These tips are sure to earn you an A+
Shopping for back-to-school items should be a time to get excited for an upcoming year of new adventures. Yet, many people worry that long lines and hefty price tags will sour the whole experience. The truth is, school shopping can be an enjoyable and efficient activity. Here are some pre-shopping tips:
Buy quality: It does not take long for notebooks to rip and rulers to break after the first few months of school. Instead of buying the cheapest supplies in anticipation of the inevitable, opt for sturdy, high-quality products that will last longer. Notebooks and binders with plastic covers, for example, will hold up better than cardboard varieties. As for gear like backpacks and lunch bags, many companies such as L.L. Bean offer excellent warranties for handling things like broken zippers and torn cloth. If an item wears out or breaks sooner than expected, you will be happy to have an inexpensive solution or maybe even a free replacement.
Organize a school swap: Many kids are required to buy a certain type of item or supply one year – a graphing calculator or a specific textbook, for example – but may not need it the next. Get together with neighbors and friends to see if you can make a fair trade. You might have an excess of highlighters and loose-leaf paper that can be exchanged for a protractor or compass. Even clothes can be swapped, so kids will be happy to have a new outfit just as much as you’ll be happy to save money.
Coupons, coupons, coupons: If you take just 15 minutes and browse the newspaper inserts, you will find hundreds of deals for items that are probably on your back-to-school list. Figure out which promotions are worth your while, and which will have you spending more in the long run. Stock up on buy-one-get-one-free products, so you do not spend time and gas later in the school year. Do not forget to check out online coupons, too. You can go to manufacturer’s websites or browse sources like www.couponmom.com and www.couponcabin.com for a wide range of product and service deals.
Back-to-school shopping can be a fun experience for both kids and adults. Be sure to have a game plan to avoid unnecessary stress and money troubles. You should also ask your friends and family members if they have any tips; chances are, they have found their own tricks to master school shopping trips. For more BeMoneySmart saving tips visit us at bemoneysmart.org.
Big and small ways to find money and cut costs
Nowadays, funding higher education isn’t for the faint of heart. Even if you have saved diligently since your child was young, you still might find yourself coming up short of cash. Do not let that get you down. The good news is that it is possible to significantly cut costs by looking at the overall picture, finding grants and trimming the fat on textbooks and more. You can develop a strategy to create the best cost-savings scenario for your family.
Tips to help find extra money for college:
- Apply for financial aid. Do not assume your family’s earnings are too much to qualify. Negotiate the best financial aid package possible for your student. As a result of the recession, many colleges have greater financial aid budgets, so if you make a good case and are specific as to how much extra money you will require, there is a chance you will get more.
- Have your child apply for scholarships. There are many types offered, and if your teen qualifies for one, he or she might receive thousands of dollars. Begin by checking Scholarships.com.
- Private student loans can help supplement federal loans. You can find options at websites such as Simpletuition.com. Be aware that interest rates can be high.
- The Federal Work-Study Program provides jobs for students, and can be a great way to help mitigate tuition costs while enhancing a college resume.
Tips to help reduce the cost of college:
- Inquire about meal plan options, such as a once-a-day meal plan, which will be cheaper than three squares a day, if your child does not eat three meals on campus.
- If the college is local, commuting instead of living on campus can save big bucks. If living away, navigate campus by foot, bike or mass transit instead of by car.
- Furnish dorm rooms and college apartments in “thrift-store chic” style. Look for useable items at garage sales and resale stores. If shopping for new furnishings, consider less expensive stores such as IKEA and Target. Look for sales online and off.
- After freshman year, your child can apply to be a resident assistant in his or her dorm. In exchange for their time and commitment, they will get a reduced rate on room and board.
- Research cell phone plans to get the best value.
Overcoming the textbook drain:
College textbooks are expensive. Money spent on them can seem like money down the drain because they are used so briefly. There are ways to get around this money pit.
- Buy used, rather than new, textbooks. For excellent values, check DealOz.com or CheapestTextbooks.com.
- Rent textbooks. Many college bookstores and online retailers offer textbook rentals. Try chegg.com or campusbookrentals.com.
- Purchase electronic versions of textbooks and download to a laptop or a wireless reading device, such as Amazon’s Kindle.
- Get free textbooks at textbookmedia.com.
- The college library should have some textbooks available.
- Resell textbooks that are in tip-top shape. That means no torn or ink-blotched pages and few or no highlighted passages.
These tips can help make your child’s college years more affordable and enjoyable by easing the financial burden sometimes associated with higher education. In most cases, your child can handle the research and action. Sit down with your student and create an action plan so that he or she has the knowledge of where to get started. Remember, your student will have a lot of stresses too, so the more you help them plan, the easier it will be for them to focus on their academics. Get started.