It’s that time of year again. People are spending money left and right on gifts for friends, family, and even themselves. These costs rack up quick, even with small purchases. So how exactly is a college student (maybe) working a part-time job to cope? By being thrifty!
As a finance major, I always look for ways to save a few dollars whenever possible. As such, here are a few tips I discovered throughout my college career that are big money savers.
- Buy used gift cards from second-hand websites
This is by far one of the easiest and most effective ways to save money on gifts and even groceries. Websites like GiftCardGranny.com, Raise.com, and CardPool.com let you buy gift cards that other people don’t want, and at a reduced price. You can get $25 gift cards for stores for $20 or less sometimes. The same is true in reverse; you can sell or exchange unwanted gift cards for cash or different gift cards.
- Always search for coupon codes before making online purchases
More often than not, this trick can save big bucks and takes less than a minute to check. A quick Google or Bing of a retailer’s name with the words “coupon codes” following it can result in big savings or free shipping. RetailMeNot.com is my personal favorite for this. They show you coupon codes, as well as ongoing sales, to help you save as much as possible.
- Take advantage of shopper rewards programs and your student discount
There is a big trend going on with percentage cash back reward programs with many major retailers. The website StudentRate.com is great for this. First, you sign up with your school email and it shows all of the retailers that offer a student discount to Utica College students. Next, it gives you a list of all retailers that let you earn between three and 15% cash back on purchases. Once your cash back total exceeds $20, they mail you a check. You can save big money on books with this too!
- Ditch Google and go for Bing!
Instinctively, many of us use Google whenever we want to search something, but Bing is now actively trying to get you to use it instead. Now, Bing allows you to earn a “Bing credit” for every search you make on the site. Every few hundred searches, you can earn a $5 gift card or all sorts of other rewards. The more you search, the more you earn. These credits pile up quicker than you think too. They take a big amount off of your spending and cost you nothing but your time.
- Keep a look out for free shipping!
This is absolutely crucial. Order gifts as early as possible to get free or reduced shipping prices and avoid paying big bucks for expedited shipping. Students get a big discount on Amazon Prime, which offers free 2-day shipping on most of their products, plus you get free video streaming from Amazon as well. Outside of that, American Express card holders get a free membership with Shop Runner, a service that offers free 2-day shipping with lots of online retailers. The savings from this can be huge, often in excess of $15 per order.
- Extremely cautious use of a credit card
A credit card can be a gift or a burden. Used appropriately, it can result in some good savings and offer some great perks. Used recklessly, it can cost users a lot of money in interest charges and other fees. If you can trust yourself with a credit card, the benefits can truly be great. First off, you’ll be building a good credit score, which will pay dividends down the road. Second, you can either earn additional rewards points, on top of the ones mentioned above, or you earn additional cash back on your purchases, depending on the card type. If you can pay off your balance in full every month, the savings can be pretty significant, just be cautious not to take on more debt than you can afford.
Regardless of whether you use all of these tips or just a few, you can save quite a bit of money on holiday purchases, and even on everyday items throughout the year. Most importantly however, remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”