Top 12 Money-Saving Tech Tips for College Students

College is expensive. In addition to the tuition fees, you also have to fork out more money for housing, food, textbooks, and all the tech gear you need for assignments, such as laptops, software, hard drives, and cellphones. All this gear can stretch your student budget.

The chances are you’ll leave varsity with some debt, and you don’t want your technology purchases to contribute to this, as this will only increase your stress when you do enter the working world.

Thankfully, with a few sacrifices and some planning, there are various ways to stretch your dollars. In this article, we’ll look at different tips and tricks for saving money on tech products as a student.

1. Consider the Tech Gear that You Really Need

When considering buying electronics, often the extra features offered aren’t necessary or worth the price. More features on a device can mean that there are potentially more things that could go wrong, subsequently resulting in repairs or replacements being relatively pricy. 

  • Purchase an all-in-one PC: You don’t need all the gadgets to have a great experience. Rather than forking out on a new TV, laptop, PC, monitor, gaming console, sound system, and BluRay player when you set up a dorm, look for an all-in-one PC that can offer you everything. 

    Not only will you save money by only buying one device, but you will also save space in your room, which can be small.
  • Use a tablet instead of a laptop: Apple and Android tablets can be incredibly powerful and cost a fraction of the price of a computer. They are also much lighter to carry from class to class while still offering many capabilities as laptops. 

    If you miss using a keypad, you can purchase keyboard options for your tablet so that you can effectively type just as you would on a laptop. Another bonus is that tablets tend to have a better battery life than a laptop, so your device is more likely to keep running through class without needing to be plugged in.
  • Skip the pricey warranty: Retails will often try to sell you expensive extended warranties when you buy tech gadgets in store. Ensure to consider the necessity of the extended warranty offered. 

    Manufacturers typically offer some level of warranty anyway, and your credit card may already give you a free extension on this. Those pricy warranties are usually not required due to electronics outlasting the period offered in the warranty. 

2. Plan and Budget Wisely (Adopt Earn-Save-Spend Ideology)

A young woman with a pencil and a notebook
A college student happily budgeting her allowance

After making a list of all the essentials needed to be purchased for college or university, work out a budget and break it down into realistic categories. For example, the categories could be divided into clothing, supplies, and electronics.

Ensuring to plan your budget will prevent overspending and provide structure.

If you want to save for a gadget or just set yourself up for financial success in the future, then adopting an earn-save-spend ideology is good practice. This means that you always put aside a little bit of money into your savings before spending. 

3. Consider Quality First, Deal Second on Electronics

A college mindset often means that students will buy things for cheap for the pure reason that it is a good deal and you have limited funds.

When purchasing technology, remember to conduct your research first and assess the higher quality options before jumping onto the cheaper one. 

A good quality computer will likely last the entirety of your college career while a cheaper one may need to be replaced after a year or require expensive upgrades to keep functioning, making it more costly in the long run.

4. Stop Trying to Keep up with the Joneses

A young woman using a laptop in a classroom
A college student using an old laptop in class

Avoid trying to impress your peers with the latest gadgets and technology, regardless of whether or not they are cool or fun to use. Trying to keep up with the Joneses usually results in a perpetual cycle of spending that will not end, putting a big dent in your budget. 

Buy older versions

A way to avoid keeping up with the Joneses would be through buying older electronics, refurbished goods, and floor models.

You’ll pay significantly less for last year’s cellphone or laptop model, and minor software upgrades can make these devices just as good as the newest options.

Go middle of the road

Middle-of-the-range electronics are also another viable option. You don’t want to buy electronics that are too cheap as they’ll likely break or you’ll get so frustrated using them that you’ll just end up purchasing something else anyway. 

That said, high-end products probably offer more capabilities than you need at this stage, and you could just end up paying more money for a brand name.

Go in between, and opt for quality middle-of-the-range electronics with decent capabilities and good guarantees that will last but aren’t out of your budget.

Consider off-brand tech gadgets

You can save a lot of money by buying tech gadgets from off-brand retailers. Various low-cost tablets and laptops are perfectly fine for writing essays or putting together spreadsheets.

If you aren’t studying graphic design or animation, then the chances are that one of these cheaper devices will work perfectly fine for what you need it to do.

Buy refurbished electronics

There are numerous places to buy refurbished tech gadgets rather than forking out full price for a new item. If you want to buy refurbished electronics, be careful of scammers. 

Safeguard yourself by purchasing from the manufacturer, either directly from the company website or through sites like that of Amazon.

Sites like also often feature liquidation sales where you can buy direct from merchants and retailers. These manufacturers often even offer limited-time warranties or money-back guarantees. 

5. Time Your Purchase Right

"Black Friday SALE" written on a table of coffee and electronics
Black Friday sale

Timing your purchase could result in saving significant money. This means that certain times of the year are better for purchasing electronics than others.

January and February are the best time to catch various goods on sale. Another good time of year is Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November, where there are significant sales.

6. Shop Around & Compare Prices

Shopping around with numerous retailers is always a good idea before buying electronics. This will ensure that you get a good assessment of the average cost by comparing a certain price to others. 

Look at shops in person, in addition to the online retailers, to get an adequate comparison. There are also numerous websites and apps that can help you compare prices at different retailers to ensure you get the best deal.

7. Don’t Pay Full Price on Tech Items

Believe it or not, you don’t have to pay full price on tech items. As a college student, there are various ways that you can get discounted items, including taking advantage of student discounts.

Another way of getting tech items for a lower price would be by purchasing refurbished electronics which are often in close to new condition. These are suitable in that they are sold for a fraction of the cost of a new one from the shelf. 

The catch is to see that the item has been genuinely refurbished and not just cleaned up and repackaged or refurbished by unscrupulous dealers.

8. Buy Discounted Tech Gadgets

A yellow paper with "student discount" written on it
A reminder to not forget to make the most of your student discounts

There are numerous ways that you can buy goods at discounted prices. Be sure to shop around and look for the best deal on your tech gadgets.

You can sometimes also buy discounted goods if you’re a loyalty cardholder or have a store credit card that offers rewards and discounts. 

  • Ask for Price Matching: Stores will often price match competitors on the same item. If the retailer matches the competitor’s price, you will get the electronics for a reduced price and get the rewards from the store. 

    There are also several price matching websites to search what retailer offers the best price for the item you want.
  • Get your Student Discount: Many brands offer discounts based on educational or professional associations. Stores or companies like Microsoft and Apple provide student discounts to save decent amounts of money, providing you qualify. Amazon Prime and Spotify also offer half price on their subscriptions for students.

    When purchasing items online, always register with your .edu email address to take advantage of these savings or show your student ID card when shopping in-store.

9. Use Free Apps

In college particularly, having a phone is vital for staying connected with friends and family. However, phone plan costs may increase, and many college students are faced with bills that are financially straining.

To cut back on such expenses, use free apps like WhatsApp and Skype to save you money on messages and calls.

10. Rent Textbooks via Kindle

A pair of reading glasses sitting on a Kindle
Kindle Textbook Rental makes more academic materials accessible

Amazon offers free Kindle Textbook Rental, making it easier for college students to access the material. Students can read their textbooks using the Kindle App, saving thousands on buying books.

Moreover, Amazon is stocked with thousands of titles by various genres and authors, saving you both money and space in your backpack.

11. Trade-in or Sell Your Old Phone

Various cell phone companies or services offer a trade-in program that allows you to have an account credit when you upgrade to a newer phone.

If your phone is still relatively new and in good condition, then you might be able to save a nice sum of money on the purchase price of a new device.

12. Create a Different Fund For Your Ideal Gadget with a Target Amount and Timeline

If you’re a student battling to save money, you can set up a fund for your ideal gadget or electronic device. Ensure that a portion of your monthly income is deducted on the first day of the month and allocated towards this fund to start saving for your new gadgets. 

You’ll want to set a goal for how much you’re trying to save by what date so that you have something to work towards.

This technique for saving will help you in the future as you look to save for other items such as a new car or even a down payment on your first home.

Final Tips for Saving Money on Student Tech & Gadgets

A young woman wearing earphones and carrying a tablet
A college student listening to music while walking in campus

The chances are you’re going to need a new computer, laptop, tablet, or cellphone when you start university. However, you don’t necessarily need to spend heaps of money on technology as a student.

There are some great ways you can save on these essentials through student discounts, buying refurbished devices, or trading in old electronics

You’ll have plenty of bills to pay as a student, so try and avoid buying tech items based on lifestyle choices or trying to keep up with your peers and instead just go for what you truly need.

Do you have any tips and tricks for saving money on tech that we haven’t mentioned here? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Do feel free to share them with us in the comments below.

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