What Should I Bring to College: Part one

It's hard to believe that college is only about two weeks away for most people. This also means that back to school shopping is right around the corner as well. Today I am going to tackle supplies you will need for the classroom. Chances are, you're going to be out buying your textbooks and supplies relatively soon. Depending on your major, these supplies may not be cheap. Want to find some ways to save money? Here are some helpful tips in savings while picking up the essentials.

Textbooks

My first semester of college, I took mainly gen ed classes and ended up spending over $500 in books alone. I had a math class in which I had to buy a brand new edition for the class...at least that's what I thought. I ended up spending $130 on a book that was not used once throughout the entire semester. I sold it back for less than half of what it was worth. Talk about a waste of money. If you are an incoming first year student, it is definitely difficult to determine whether or not you'll need the books. While I don't recommend waiting too long before getting books, I would say be careful. Talk to the professors and see what books you will absolutely need. Often times there are required books, and recommended books. Recommended books are not necessarily needed. I've also bought recommended books in the past, only to realize they were not used at all throughout the course of the semester. Before settling for the campus bookstore prices, check and see if you can find cheaper priced textbooks online. By looking on sites like Amazon or Half.com, you can often times find much cheaper textbooks. Be careful though, if you buy used, make sure you know when your book will get to your doorstep. Sometimes it takes weeks for the shipment to go through. If you can't get your books online, then go to the campus bookstore early and get a used copy. Generally speaking, the used copy is significantly cheaper than a new copy. Also consider sharing a textbook if you and a friend is in the same class. It won't always work, but in some cases it's a quick way to save money.

Pens and Pencils

Fortunately, none of these items are overly expensive. Buy in bulk, and don't splurge for the high quality pens and pencils unless you plan on holding on to your writing utensil for a long time. You can buy a 12 pack of Bic pens for around $1.50 at most office supply stores. My advice is if you are spending anymore than $5 on a pack of pens, you're getting ripped off. I've used both the generic cheap pens and the more expensive ones. Guess what? They both work just fine, and have plenty of ink to spare. In fact, I did an experiment to see how long I could use one pen. I had five classes, used it for each class, and it lasted throughout the whole semester with ink to spare.

Calculators

I went to school for journalism so I didn't really need a great calculator. I find that everyone thinks they need a TI-83 or TI-89 calculator to get by in college, but if you are like me and took almost no math classes, don't spend the $100 it costs to buy one of these bad boys. Yes, they are helpful, but definitely not worth the money if you are not going to use them for anything more than a simple calculator. I'm pretty sure every phone has a calculator function on it. If you aren't allowed to use your cell phone for a calculator, pick up a cheap one. There are plenty that you can buy for under $10.  They do addition and subtraction just fine.

These are just a few of the things you'll need in the next few weeks. There are probably more things that you'll need to make sure you're set for the classroom (like paper and notebooks). The same rules apply, go cheap if possible unless you absolutely need something more expensive. If you have the option, team up with someone and shop together and split the costs. The beauty of buying in bulk is that it's generally cheaper, and you can divvy out the goodies to siblings or fellow classmates and alleviate the overall cost.

How do you save money when back to school supply shopping comes around?

Seth P.