College is expensive, but that shouldn’t come as news to you. The cost of college has been skyrocketing for decades. Perhaps that big story for college kids in 2022 is the overall rate of inflation is finally catching up with the long-swelling price of tuition. What does this all mean for you? In addition to paying a fortune to enroll in college, you’ll probably also be paying a fortune just to get by every day.
So it should go without saying that every little way you can save money is worth a shot. Enter that incredible innovation known as the student discount. There are tons of businesses and retailers out there who recognize that the struggle is very real. And they want to help.
That’s right. Just by being an individual who is dedicated to your own personal betterment, and the betterment of society, by way of a higher education, you are entitled to pay a little less for stuff like food, fun, and tech.
Pretty good deal, right? We’re not suggesting it makes up for whatever your college degree is costing you right now. It probably doesn’t. But it may help to offset the rising cost of consumer goods. Just like everybody else, college students can anticipate the effects of inflation on everything from books and school supplies to staple foods and toiletries. According to CNBC, “the cost of school supplies for college students is expected to rise to an average of $320, up 13% from 2020.”
So obviously, you’ll want to take advantage of every opportunity you get to bring down the cost of living while you pursue your education. We’ve got your primer on getting student discounts here. We’ll start with a look at the best ways to ensure you maximize your student discount opportunities and we’ll follow with a look at the types of consumer items and establishments where these discounts often apply.
Speaking of consumption, if you’re still shopping for a great college, may we advise that you begin with a look at our expose on the college rankings game. Find out whether or not whether or not you can Trust U.S. News & World Report’s College Rankings?
If you’re already in school and looking for ways to save, read. on…
How to Maximize Your Student Discounts
Always Have Your Student ID Handy
There are only a few years during which your Student ID is actually relevant. Make the most of it by flashing this bad boy everywhere you can. Keep it on you at all times. You never know when you might need to pop into a convenience store or gas station rest stop with a friendly student discount sticker on the door. It could be worth a few cents off your coffee or a price break on Gatorade. But it only works if you have the card on you. And another pro tip–that Student ID card may still kind of work some of the time after you’ve graduated. I’m not too proud to admit that I presented that card wherever it might have saved me a few dollars during those financially lean first years out of college.
It Never Hurts to Ask
A ton of merchants and retailers may offer student discounts without necessarily advertising them. Do not be afraid to inquire about student discounts when you approach a cashier or ask for the check at a dining establishment. Many businesses will offer pretty decent discounts to those who are bold enough to pose the question. There’s absolutely no shame in pulling out your Student ID and asking. The worst they can do is say no. The best they can do is express so much admiration for your pursuit of a college degree that they give you the whole thing for free. Obviously, that’s not too likely. But something in the middle, like a 10 to 15% discount, is totally plausible. Sometimes, it just takes a little initiative on your part to seize these savings.
Increasingly, online retailers are playing an active role in helping students manage the prodigious costs of a college education. In fact, according to a report by KPMG, more students than ever before are doing their back to school shopping with online retailers. KPMG notes that “Online shopping penetration for back-to-school supplies is anticipated to increase 30 percent from pre-COVID-19 levels (44 percent in 2021 vs. 34 percent in 2020). The trend for purchasing school supplies online is likely to continue, buoyed by the fact that consumers continue to increase their percentage of online shopping.” In response, more online retailers than ever before are offering discounts specifically targeting students. In most cases, you’ll just need your .edu email address to qualify. And contrary to going from store to store asking about price breaks, you can literally begin your shopping expedition by simply searching for student discounts on Google. This makes it pretty easy to distill the best deals for students in any consumer category.
Get Amazon Prime for Free
Speaking of getting great deals online, do not overlook the awesome opportunity to get an Amazon Prime membership (mostly) free of charge. At a regular cost of $139 per year or $14,99 per month, Amazon Prime basically pays for itself by giving you access to free shipping, everyday discounts, and deep Prime Day price cuts. But the deal is even better for students, who—with Amazon Prime Student—can get six months of this membership entirely for free, followed by a half-price monthly rate. This means that, as long as you are a college student, you’ll get free shipping on everything you buy through Amazon’s prime service. And for what it’s worth, if you can’t find it there, you can’t find it anywhere! Oh, and while you’re there, note that Amazon Music’s streaming service typically costs consumers $9.99 per month, but you can have it at the nominal sum of just 99 cents per month!
Especially for students living on or near campus, there may be countless small businesses in your vicinity whose lifeblood is student shopping. Given the heightened competition these businesses face from online retailers (see above), many will be enthusiastic about retaining your business by providing meaningful discounts on all manner of consumer goods. Not only that, but you get the added bonus of supporting a business that is actually a part of your college community. Seek out local businesses and ask about student discounts. In most cases, the result is win-win for you and the merchant.
Take Advantage of Promotions
In addition to offering ongoing student discounts, many businesses, brands and retailers offer seasonal promotions for students. These are especially popular during back-to-school season. Your enrollment in college could make you eligible for reduced price membership in wholesale discount shopping discount clubs, for credit cards designed to serve the needs of students, for student-geared technology, or for various digital subscription accounts.
Join Discount Portal Service
There are countless web resources designed to help you take advantage of a host of discounts all in one place. For instance, by joining UNiDAYS, you could be made aware of, and become eligible for, an even broader range of discounts designed just for students on everything from entertainment and apparel to skin care and sporting goods.
Who Offers Student Discounts?
Now that you know how to use your student discount, let’s talk about where you can use it. The short answer is, try it everywhere. As we mentioned above, it never hurts to ask, even in establishments where no discounts are advertised. But in case you’re not sure, below is a list of the types of businesses that most commonly offer some sort of student discount.
Movie Theaters have a long history of cutting breaks for students who carry an ID. Large chain theaters like Cinemark, Regal, and AMC all offer their own reduced rates to college kids. Discounted items can include admission tickets, concessions, merchandise, and more.
If you’d prefer to watch movies in the comfort of your own dorm room or off campus housing, consider taking advantage of one or several digital subscription discounts. We already mentioned that you can get a free trial of Amazon Prime followed by a significant discount on the service. Your Prime Student account will also feature access to a wide range of free video titles through Amazon’s Prime Video services as well as discounted access to premium content. But as a student, you also have a few interesting bundling options at your disposal. For instance, College Info Geek says you can bundle Hulu, Spotify and Showtime into a single package for just $4.99 a month. That’s a lot of media content for a whole lot less than the average person might pay. Other digital services that offer student discounts include Apple Music, Audacity, Disney+, the New York Times, and more.
As the old dad joke goes, the best way to Carnegie Hall is practice. But once you get there, it’s not a bad idea to show off your student discount card. That’s because this iconic music venue offers a deep discount for students, who are entitled to purchase tickets on the day of a performance for just $10 a head. You can land similar deals at the Lincoln Center and the Met. And that’s just in New York. There are countless live performance spaces in the U.S. where you can get a cheap seat because of your college enrollment status. Your student discount could be a ticket to extracurricular enrichment, landing you awesome deals on concerts, plays, sporting events, and industry gatherings in your vicinity.
You can save money every time you run through a take-out window or sit down to dine in. From student discounts at fast-food establishments like Dunkin Donuts and Chipotle to sit-down chains like Shoney’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, you can save on easy meals from restaurants with locations all over the United States. You may be able to save on prepared meals from certain grocers too. For instance, Kroger offers students a 5% discount, which can be used to grab lunch at the deli counter or to knock off general items on your shopping list. And don’t forget about those local restaurants with independent owners. You may need to ask about the student discount, but be aware that many of the small enterprises in your area benefit from a strong relationship with your campus community. In light of this relationship, many merchants will happily provide you with a student discount upon request.
Whether you have classes that actually require physical textbooks or you just enjoy the tactile experience of holding print in your hands, you should still do everything in your power to minimize the cost. Students can spend hundreds or more on books for a single semester of work and study. Find stores—whether local or online—that offer student discounts. Naturally, Amazon is a great starting place. The nation’s largest physical book retailer, Barnes & Noble also offers student discounts. If these price cuts don’t do enough to drop the cost for you, we would also recommend checking out Chegg. This is actually a comprehensive set of educational resources including student guides and exam prep support. But for our purposes, Chegg is most noteworthy for offering access to an extensive library of deep discount textbooks as well as the option to rent and return some textbooks. While this isn’t technically a student discount—anybody can qualify—it’s an awesome way to save money on what can be an unnecessarily expensive part of the college experience.
Many tech companies are particularly attuned to the needs of student consumers. As a college student, you will almost certainly need a laptop or desktop computer, a host of software subscriptions, and occasional access to peripherals like printers, external hard drives, cables, routers, and more. In most cases, the discounts offered by tech companies will vary throughout the year. Indeed, College Info Geek points out, companies like Apple may not offer one specific discount, but may offer different promotions targeting students at different points throughout the year, both on products and subscription services. Other tech companies with a history of providing student discounts include HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and Logitech. Moreover, electronics retailers like Best Buy will allow students to create special member accounts that can result in ongoing deals and discounts on products and services.
Whether you’re hopping a train home for the holidays or bussing it to your friend’s campus in the neighboring state, be sure to look for a travel option that accounts for your status as a student. According to its own website, “Amtrak is offering students between ages 17-24 the chance to save 15% on purchases made one (1) day in advance with our national student discount – making it easier for those adventurous spirits to enjoy wherever it is they’re going and to stress less about getting there.” Students who join Greyhound’s Student Advantage Discount Club will likewise get a 15% discount on bus tickets. Those who don’t join can still get 10% off just for having a student ID. Before you board a train, bus, boat, or blimp, find out if you’re eligible for a deal.
If your preferred way of getting around is actually the car, then we probably don’t have to tell you how expensive gas is right now. You’ll naturally want to do everything you can to offset this cost. Fortunately, as a student, your auto insurance offers one way to do this. You can get quotes for student discounted rates through major insurers like State Farm and Geico. Chances are that you’re paying too much at the pump, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay too much for car insurance.
In a lot of ways, schools and museums share a common mission. They are both dedicated to the illumination of knowledge, the preservation of history, and the pursuit of enrichment. So it makes sense that museums provide special opportunities for student visitors. For many museums, this means providing a discounted rate for entry, or it may even mean providing free entry to students during specific days or hours. Before you plan a visit to an art gallery or natural history museum in your community, call ahead and find out what kinds of discounts apply to students. In some cases, you may need to plan your trip around a specific time, but it may be worth it to score a steep museum discount.
Moving Truck Rentals
College students move just a little bit more often than the average individual, especially those living on campus. You will likely have to pick up, pack up, and move everything you own twice each year. That’s a brutal process. The least you can do is get a little help on the cost. Fortunately, most major companies that provide moving services recognize the strain placed on students and offer discounts to offset it. For instance, Budget Truck Rentals offers a 15% to 20% discount depending on your service needs. AAA members can get a 12% discount on Penske moving trucks and moving supplies. Top truck rental companies like Mayflower, U-Haul, and U-Pack also offer student discounts.
Now you know just how far your student ID can go to score you discounts as you shop, travel and balance basic living necessities. Speaking of necessities, I would also like to point out, just for fun, that Helzberg offers a 10% discount rate to students who are shopping for diamonds. Just putting that out there.
And as long as you’re learning how to be a savvy student shopper, this is also an important time to begin building a good credit record. With that in mind, we invite you to check out The Best Credit Cards for College Students.