10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

Summary: 10 simple, easy ways to cut down the techy costs of college and university - from cloud storage to investing in a decent smartphone, and 'pay as you go' e-book downloads.


After spending four years at my university, I have come to realise how much money I have all but literally flushed down the loo because of my unwise choices with choosing technology.

But there are a few tricks up my sleeve still, as I prepare to take my final exams in May and leave my undergraduate years behind.

1. Invest in a smartphone with a good data plan so not only your social life can fall into one device, but also hardware features too, like a decent camera and a music player.

2. E-books are often cheaper than their paper equivalent and in some cases are stored in the cloud for on-demand access.

3. Don't forget second hand books on Amazon are also a way to find extremely cheap books at a fraction of the price.

4. Download large content on campus where bandwidth restrictions are usually non-existent. It's very easy to bust that monthly download limit at home, especially with fellow students sharing your house.

5. Take advantage of free Wi-Fi when you can to alleviate the 'pressure' on your data plan. But if you are using someones free wireless network in a cafe or coffee house, get a brew out of politeness.

6. 'Pay as you go' as much as you can and take advantage of the student discount you have. Your student email alone should grant you access to cheap software, sometimes available by your academic department.

7. Netbooks are easier on your wallet than tablets, laptops or desktops. They will last longer and do everything you need them to do. So why splash out on something when you clearly don't need to?

8. Television on the web might be cheaper than you think. Even catching up on on-demand services instead of paying for the TV licence in the UK would already save out $200.

9. Take the free cloud storage services like Dropbox instead of paying for dozens of flash drives or expensive solid-state drives.

10. Black and white laser printers can be huge and bulky but they will last you an incredibly long time. While it may not be cheaper than a deskjet printer, consider this as an investment, seeing as universities often charge you even more to print on campus.

What other money saving tips do you have up your sleeve?

Topics: Cloud, Amazon, Hardware, Laptops, Printers, Smartphones, Tablets, Wi-Fi, Web development

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

    I'll one up the netbook, and say that buying a Windows convertable has saved some dough as well. I can now use it to write my notes while in class, cutting the need to buy notebooks every quarter.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

    points 1. 3. and 7. can save you so much time and wasted energy. and the great thing about netbooks is they last all day, so no need to worry about being near a charging point in the lecture.

    Getting second hand books off ebay/amazon is more like taking a loan out, as once you have finished with them you can normally sell it for the same price, I wasted so much money in my first year buying new book, then when the cash started to run out i started buying second hand ones and have never looked back.

    One thing about point 8, watch out in case the law changes (in the UK anyway), even now you cant watch live tv, and its easier for the tv licence company to check which houses are watching tv thoufh the internet compared to the old days where you received it through the aerial.
    Will T
  • This is off topic, but TV license fees

    are what keep the BBC in business. BBC programming is not just a national treasure, but a world treasure. It's vastly better than US public television.

    I help myself to large amounts of BBC programming here in the US and A. I wanted to contribute something for all this great programming I enjoy, so I contacted the BBC and asked to buy a TV license (even though I live in the US). If they issued a paper or something I could at least frame it and put it on my cube wall.

    BBC wrote me back and said that because I'm not in the UK, they wouldn't take my money and wouldn't sell me a license.

    Why the hell not? If someone came to my business and wanted to give us money for a piece of paper, we'd take the money and give the paper, even if it were something they didn't need and couldn't use.

    At a time when BBC services are being slashed, this policy is idiotic. Why not set up an ecommerce site, accept paypal, and sell UK TV licenses to anyone worldwide who wants one?
    • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

      Well done for trying to support the BBC, our government seems to be trying its best to get rid of it!
      But I agree with you that its a shame that its often seen a good thing to get out of paying it. when you look at how much it does its a worthy thing to support.
      Will T
      • Well, here's a radical thought. Let's let the people

        who love it support it. And let's let the people who could care less spend their money somewhere else.
      • BBC Woes

        @Will T I love BBC/ITV drama shows. My local PBS doesn't carry more than Masterpiece Theater and a comedy or two. BBCA just runs Top Gear and Gordon Ramsey over and over and over. A&E no longer runs any dramas, just dog, the bounty hunter and other crazies we can watch and feel superior to.
        Many BBC/ITV shows are online, but limited to UK IP addresses. I $200/month to Comcast with fewer and fewer shows. I'd gladly pay $200 for a license to allow my IP address to watch shows. Now that the BBC's budget is getting slashed, I can't understand why they'd refuse a revenue stream, even if its from the colonies.
      • DJEliott, let me tell you about an app called Vuze

        @Will T ... there's all kinds of fantastic BBC programming out there, much of it in HD. You can get everything Attenborough has ever done. You can get awesome BBC origial movies such as "Worried About The Boy".

        I can't for the life of me understand why instead of Top Gear and Gordon Ramsey, we in America aren't watching lots of Attenborough series. Those shows have a civilizing effect on people.

        BBC is making a serious mistake in not getting more of its programming on American TV. It would make people have a much better appreciation of the soul of Britain if they could spend a lot more time connecting with its events and culture. That would advance British interests (hint hint).

        In the meantime, for a preview of what exists visit thepiratebay.org and type in "BBC".
    • Um, don't feel guilty. BBC programming is SOLD

      to the affiliates you watch it on. They're getting their money. Relax.
      • I wrote them emails asking where to send a check

        @frgough@... and they told me to go purify myself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, that I wasn't allowed to purchase a TV License. Rationalize that one!
    • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

      @HollywoodDog it is actually illegal to watch TV services from the BBC online (using iPlayer, for instance) without a TV license. The trouble is that only UK citizens can be licensed - it's a legal thing, not a policy

      They could do with a separate, reduced, iPlayer license for non-TV license payers
  • I disagree with most of these points

    1) While I love my smartphone and associated data plan, this is hardly cost savings. If you have a netbook, you have social network access on campus and at home - more than that is a luxury, not a necessity. Further, a data plan will run you at least $60/mo compared to $30/mo without (in the US). $30/mo over a 9 month academic year is enough to buy an iPod Touch AND a point and shoot camera with a better flash than a smartphone would have. Also, the iTouch would give you social network access in WiFi without the need for a laptop.

    2) eBooks may be cheaper, but they're not necessarily the best to study with, and if it's part of your future profession, having paper you can access is nice (your mileage may vary, however).

    3) I agree with this point 100%. Buying used hurts the disgustingly overpriced textbook industry as much as piracy does, but you get to do it without the morality issues. I'm not being sarcastic, I honestly think the textbook market needs to be hurt bad so they stop gouging students.

    4) I guess bandwidth restrictions are a UK thing, in the US they're essentially non-existent and I usually had faster internet at home than on campus (also, fewer peering eyes at what I was downloading).

    5) Free Wi-Fi is sufficiently common place that a data plan is really just for convenience sake (and while worth it if you can pay the cost, it's hard to justify it as a penniless student.

    6) I agree this is a great use of your student email (hang onto it after you graduate)

    7) They are easier on the wallet, but if outlets are abundant and your hands don't fit on the tiny keyboard, a cheapo-Dell for $400 will serve you just as well for mobility and better for actually typing.

    8) I strongly agree - also, paying ala carte gives networks a fair cut as does watching online (the network put it there, so they're obviously getting something for it). Even after college this is a better plan.

    9) Flash drives are so ridiculously cheap and files are so small that a single one will store all of the documents you're likely to need for presentations around campus. Also, a flash drive requires that you reveal less of your personal life to classmates when accessing a presentation via a projector.

    10) While I agree it's a good investment, a better option is to minimize printing. Keep notes on your computer, don't print out every presentation your professor has ever thought about printing. Computers are supposed to be making us paperless, not more paper dependent. The thing though about the laserjet is that it's unlikely to pay for itself over even 4 years - unless you're printing a ream a month, you're probably better with a cheapo ink jet and/or on campus printing.
  • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

    Great article, Zack. A techy way I save money on college is by spending time on Myedu, an education management site. Time management can really burn you when courses cost hundreds of dollars (plus the books), so using that site really helps in the long run with picking courses. Plus, they have book matching features that other sites don't have including a book bundling option that saves even more. They also have CLEP information (availability at each school) so you can look up how much you can save just by taking each test.
  • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

    1) I don't know if getting a good data plan is wise if your goal is to cut costs. Per month, a good data plan is about half the cost of an expensive college book. Just use the campus wifi or any local free wifi. <br>2) I was a computer science major in college, but hardly ever even *had* to use my laptop. Most of my laptop hours were wasted away on Facebook, internet surfing, gaming, etc. If your campus offers free computer use (at the library or computer lab for instance), just do your work there. For essays, write them up by hand and type them up at the lab. Not having a laptop actually saves lots of time and money.<br>3) If you have a good friend who's taking a course that you're going to take, then ask to borrow the book from him for a day (when he/she doesn't need it). Then, go to a copy center and make a complete copy. It'll save lots of money later on. (Make sure you'll actually use that book though.)<br>4) From my experience, it helps to be extroverted and friendly. The more friends you have, the more you can ask favors (such as borrowing the book, etc.). Also, if you need help on anything, they can help you out. On the flip side, try to be as helpful to everyone as possible. <br>5) If you can work part time, that helps save money and build your resume. I know companies hiring CS grads look primarily at programming work experience. It seems fairly easy these days to get a contract job as a web developer. And as a student, you can charge a bit less (but still much more than what liberal arts majors normally make), and get lots of clients.
  • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

    Apparently someone doesn't know that copying an entire book is against the law...
  • Thank you, thank you, for not touting the iPad ...

    ... as the be all, end all device for education. I don't have anything against the iPad, and if you have the $s by all means buy it. But sometimes you see people advising an iPad over a netbook (because netbooks are supposedly dead)
    Roque Mocan
  • The biggest thing that helped me was

    studying and working my a$$ off during my first year (and after), then applying for every scholarship I was eligible for!<br><br>(during my high school days, I 'enjoyed' life way too much to be eligible for a scholarship freshman year)<br><br>After freshman year, i not only didn't have to apply for loans or grants, but had money left over.<br><br>I was very surprised at the amount of scholarships that went un-rewarded, because of lack of knowledge/ application by the student body. The faculty constantly voiced that there's money to give away, but nobody is applying for it.<br><br>My advice: talk to your teachers, find out what's available, and make sure you've done the work to be eligible for the scholarship(s). odds are there's not too much competition for them.<br><br>That, and I used the free computer lab until my senior year, when I finally broke down and bought a Dell desktop for an unGodly amount of $$$ (of course, this was 2002). BUT! I've still got it in my house, it's running SUSE server like a champ (of course, RAM and HD upgrades over the years)
  • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

    Very good list, and especially 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9 are really valuable.
    Ram U
  • Step 1: Do NOT go to College...

    ...it is a waste of time and money. Learn a trade or something. Do not pour money into this outdated, overrated institution that does nothing but fill the coffers of Corporate fat cats, twisted political tools, and their tenured professor cronies.
  • saving without giving up

    I'm not sure if prepaid cell phones are big in the UK, but I know in the US they are gaining ground. The service is actually getting better and the choices of phones is as well. I'm using Straight Talk and their unlimited plan is $45 for everything...that's it.
  • RE: 10 techy ways to cut the costs of college

    Choosing a laptop or device more based on your NEEDS rather than WANTS will really help cut down on costs, but ultimately it's a choice everyone has to make. Either way I found a pretty good article for those that are lost when it comes to selecting laptops... <a href="http://www.asusreview.net/laptop-selection-guide/" target="_blank">Laptop Selection Guide</a>