Whether in college or high school, hitting the books costs a lot! Fortunately, in this tech-savvy time, there are numerous resources available to help students and parents reduce the costs associated with education. From innovative websites to smartphone apps, there are tons of tech tools out there to help students save time, money and a lot of frustration. Here are 10 picks that are at the top of our class:

 

1. Save on supplies

Save on back-to-school shopping with the free BeFrugal.com browser add-on with CouponomaticTM. It automates the process of finding coupon codes by turning the promo code entry box that is usually empty into a drop-down box of promo codes that are guaranteed to work. For Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome.

2. Virtually design your dorm

One of the most enjoyable parts of moving into a dorm room is decorating it. Unfortunately, most dorm rooms are pretty tiny and will only fit a fraction of what you would like them to. To avoid buying items that will not fit in a small dorm, create a free account on DesignYourDorm to access their database of actual dorm size information for 140+ United States universities. Not only will you be able to view the measurements of your room, but you can create a 3D model of it and place items such as your Xbox, bookcases and chairs in the virtual rendering. This allows you to get a real feel for how your room will look once everything is in it.

3. Skip the graphing calculator

Depending on your course schedule, most students will be required to have a graphing calculator at some point. Many graphing calculators, including the always popular TI-83, retail for $88 or higher! Instead of shelling out a small fortune for one of these, try using the Free Graphing Calculator App for your iPhone, iPod or iPad. This free app does everything that you would expect a real calculator to do including the usual arithmetic functions and exponentiation, graphing up to four equations at once, unit conversions and constants for scientific calculations. This app requires iOS 5.0 and higher and can be downloaded from the iTunes App store.

4. Save on books

Books are one of the most expensive aspects of school. In fact, the College Board estimates that the average cost of books is a whopping $1200 per year! However, you can save up to 90 percent on textbooks on eCampus.com. This site has options including purchasing new and used books, e-books and even renting books. eCampus always offers free shipping over $59, and if you decide to rent, the return shipping is always free. Although prices vary greatly depending on the book, I’ve seen new books priced at $97 available to rent for $37 per semester. Not only can you purchase and rent on eCampus, but when the semester is over and you don’t ever want to see that calculus book again, you can sell it on eCampus and receive cash via direct deposit or check!

5. Set reminders

One of the worst things that can happen as a student is showing up to class and realizing that you forgot about an assignment or test. If you have an Android device, check out Studious to help eliminate those distressing situations. This Android app will give you reminders of assignments that are due as well as upcoming tests. In addition, the app provides a calendar view so you can easily visualize your class schedule. A cool bonus feature on this app is that it automatically silences your phone during your class time so you won’t have to worry about getting scathing looks from your teacher or classmates because your phone rang!

6. Try Virtual flashcards

If you study for exams using flashcards then you know what a pain they can be. You spend 30 minutes creating the cards only to lose them, spill your sixth cup of coffee on them or find that they are illegible due to the hand cramps you got halfway through writing them. Instead, try StudyBlue, an online platform that allows you to upload your study materials and create virtual flashcards. You can include photos, audio and text in your flashcards. What’s really innovative about this site is that all the materials you upload can be stored in the cloud, and you can connect with others studying the same topics. You can even search to see what flashcards and study materials have already been created by others on the subject that you’re working on. StudyBlue is free and is available online and through their apps on the Android Market, iTunes App Store and Amazon App Store.

7. Cut out distractions

I know that when I need to get something done I get easily distracted. I want to check my email, see what’s new on Pinterest or start researching that trip to Japan I’ve been dreaming about taking for the last 10 years—anything to avoid what I’m actually supposed to be working on! If you’re as easily distracted as I am, check out the free Mac application SelfControl. This app will allow you to block out distractions for uninterrupted studying. Just select a website or mail server and a period of time to add to your "blacklist" and you won’t be able to access those sites until the time is up. However, before you set that timer for too long, be aware that if you get desperate to check out your Facebook page or surf Instagram photos, there’s no way around the lockout period. In fact, even if you restart the computer or delete the application those sites will still be blocked until the time period is up.



8. Let someone else do the work

When I was in school, my least favorite assignments were writing papers, but not because of the writing itself. In fact, I actually enjoyed writing. The part that I really dreaded was writing the bibliography, which always seemed to take longer to write than the actual paper did! Fortunately, this is no longer necessary due to a service called EasyBib. EasyBib is a free automatic bibliography and citation generator that will generate a works cited page for you from over 50 different source types. Though the basic service is free, EasyBib does offer additional features via a paid subscription. The free service includes the autocite functionality and uses MLA style. Added benefits of the paid service, which is $4.99 for a month or $19.99 for a year, include APA and Chicago style, footnote formatting and a few additional features.

9. Cut the cost of paper

The cost of school supplies can add up quickly, especially when you need specialty papers such as graph paper or music sheets. In fact, music sheets can run as high as $9 for a pack of 20! Instead of spending an arm and a leg for these pricey papers, check out PrintablePaper.net. This site offers numerous varieties of specialty papers that you can print from home for free. In addition to graph paper and music sheets, options include everything from binder paper to score sheets for sports to calendars. PrintablePaper.net even offers templates for drawing comics as well as sheets for games such as Battleship, Hangman and Tic Tac Toe. Let’s just hope that you don’t end up playing game after game of Hangman when you should be studying—or you may just find yourself having to add this site to your SelfControl blacklist!

This is a guest post by Jen from Boston, MA and Natasha from Dallas, TX
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