Education can be such a cool thing. Forget all those questions about whether going to school is financially worth it - it IS. The fact that you're laying the groundwork for a better lifetime income aside, the serious discounts offered only to students make going to school the smart thing to do. Whatever a student needs, there's a discount for it. Most of the time all you have to do is flash a valid student ID card to get a bargain. And there is often no age limit, so if you're an older adult in college, you still qualify.
The student market is a boon for retailers. They strive to capture lifelong customers by offering deep discounts to students (who often have a limited amount of cash, but few bills to pay). Marketers encourage repeat buyers who refer their friends. Let's take a look at a few of the smart discounts available only to students.
There are dozens of student discount cards out there, which, for a nominal fee, provide percentage discounts on clothes, electronics, food and entertainment, among other perks. International Student ID Card (ISIC) (http://www.myisic.com/) offers 11% off flights on JetBlue Airlines (Nasdaq:JBLU) 10% off at Macy's and tons of other savings from Amtrak to Target (NYSE:TGT). The card costs $22 per year, but you could easily make up that in savings on just one airline flight.
The Student Advantage Card is $22.50 per year and offers savings on everything from travel to food to clothing at name-brand companies (www.studentadvantage.com/discountcard/). If you do buy in to a student discount card, be sure that the items on which it offers discounts are things that you would buy anyway - otherwise, the price of the card may not be worth the savings if offers.
Lots of restaurants offer student discounts. To find budget food in your area, visit www.metromix.com and type in your city. If you like to eat out once and a while, finding good deals is a great way to make this more affordable. (For more tips on eating cheap, read 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Costs.)
Many schools negotiate discount software prices for students and teachers on the most popular brands. A must-have for homework; savings of 10-80% are available directly from manufacturers or through consolidators like JourneyEd. The cheap prices apply to kindergarten through 12th grade, college students and even teachers (www.journeyed.com). Discounts can be as much as 90% at On the Hub (www.onthehub.com), a network that links students and teachers with software publishers and resellers. Before upgrading any computer software, check with your school to see what upgrades it.
Each and every year, electronic retailers come up with new deals for students. This year, Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) has a great deal on the Macbook. If you buy one before September 8, the company will throw in a free iPod Touch (www.store.apple.com) - and engrave it for free. This deal is available for college students, and college faculty and staff. (Do you have an iPhone? Find out how it can help your finances in Managing Your Money: There's An App For That.)
Dell (Nasdaq:DELL) also has a special website for college students with multiple discounts on PCs, laptops and printers (www.delllounge.com/delluniversity). Students can customize the skin on their laptops with more than 200 designs. The website will also hook you up with the systems most suited to your university's network and on-campus IT support.
You can't head back to school without adding a few new pieces to your wardrobe. Retailers are hip to this. JCrew offers free shipping for back to school, and students can flash their ID cards in the store for 10% off purchases. Other popular stores like Delias, Old Navy, Gap and Target also offer special student coupons and discounts. Check out www.studentbistro.com/clothing.htm for more on how to save.
Textbooks are a must-have for any student, but there are many ways to reduce the cost of your books. Check out ecampus.com to download electronic textbooks and for textbook rentals (www.ecampus.com). That's right, pay a fee to use the book and return it when you're done. You can also shop for used books on Amazon.com, SellMyTextbooks.org or AbeBooks.com. (For more savings tips, see Students, Get More Bang For Your Textbook Dollars.)
Cheap rates are also available on things students don't really need for school. For example, just about every movie theater offers a student discount; AMC Theaters hosts special Student Days for those 13 and older with a student ID (www.amctheatres.com). Plus, frequent customers can earn points toward free movie tickets. Your student ID may also qualify you for a discount at local concerts, theme parks and sporting events.
Discounts don't end when you graduate. Some organizations reward college graduates for as long as two years after graduation. Honda (NYSE:HMC) has special financing options just for recent college graduates. Kia offers a $400 rebate to college grads in addition to other financing specials (www.mycars.com/). (For more tips on getting a new ride, read Car Shopping: New Or Used?)
Many students lament being broke and having to stretch their dollars to the max, but with a little shopping, a bargain can be found on most things. Even when there is no special program advertised, students should always inquire about a discount and never leave home without that student id card.