It's taken college coupons and coupon book vendors quite some time to catch up with their tech-savvy, green-minded target audience. College students know they want to save money and trees, but for so long they've been inundated with wasteful -- not to mention lame -- paper coupon books.
Uninitiated freshmen with smart phones in hand may balk at the idea of using coupons around town, haunted by images of Mom and her wad of uncool clipped coups. Even seasoned upperclassmen familiar with the irresistible draw of late night pizza can be overwhelmed when every nook and cranny on campus is stuffed with local free coupon books.
In response, several coupon book publishers are tapping into the lucrative online coupons world. They take the same local vendors found in campus coupon books and place them at the eager fingertips of every paper-avoiding, munchie-developing student online. Each site allows you to set a page designed for your campus and browse by popular student categories: from banks and bookstores to tanning salons and tattoo parlors.
(Keep in mind the average student coupon book shies away from brand names and chain stores, so snag a wide variety of online coupons from CouponSherpa.com, your burly Himalayan study partner.)
Even by late September -- when the on-campus coupon book selection begins looking as haggard as Zach "Homeless Jesus" Galifianakis -- most online coupons are available until local shops release the newest batch of promos. Here you'll find five of the most popular and comprehensive sites, spanning nearly 250 campuses and reaching five-million students in all. Now go and get your save on -- whether you're a student or not.
1. Campus Special
The biggest coupon provider of the bunch serves over 100 universities. Campus Special supplements their localized free coupon book with a clean, spam-free site. Select your state on the home page and choose from a list of affiliated campuses. Not all the included schools are currently active, but most are projected to be up and running by October.
Campus Special offers printable and text coupons with convenient maps for most locations. Given the nature of their clientele (these are mom and pop places), hardly any support the fancy-shmancy scannable coupons larger retailers developed for smart phones, but you'll receive text alerts for your favorite stores whenever a selection is updated.
New for the class of 2010, the site launched a free online ordering service, dubbed "Food Court." Log onto your university home page, click on "Food Court" in the upper menu bar, and browse for the most drool-inducing grub. Campus Special supplies you with a menu, prices, phone number and, if available, a link to order online. Unlike similar services such as CampusFood.com, Campus Special doesn't charge for the service.
Campus Special serves universities from coast to coast, including Florida State University, Syracuse University and Montana State University.
2. College Coupons
College Coupons is another paper-and-glue book looking to modernize and reach a larger audience. The site is relatively stripped down, but comes complete with all you need to save. Pick your school from a drop list to be taken directly to a custom page. Every merchant listing includes an address, phone number and link to available coupons, already formatted and ready to print. One downside: No way to search by category.
The folks at College Coupons bring deals to students throughout the west and midwest, including Utah State University, Colorado State University and the University of Wisconsin.
3. The Survival Kit
To anyone in the Pacific Northwest, The Survival Kit is more prominent than Mt. Hood or rainy afternoon skies -- kind of. The student version is available on only five campuses, but what it lacks in reach it makes up in selection. Most areas have well over 100 unique coupons, all found online or in the mailed brochure. (The coupons are also intended for community members.)
The Survival Kit e-newsletter is a good way to make sense of this enormous variety. Sign up to receive quarterly updates and occasional new deals.
4. My Student Deals
My Student Deals is the most similar to general public sites, hosting a section for online coupons at national chains. For the swankiest college coupons this side of the quad, select your university and search the "Local Companies" tab. A nice touch is the "Buy/Sell Textbooks" tool and regularly updated list of grocery coupons, most of which are accepted at any local grocer.
Although boasting a list of nearly 90 universities, some of the most well-represented campuses are Michigan State University, New York University and the University of California - Santa Barbara.
5. College Tokens
College Tokens looks like a gambling site for youngsters, but don't be fooled. It specializes in free text coupons and doesn't offer a printable option. On the home page, roll over your state then select from a list of cities. Enter your phone number at the top, pick from the best deals and press "Send Coupon by Text" to snag them on your phone. Also available is a subscription service for updates every time your favorite Chinese take-away holds all-you-can-eat Sesame Chicken Tuesdays.
College Tokens is the least comprehensive of the college coupon sites, providing primarily for schools in Arkansas and Texas.