June 9, 2011 | | Leave a comment Smart Shoppers for College Supplies Are there many things that moms worry about more than the household budget? Let’s be honest…If you’re a mom who’s going back to school to earn a degree, you probably know your household finance numbers better than you know your own phone number. You shop the sales. You buy in bulk. You clip coupons just to fit the budget. But how do you continue to invest in your education without dooming the household to discount detergent and endless noodle dinners? Here are some ideas on how to save money on college expenses. There are ways to get your education and live up to your budget standards! Timing Is Everything You know – as a savvy shopper – that there are timing strategies to buying things in order to save. You stock up on Christmas wrap on December 26th and buy the kids coats for next year when the prices get slashed in February. Can you do that with school supplies too? Of course! Pen ‘n Paper Best sales are generally right before the school year starts. Major retailers ship truckloads of supplies in August for parents of the back-to-school crowd. So if you need to stock up on office supplies or paper goods, August and early September are the best times. Computers A rule of thumb for buying computers: don’t buy it when you need it. What? Experts advise thinking ahead when buying a computer because you’ll get the best deal if you can watch ads and take advantage of older model discounts. If you’re rushing out to buy a new computer because classes start next week, you won’t have the flexibility to search for the best price. You can also take advantage of a few seasonal deals. Sales are common in May and June when parents are giving the new grad a computer for college and electronics sales happen on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and sometimes right after Christmas. You Better Shop Around – The Hunt for School Books College textbooks can cost $1000 a year! But shopping around can get you a good deal. While the college bookstore will certainly stock the books the teachers require, you are seldom likely to find the best price there. Get your textbook list and start searching. Comparison shop Do an online search on the titles you need and see who offers it. You’ll be surprised at the differences between booksellers. You can sometimes find the same title at a different seller for a better price or better shipping deal. One seller may only have the book new while another has the same book used for half the price. Do you need the newest version? College textbooks are revised every few years. But revised editions sometimes have only subtle changes, and you may be able to get away with an older version that costs much less. Check with your professor and find out if you really need the shiny new edition. E-Textbooks: Yay or Nay? Use of E-textbooks is on the rise, but are they the right choice for you? Pros: Less expensive (sometimes by as much as half) Portable Cons: Investing in a reader device Can’t take notes in the book or highlight (depending on the reader) Can’t sell the books back While the cost savings seems to make the choice a slam-dunk, the math takes a little thinking. For example: The most popular sociology textbook by sales lists new for $138.00. The ebook version (same edition) retails for $66. Immediate savings = $72. BUT, if you sell the book back at the end of the year and get $34 back, your actual savings is closer to $30. So you’ll need to decide if $30 warrants the purchase of an ebook reader (so you’re not always tied to your computer) and some challenges with taking notes or flagging text. Sell back your books General education textbooks seldom need to stay on your shelf. Will you really need “Psychology Today” five years from now if you’re getting a degree in finance? No – then it’s just something that gathers dust. Go get the $25 and skip the dusting. Ink and Cartridges Getting a great deal on a printer doesn’t seem so great when you have to shell out a fortune for printer cartridges. An online search can get you 30-50% savings on printer cartridges and sometimes better if you participate in mail-back promotions of empty cartridges. Refill Options: Photo/print centers may be able to refill your printer cartridges for as little as half as much as a new cartridge costs. Added bonus: it’s eco-friendly! Office Supply Memberships Check your local office supply chains for membership deals. Students don’t consume as much as your typical busy office does, but for products like printer cartridges or paper you may find that memberships (as long as it’s free or at student rates) gets you a decent deal on these pricey items. Use Your Student Discount! Keep an eye out for places that offer student discounts on goods or services. Just because you’re not a nineteen-year-old college freshman doesn’t mean they don’t apply to you! Student discounts may be available for: Restaurants Booksellers Electronics Software Public transportation Be prepared to show a student ID or proof of enrollment, but it’s worth it. WARNING: Don’t be tempted by “student financing options” on items you weren’t already planning on purchasing. If you didn’t think you needed a new computer until you saw the great finance package, then it’s just debt and interest that you didn’t plan for and probably don’t need. The Bottom Line is a Healthy Bottom Line So take your mad-mom-money-skills and make your education materials budget just as tight as your household budget. You can get ahead with your education and not break the bank. And if you really, really want to save money on college supplies, learn how to make a killer mocha at home. You’ll save $4 a day there too.