No Spare Change: A Guide on How to Shop and Save


Felicia Glover, Columnist

As we fall into this new semester, we get so excited about college life we forget how expensive it can be. I want to share some helpful spending tips to help anyone looking for a budget-friendly beginning. From  from the thrifty novice to the certified saver, anyone can be frugal.

One major cost that we all encounter is books. Books are  expensive, there is no getting around that. But there are many companies willing to help students save with offers including 10% off coupons, and some offering up to 70% off the entire site.

Renting books is always cheaper, especially if the tome is not for a class in your major.

The campus bookstore does offer rentals for most textbooks and even offer a price match from any online source, but comparing prices before you rent does not hurt the wallet at all. is a shopping comparison site. They have a very user-friendly search engine. Once you load your ISBN number into the search box, all the cool deals pop up. will not only show the rental price for semester, quarter and session, it will show you the cost to buy the book as well.

The site also provides the top buy back prices to if you want to sell any old text books.

Some majors cannot rent their textbooks, and this can be a very pricey investment.

While some companies do not post coupons for textbook purchases, there are a few trusty coupon code and loyalty websites that can get you the best bang for your buck. is a cash back company that allows you to type in textbook, book, or even food names to find a cash back deal that can put some money back in your pocket. The site also has double cash back days that can get you up to 10.0% back on a purchase. also helps with coupon codes and free shipping deals. Who doesn’t like free shipping?

I researched Ebates and got lucky enough to stubble upon some coupon codes for textbook websites, in addition to some cash back incentives.

Textbook Underground had a few deals on Ebates that would make any SLP, PT or even OT major smile at the  savings one person can get for the purchase of their textbooks.

In addition to a 4.0% cash back you can also get a coupon code on the website and shipping offers.

Just to let you know, signing up for Ebates is free. I had a $25-dollar check waiting for me and a $10 gift card in the mail. So it’s definitely a legit company and the coupons really do work.

You can link your Paypal account to get your cash back incentive safely, if you’re not comfortable sharing your card information.

Now let’s talk about supplies. According to College, the average student spends roughly $1,200  on school supplies per semester. YIKES!

I was given a challenge by one of my Facebook followers to spend only $10 on supplies for a 12-15 credit course load student.

That’s right. I had to get all of the the basic supplies a for a full time student needs, including a backpack.

Now when I say basic needs, I’m talking about pens, highlighters, binders (with paper) and/or one to five-subject notebooks and a backpack.

What I did first was look for a trusty backpack. I can get the supplies cheap, but I want a sturdy backpack for a good price.

I found one at Five Below for $5. The store has options: If you want a Star Wars backpack they have that. Is a Herschel Supply Company-inspired bag on your list? It has that, too.

The bag is 17 inches – full size. It’s made of a durable material capable of carrying around that MacBook or PC.

Now, after tax, this leaves me with $4.91 to get the rest of my supplies.

Some people prefer notebooks, but I personally like to use a binder and dividers.

I also enjoy a good writing pen and I am a highlighting fanatic.

I started out in Walmart looking for a nice binder. I like to use one inch binders for space and storage purposes, and I found a pretty blue one for .85 cents.

I snagged a pack of wide rule paper for .82 cents, I got some really cool file folders (six pack) to double as dividers for $1.17. Now, since I don’t have a three-hole punch, I was able to stop by the library and use theirs (a great thrifty tip in itself).

When I got over to the pen section I wanted something a little more than a 10 pack of BIC or Papermates for $1.17, although this is a great option.

I like my pens to glide on the paper as I take notes, so I was on the search for a good pen. I wandered over to clearance and found a 2 pack of Pentel R.S.V.P pens for $1.47.

I also grabbed a tri-color pack of highlighters for .87 cents.

When we shop for supplies at stores like Walmart and Target, we always head for featured items in “back to school” sections.

But have you ever wandered away from that huge section of pencil boxes and safety scissors?

One helpful tip is to always scan the clearance aisle. I was able to get my Pens, regularly retailed at $3 to $6, for $1.47 in the clearance aisle.

My total cost for school supplies added up to $10.27. I went slightly over budget (but sometimes I honestly do have some spare change).