ingratiate themselves with their professors. But being late with bills can be an even worse idea. In addition to the negative impact paying bills late can have on a young person's credit rating, late fees can pile up quickly. The average late fee for credit cards is $28, which is in addition to the balance remaining on the card itself. That's $28 the average college kid can save simply by paying on time. Another way to avoid late fees is to save before splurging. That means, save up the cash to pay for your purchase and skip the credit card entirely.

* Rent, don't buy. While renting and not buying is a philosophy typically associated with student housing, it's now applicable to textbooks as well. At the onset of each school year, students across the country face steep bills for textbooks, many of which they'll use for a semester or quarter and never open again. And textbooks aren't a student's only expense. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2009 back-to-college survey, students and their parents can expect to spend an average of $618 on back-to-college supplies this year, a 3 percent increase over 2008.

Fortunately, today's students have the option to rent their textbooks. With more than 2.4 million titles, is the world's largest online textbook rental service, boasting discounts between 65 and 85 percent off the list price. In the last two years alone, has saved students and their parents more than $41 million at 6,000 colleges and universities across the country. Rentals are available by the semester (125 days), quarter (85 days) and summer (60 days), and students can even ask for rental extensions or purchase the books at any time.

"I got books from the campus bookstore and spent almost $450," says Ernest, a student at North Carolina State University. "When I came home and checked out I realized I could save $200, so I took my books back to the bookstore."

To learn more about saving on textbooks or to order your own books today, visit

* Use your student status to your advantage. Local businesses surrounding college campuses typically offer student discounts when students present their university I.D. Restaurants, movie theaters, music stores, etc., are among the many businesses that offer student discounts up to 20 percent. If going out to eat or having a date night at the movies, remember to bring along your student I.D. and reap the rewards.

* Watch ATM cash drain. Some ATMs charge in upwards of $3.50 for cash withdrawals, particularly ones that are "convenient" or close to campus. You can quickly deplete your savings with a few bucks withdrawn here and there. Instead, consider opening up an account at a local bank that offers good perks (not just fluff incentives luring college students) and no-fee ATM withdrawals. Your school also may be affiliated with a credit union that offers special plans to students, including good interest rates and discounts on other financial items such as auto insurance.

* Start saving for the big trips. Are you planning your first big vacation before you've even passed your first exam? If so, start thinking about saving for those trips now, because Spring Break will be here before you know it. As these trips can get very expensive, putting extra money away each month will go a long way to making that dream trip a reality.

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