With the cost of attending college on the rise, there is less jingle left in the pockets of college students.
According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for 2015-2016 stood $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
With so much cash steered toward tuition, room and board, and meals, there's little left for all the others costs linked to the college experience, including textbooks, clothes, electronics and travel costs.
That's where a handy-dandy student discount can help. Fortunately, there's an abundance of such discounts for students and families if they know where to look, retail experts say.
"College is expensive, but at least your student status can net you some notable savings," says Ben Glazer, features editor at DealNews. "More retailers are appealing to students with exclusive discounts that can seriously stack up."
There are some rules to play by when looking for discounts.
For instance, Glazer says that as student discounts have increased in popularity, it's become necessary for retailers to verify student status (especially for online retailers that can't easily view a college I.D.) "To keep discount abuse down, ensuring that they can continue to offer these savings, some merchants require students to register with certain sites if they want to take advantage of these programs," he notes.
Some of those I.D. cards come with discounts of their own. For example, ISIC, the International Student Identity Card, offers multiple benefits, according to DealNews. The card comes with three membership tiers - $25 for basic, $99 for the second tier and $199 for the third tier.
Glazer and DealNews also point to StudentRate.com, a free college student discount site that offers cash back at many online retailers. Then there's StudentUniverse, which provides discounts on travel costs, like airline flights and hotel stays - it's also free to sign up.
For actual online retail discounts, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, The Limited, Levi's, Eastern Mountain Sports, and Banana Republic all offer at least 15% discounts if college students offer a valid I.D. Electronics manufacturers and services providers all offer student discounts. Check out Apple, Microsoft Adobe, Verizon and T-Mobile, which all offer online discounts to college students. Even FedEx offers 20% to 30% discounts for college consumers.
Those are just for starters. There are plenty of other places to cash in on student discounts.
"Returning students have access to some of the best deals of the year, in many instances far-surpassing what's available even on Black Friday and Cyber Monday," says Mike Catania, founder of PromotionCode.org, in Tallahassee. Catania says he works with dozens of companies that specialize in student markets and are able to offer packages that are unattainable elsewhere. For example, Academic Superstore offers the complete MS Office (with a Lifetime license), Kaspersky Suite and an Intuos Draw Creative Pen Tablet for $100 (even less with one of our coupons), which would sell to a non-student for over $1,000," he says. "Software companies know that loyalty is built during college so giving away their products, even well-known ones, ensure customers for the next few decades."
"Most coupon sites have a dedicated back to school page so to quickly parse through those, do a search for 'school coupon 2016 (70% 80% 90%)' and you'll only see the best of the best offers," Catania adds.
Shelley Hunter, content manager at GiftCards.com, says there is almost no need to pay full price on back-to-school clothes and other items needed for heading off to college. "I update a post several times a week with gift cards that are on sale," she says. "All you have to do is buy the gift card before you go shopping, and the savings are automatic. For example, you can save 20% on GAP Options gift cards this week. These gift cards can be used at GAP, Old Navy, and Banana Republic."
"But here's the best part," she adds. "Gift cards don't have exclusions - so you can stack them with other discounts, in-store sales and coupons."
Don't forget on-campus perennials, too. Take for instance, the venerable red Solo cup, which is just about mandatory at any fall tailgate party or Greek get-together.
Red Solo Cups are huge on college campuses, says Mark Kahn, co-founder of Drinkables, a Miami-based college marketing agency that offers company's advertising space on red Solo cups. "We sell authentic red Solo cups as opposed to cheap alternatives, and at $0.05 per cup, our pricing speaks for itself. By contrast, some of the students we sell to were paying over 30¢ per cup before buying from us."
So there you go, from Banana Republic blue jeans to red Solo cups, there are seemingly hundreds of discounts and deals for college students this year. Now it's your job to go and find them.