Online Shop Like a Pro

Pinching pennies is a must for college students, but all too often people are reluctant to buy things online, fearing long wait times, shipping costs and incorrect orders. Here are the online tools you'll need for stress-free shopping in the comfort of your own dorm.

For textbooks, the popular choice is Amazon. You can search for new and used copies of the books on your syllabus and decide what edition to buy.

"I find discounts and cheaper books so I don't spend that much money," freshman Diane Faglio explained. "I've bought books at the bookstore before, and in comparison the savings could be over $150."

Doing your research and buying books online can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of your college career, but remember to account for the cost of shipping. If you are buying textbooks from different websites, you will most likely be charged for separate shipping on each item.

To avoid these fees, you can utilize Amazon Prime for students to get free shipping on select items. This service is free for the first six months of signing up, followed by $39 each year, which includes access to instant videos and Kindle books.

"The bookstore is normally quite overpriced in comparison to online shopping, such as getting a used book from Amazon," sophomore Susan Walsh said. "There are also e-books that offer a lot of discounts; they're usually about $100 cheaper than a hardcover book."

The Barnes & Noble Marketplace also offers free expedited shipping to its store members for $25 each with an additional 10 percent savings to customers on all in-store and online items and 40 percent off best-selling hardcover books. However, their discount does not extend to NOOK's digital products.

Both of these websites allow you to sell back the books you have purchased, but you can compare the buyback prices of books on to see what seller will yield the highest return. 

"I've been purchasing books online since my freshman year, but I have purchased things from the bookstore like if a professor posts what book we need late or something like that and I need it right away," said sophomore Danielle Wankmuller. "But I try to avoid that when at all possible because the prices are too high."

Wankmuller said she sells her books back each semester, resulting in substantial savings.

Websites that compare prices also exist for other retail items. There are also countless apps to help you compare prices from a mobile device when you are actually shopping in a store.

"I usually use Amazon for like hobby-related things like entertainment, nothing too serious or important," senior Jonathan Lopes said. "Just in case that there's any new thing that will come out. at the very least I'll look at it. One of the popular things (from email alerts) is that if you buy this along with this you'll save this much money. For example, if I were in a store and an item costs one thing, I can wait around and look online and save like 10 to 20 bucks."

Apps like ShopSavvy, Google Shopper and Red Laser allow you to scan an item's barcode and compare prices in order to find the thriftiest option. Those who would rather use their computers to search for deals can use the Shopping tab on Google.

The Google search engine is also useful in finding looks that are similar to what you are looking for. By searching one specific trench coat from a store or designer, Google will show you equivalent styles that may be more in line with your price point.

Once you find the online store from which you plan on buying, you can use to find coupon codes that provide savings through discount deals or alerts to exclusive online sales. These coupon codes come either directly from the store or from users who have spotted the codes in emails or advertisements. Additionally, if you are a AAA member, you can save online from stores like Target and Gap and receive other discounts that alternate on a monthly basis.

Again, shipping can be a price factor that deters customers from shopping online, but several stores offer everyday free shipping. Clothing stores like ASOS, LL Bean, Piperlime, Zappos and Shopbop offering free shipping with no minimum purchase, while most other websites offer free shipping once you reach a price threshold of $50 or more. When all else fails, join an email list or follow your favorite store on Facebook to get the latest updates on their deals.

For more local options, Groupon is the site to consult. This website offers coupons from local businesses including spas and nightlife. The site allows you to personalize your profile so that you see specific deals relating to your interests. Access is free to users.

"I actually just bought tickets for a comedy show last week [on Groupon],"   Walsh, who will be seeing Martin Short at the State Theater this week, said. "They email you specific deals for your area so you always see what's going on."

Tickets for the show range from $40 to $80, but Walsh scored hers for $30.

GrubHub has deals on local restaurants and is great for late night orders. Savings include automatic coupons that can be applied once you have finished placing your order, coupons that give you money off your next purchase and contests for gift cards on their Facebook page. The drawback to the website is that deliveries may take longer than phoning in the order yourself. If you plan to eat out, email lists are the way to go and will supply you with endless coupons and even a free meal on your birthday.