Frugal Back to School Tips

Back to School Pic

First Day of Seminary Fall 2010 with Brigitte, Christine and Laura. Photo Credit: Laura Twedell

I cannot believe that it is back to school time already! We are gearing up to receive students on the seminary campus in less than two weeks. Some grade schools are beginning even sooner. Are you ready? Here are some frugal tips for heading back to school geared specifically for graduate students:

  • Books: Books can be very expensive! One of the best things that you can do is compare prices between your school’s bookstore and online sites. One of my favorite sites is AddALL, where you can search for a book and the site lists the price of the book (used and new) at 41 online bookstores, including Amazon, so you don’t have to check all of them individually. Make sure when you are comparing prices you include the price of shipping.
  • School Supplies: Before you start shopping, take an inventory of the items that you already have. Can you reuse that folder or notebook from last year? Do your parents have any supplies sitting in their basement that you could use? Reuse as many items as you can, then make a strict list of what you need so you don’t get detoured when you shop. Stores generally have great Labor Day and post-Labor Day sales if you can wait. If you are worried that you might over spend, create a budget and take out just enough cash to cover that budget.
  • Clothes: I know we are in graduate school, but who doesn’t enjoy a stellar first day of school outfit? Why not find your new outfit in your own closet? Take an hour or so to look through your closet. Try on some clothes that you haven’t worn in a while. Mix and match. If you still want to shop, find a few pieces that you can mix and match with what you already have. Be sure to set a clear budget. You could also host a clothing swap with some friends. Have friends bring gently used clothes and accessories that they no longer want, organize the items and shop away! Any items not taken can be donated to a local thrift store.
  • Apartment: Looking for a few things for your apartment/dorm? Use freecycle to find some free, used items or go thrifting rather than buying new. This is also a great time of year to check out garage/yard sales and/or craigslist.
  • Student Work: If you are thinking about getting a job (or a new job) while you are in school look for one sooner rather than later. It can be easy to push it off until things settle down a bit, but by the time you will need money and many of the more lucrative options might be gone. One of the best options is on-campus work since it tends to be more flexible and cuts down on transportation costs. Check with your school for available options.
  • Transportation: Think about taking the bus, biking, or walking to save money. Even if you have a car there may be some trips that you can do via bus, bike, or foot. Check out some of the amenities within walking/biking/busing distance of your home and school such as grocery stores, banks, drug stores, libraries, coffee shops, etc. Gas can be very costly, even forgoing the car for just a few trips can save quite a bit.
  • Lunch: Consider bringing your lunch rather than buying it, this can save quite a bit of money. Brown bag lunches don’t have to be boring, they can be both frugal and creative. Check out these sites for some good ideas: mint, yahoo, ivillage, and howstuffworks.

I hope that these tips can help you start the new school year with a little more cash in your pocket. Happy New School Year!

Join the Conversation: What are your frugal back to school tips?

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