How to Get Cheap & Free School Supplies for College Students

College School Supplies Are Expensive!

Two years ago, my two oldest kids went away to college. Before this, I never realized just how expensive it is for a child to prepare for college! My kids have been saving and working for years to prepare for this, yet there is no way one can be 100% prepared for the rising expenses of college.

It’s so much more than just rent, tuition and groceries! All of those things need to be paid, yet there is so much more. Textbooks, school supplies, lab supplies, tutoring fees, parking passes, fuel, cell phone plan, and the list goes ON and ON. If they are living away from home, they’ll also need things for their dorm or apartments!

If you’re willing to get creative and put a little time and energy into it, there are actually several ways to get cheap or even free school supplies for college students. I’m going to show you how.

College supplies

7 Places You Can Buy Cheap College School Supplies

I decided to save the best for last and start out with how to get cheap college school supplies. Here are my top 7 ways to get the cheapest deals around on college supplies! It is so important that your children learn this!

I have yet to meet a college student who was rollin’ in the dough! Most of them are barely getting by! And that is okay! During that time of their life, they need to put full time, high paying employment on the back burner and focus on an education that will eventually give them that job where they are making enough money to enjoy life.

As much as we all wish we could have the newest textbook, calculator, laptop, or tablet, sometimes we need to go the cheaper route. That does not mean that they can only buy trash! That means your kids need to learn how to search out the best deal and find the products that are within their price range.

Macbook sitting on a table

1. Amazon

As you all know, I love Amazon! There are SOOO many back to school deals! You can find them by searching Amazon OR by just going to our deals section. Most of our daily deals come from Amazon. We post daily showcasing the best deals out there. Amazon almost always has the best prices! You can shop things out and find what price/quantity/version works for you!

For example, we found great deals on Chromebooks on Amazon. Our kids didn’t need a Mac or PC to do what they needed to for school. If needed, they could go to the computer lab. So a Chromebook priced under $250 totally did the trick! I do recommend you skip the 2G Chromebooks and go for at least 4GB. Touchscreen is a nice option, but not necessary. We go with Asus or Samsung for the best Chromebooks.

Another HUGE way to save is by signing up for Amazon Prime Student. You can get a free 6-month trial and then after that, you get 50% off an annual prime membership for 4 years or until you graduate!! All you need is a .edu email to sign up.

As an Amazon Prime Student, you get all the benefits of Amazon Prime (such as free 2-day shipping, prime video, prime music, prime photo and more) PLUS, you get special student deals and discounts! My kids were able to rent or buy their textbooks on Amazon. It is 110% worth it! My kids got discounts on Spotify and Hulu as well.

In addition, be sure to check out . Here, you will be able to find all your college and housing supplies, electronics, & book needs all in one place.

2. Facebook

Facebook is SUCH a great way for college students to save. The moment your child decides where they are going to attend school, have them search Facebook for groups specific to that campus! Good examples are housing pages, textbook re-sell pages, classifieds, and ISO pages! Get them in those communities so they can have ample resources.

Before heading to the bookstore and buying brand new textbooks, check out the Facebook page where students are re-selling textbooks! They can get it for half the price!

Also, when it comes to furnishing an apartment, there is no need to buy everything BRAND NEW. Get on the Facebook marketplace or your college’s classifieds group and you can furnish everything for so cheap.

People only stay in a college town for a short amount of time so by the time they move out, all their furnishings are still LIKE NEW! Be sure to check out Facebook because you will be amazed at what you find.

Using Facebook to get cheap college supplies

3. Fabulessly Frugal

Not to toot our own horn, but we post the best deals daily and do the work so you don’t have to! The reason why I can say that is because my own kids have been buying things off FF because the deals are AMAZING. My son loves it because he downloaded the Fabulessly Frugal app, and signed up for deal notifications on the types of thigns he needs to live. He can buy just what he needs when it is at its lowest price.

You can get all different kinds of college school supplies from pens and pencils to bedding to TVs and electronics at such a good price. My daughter snagged her bedding, a FULL SET with a comforter, pillows, pillow shams, etc. for only $20 and it is so cute! Be sure to check out our Back to School deals daily because we are working hard to post daily the best deals that all of you are looking for.

4. Dollar Store

Your local Dollar Store is SUCH a great resource when looking for cheap school supplies. Each student will need calculators, notebooks, pens, pencils, post-its, markers, and the list goes on and on! Might as well buy these products for dirt cheap!

At the dollar store, you can get everything you need for the year and not spend over $20! Now I realize you can’t get everything there, but you can check a huge portion of your list off for just a few dollars. Do not miss this chance to get cheap things! You’ll regret it.

Also, let’s be honest, we all lose things so why spend a fortune on pens and pencils when you will just lose them! Buy the cheap ones so it is not as much as a loss once you misplace it 🙂

5. Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club is a great place to shop for school supplies! You can get notebooks, backpacks, binders, paper, etc. all in one place for a super great price!

Also, for fast shopping in the store be sure to check out the Scan and Go app! Watch my video review showing you how to use the Sam’s Club Scan and Go App.

Sams club scan and go app

6. Second-Hand Stores

Second-Hand stores like Goodwill are great places to look for college supplies, especially for any dorm needs. My daughter was able to get all her kitchen supplies (pots, pans, silverware, plates, etc.) at out local thrift store for about $30.  You might need to look around a little bit, but you can snag some supplies that are in great shape for a great price.

7. eBay

We all know how eBay works, it is just an online auction! Well, have you ever thought about getting your most expensive college school supplies on eBay? Maybe a laptop, television, printer, tablet, etc!

It is ideal to not buy a used product, but if you find a good deal from a shop that has great ratings, why not? I have bought many electronics off eBay and have been nothing but pleased. Just make sure you check the seller’s ratings because there are many scams that exist out there!

How to Get FREE School Supplies For College Students (Top 7 Ways)

I’ve found a few ways that you can get random odds and ends for free! All the things you get for free will add up and will end up saving you TONS of cash.

College girl standing in front of a blue and pink wall

1. Craigslist

Did you know that Craigslist has a free section? All you have to do is log on to your local Craigslist and go to the For Sale –> Free Section. After that, just look around and see what school supplies you can get for free!

I have seen so many notebooks (UNUSED), Pens, math supplies, old textbooks, art supplies, and so much more! Normally they are not in 100% perfect condition, but they will do!

This is an awesome way to pinch pennies. And to be honest, I am always amazed at the amount of AWESOME free things that end up on that site. You have to give it a try.

2. Freecycle

If you haven’t heard of Freecycle you are seriously missing out! Freecycle is an online community where there are over 5,000 groups which post free items! All you have to do is log on and enter your location so they can show you the groups near you. Then all you do is browse until you find what you are looking for!

Once you find something that you want, you can get it for free! This non-profit just wants to promote reusing and recycling! So, get on and find the group in your city so you can see which college supplies you can get for free! This could save so much money!

Get free college supplies on freecycle

3. Salvation Army

You will need to contact your local Salvation Army for more info, but the majority of Salvation Armies around the country have a Back to School event each year for families who are struggling getting school supplies. Big name companies like Walmart, Target, and many others often contribute to these events and donate new items for these families. What you will need to find out is:

  1. If your family qualifies to receive this help
  2. If this branch of Salvation Army helps college students.

A simple phone call or a visit to your store is all it will take! This is an awesome opportunity for those of you who have no idea how to make ends meet!

By the way, the Salvation Army is not the only store who does BTS events like this! Check out your local newspaper or community Facebook page to learn more about other BTS events in your community.

4. School Library

Most college libraries have resources that are available for check out! For example, at my kids’ university, they are able to check out laptop computers. You also could check out textbooks, DVDs, or use a computer in the lab that has resources like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Microsoft Office! All of those items are SUPER expensive!

You could save thousands of dollars by just going to the library to study instead of having your own personal textbook. There are plenty of free resources! Your first week at college during orientation, be sure to ask all of these questions!

Save money on college textbooks

5. Free Software (gimp)

There are so many software downloads that colleges/different classes try and require you to have! If you get all of them, it can really add up! Either you can go to your school library to use their resources OR you can find free software downloads that are available online.

Important: Research a program before downloading it! There are many scams and viruses out there so be sure to verify what you are trying to download is what you are looking for BEFORE downloading it. You could seriously harm your computer if you download something harmful, so take your time and do your research!

One that I recommend is GIMP. If you/your child has to take a graphic design course or will need some version of Photoshop, they can download GIMP, which is free and will give them plenty of sophisticated tools to make beautiful creations.

6. Amazon Kindle App

This will save you TONS if you are worried about buying expensive, overpriced textbooks. All you need to do is download the FREE Amazon Kindle App and you will be able to view thousands of textbooks for free!

Like I’ve mentioned so many times in this post, textbooks are one of the most expensive parts of college. So why not download a free app and have access to all of your textbooks FOR FREE. I just love that word, FREE!

And if the textbook happens to not be available, you can rent it on Amazon for a super cheap price. Most of the time you will have access to a textbook for about 6 months (you can pay for more if needed), but since a semester only lasts a few months, this is a perfect option! But be sure to check to see if the free version is available before paying.Using Amazon kindle to save money on college texbooks

7. Online Groups

My final advice is to be sure to use all your resources. There are so many Google+, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. groups online that are full of free resources!

Do your research and find all the resources available to you and your student. You will be amazed at the amazing deals/free things you can get just by doing a little research online.

Another awesome idea is to ask at Student Orientation what groups students are in! All college students will know because most of them are all pinching pennies and looking for deals. Open your mouth, ask around, and you will find all the deals that you need.

8. Take The Time

I know that it is so much easier just to go to one store, buy everything, and call it quits. BUT, you could be missing out on saving hundreds, MAYBE even thousands of dollars. Take the time to search out these deals. Have your student spend time on it every single day… it really is worth your time (AND MONEY!)

What Are Your Tips?

I’m sure there are many other ways to get cheap college school supplies so please share them in the comments! One simple tip could help someone save a ton of money.


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