How College Students Can Save Money Shopping for Educational Software

educational softwareThese days, it seems that universities are forcing students to pay a lot of extra technological fees, such as hardware and software costs and upgrades, copying and printing fees, and more. But many students are finding that it is completely unnecessary to have to spend all this extra money just to successfully complete their coursework without taking on additional student debt.

While some university courses do require specific software, most of which is discounted through the course provider, the majority of students can get by without purchasing high-end technology. No need to purchase Word or Windows when you can get your homework done with much cheaper educational software.

Here are five simple tips, each of which can help save you hundreds of dollars in hardware and educational software costs:

Reduce PC Hardware Upgrades

If you’re looking to buy a machine just to help you in school, and are willing to forego the newest graphics and sounds used in gaming, you may find that you don’t need to purchase any hardware upgrades at all. In fact, you can often get a laptop capable of running Office software and browsing the web (about all you really need for school) for just a couple hundred bucks!

Save money over time with Printers and Scanners

While a printer or scanner is a big upfront cost, the reality is that purchasing one will save you money over the course of your years-long education. When you count up all the rough drafts that you’ll be submitting, and the overall volume of printed paperwork you will be producing throughout your academic career, you can often break even within your first year at school by purchasing a printer. You’ll also be saving money on the high mark-up fees charged by your local copy center.

Don’t fall for Microsoft Office marketing

Think you can’t operate a computer without purchasing pricey software from Microsoft Office? You would be wrong. While it is important is that you have Microsoft Office functionality, you don’t need to have the specific brand itself. With just a little research on the Internet, there are many accessible alternatives, such as Open Office and Libre Office. Both of these software packages are absolutely 100% free, and are open-source (meaning the software is written, designed, and maintained by the community, not a for-profit company).

How to skimp on Photoshop 

If you thought Microsoft Office was expensive, be aware of image editing software, like Photoshop. Individual licenses for these products can cost hundreds of dollars each, and it is very easy to spend thousands of dollars acquiring every piece of software in the toolkit.  However, much like with other brand-name software, you don’t have to pay for the label. Another quick search on the Internet will turn up programs like and Inkscape, which are viable and free alternatives to Photoshop and other standard products.

Alternatives to Video Editing Software 

Add “expensive audio or video editing software” to the list of items that you don’t need to spend your money on. Audacity is one of the most popular editing platforms around and is completely 100% user designed and supported. There are dozens of free video editing platforms around as well; Freemake, FileLab, VSDC are just a few choices.


So if you’re thinking about heading away to University in the near-future, take a hard look at some of your expected ‘costs.’ You will find that in many cases, with a little legwork and elbow grease, you can locate alternatives that will end up saving you significant amounts of cash. Don’t be fooled into buying expensive equipment and computer products that you won’t really need.

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3 Responses to How College Students Can Save Money Shopping for Educational Software

  1. Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity 06/28/2013 at 5:57 am #

    Forget the campus bookstores or course providers, but online retailers that sell all this stuff, particularly software have huge discounts. Almost all of the developers make a “student & teacher” version of their products which are exactly the same as the standard retail package but priced specifically for the educational community. It takes a little effort to prove that you are part of this community but it’s well worth the effort after seeing some of the discounts. Plus, if you get a couple people going in together and sharing something like a printer (wireless and cloud-based printing options make it super easy) or a software license the costs come down even more.

    If you ask almost anyone, freeware such as open-source and web-based software are ok but most cannot hold a candle to the real deals. And on top of that, if you are going to be using Office or Photoshop in your chosen career path, why would you want to set yourself back by not mastering it while you can still make mistakes and not have it cost you anything? It’s much easier to be proficient in a career that way.

  2. cj 06/25/2013 at 6:26 am #

    Paul! It is unreal what I was able to accomplish (in 1992) without having to worry about any of this. I even teach an online music course where none of this is necessary. There is still no substitute for effort and consistency. They will get the student further than any gadget.

    It is a great service that you offer this information so that students don’t get ripped off and add to their already bulging student loan debt.

    • Paul 06/25/2013 at 7:23 am #

      Can’t agree with you more CJ about effort and consistency being more important than having the latest hardware or software. I put myself through college and worked part-time to earn a little spending money. It was a difficult but valuable lesson and is a big part of who I am today!

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