How students can save online with back-to-school deals

School suppliesFrom saving a few cents to a $1 million coupon off a house, online coupons are gaining steam.

While most coupons are used for cereal, yogurt, personal care products and other such items, printable coupons or electronic coupons with codes used at checkout are also popular for students looking to save money when shopping online for back-to-school items.

Some people might not want to shop online for such supplies, but at, the recession has increased online coupon usage 80% in the past two years, said CEO Sok Verdery in a telephone interview.

To help students find deals on its site, and elsewhere, CouponShack has come up with a list of money saving tips for back-to-school shopping. Here are a few:

Shop early. The best deals are with limited-quantity closeout items. In trying to squeeze out the last free moments of summer, many school shoppers wait until the last minute, Verdery said. The back-to-school shopping season peaks in mid-August and continues until classes begin.

Check for student discounts. Some stores, such as Apple, offer exclusive discounts for students.

Wait for Labor Day or Columbus Day sales for apparel if you can wait that long. Sales are usually bigger. Also shop on tax-free weekends if your state has them for big ticket purchases.

Buy textbooks one at a time online. This will allow coupons to be used for individual books, instead of for an entire order. Used book sellers Alibris and eCampus have online coupons. Just be sure the offer includes free shipping, which Verdery says is normal for most businesses.

"That's almost become an industry standard," he said. "If you don't have free shipping, you're almost going to lose your customer."

Buy refurbished.Dell, for example, has online coupons for refurbished or "factory reconditioned" computers, along with new computers. It's easy to find a refurbished computer that's $200 or so less than were it new. "The economy has a lot to do with it. They're taking this opportunity to clear inventory," Verdery said.

Buy in bulk.Staples and other such stores offer free shipping and sell school supplies at bulk discounts. Why buy a package of markers when you'll probably need six packages throughout the school year?

While digital coupon use is biggest in the Southeast, shoppers in Milwaukee, Wisc., must be saving a lot more money than the rest of the country. It's the top city in the United States for coupon usage.

That's a good lesson to learn in school.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at
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