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The best cheap and free perks for college students

Good news, kids: There are price breaks aplenty if you know where to look.

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"Hey, let's go ziplining! Says here we get an extra 25 percent off from Groupon."

© Wavebreak Media LTD/Wavebreak Media Ltd./Corbis

There's a reason college students famously gravitate to ramen noodles: The latter are cheap and the former are broke, what with staggering tuition costs having turned out their pockets, hobo-style.

Thankfully, lots of companies offer great discounts and freebies to anyone with a student ID. Because my own broke daughter just started college this month, I've compiled this list of some of the best deals for the ramen set. This is a good one to bookmark, as I'll be expanding and updating the list as I locate new options.

Entertainment

Apple Music for $5 per month: In addition to hardware discounts (see below), Apple offers its Music subscription service at half price for students. That subscription nets you access to some 45 million songs, and of course it's accessible on all your Apple devices.

See it in iTunes
spotify-premium-for-students

A seriously fantastic deal for students: Spotify Premium, Showtime and Hulu, all for $5 per month.

Spotify

Spotify Premium and more for $5 per month: Arguably the best student deal in the history of student deals, Spotify offers a $5 ad-free plan that includes both Hulu and Showtime. Nonstudents pay a minimum of $10, $8 and $11 per month, for a grand total of $29. That's an awful lot of entertainment for $5.

See it at Spotify

Money

You Need a Budget free for one year: If there's one thing most students need help with, it's learning to manage money. You Need a Budget (YNAB) offers a wealth of tools and classes to that end. It normally costs $84 per year, but students can get their first year absolutely free.

See it at YNAB

Software

Microsoft Office 365 for free: Although modern students may be a bit more accustomed to Google Docs, Microsoft aims to sway them with Office 365 Education at no charge. That version includes not only Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but also OneNote and Microsoft Teams (the latter potentially useful for organizing and executing group projects). All that's required is a valid school email address.

See it at Microsoft

SoftMaker Office Standard 2018 for $9.95: Microsoft rival SoftMaker now offers its full SoftMaker Office 2018 suite free for schools and teachers, while students can buy it at a substantial discount. (It regularly sells for $70.) Why choose this over totally free Microsoft Office? One thought: The latter goes away once you're no longer a student. Here, your one-time payment of $9.95 buys you a license for life.

See it at SoftMaker

Shopping and tech

Amazon Prime Student: 50 percent off: Whether it's textbooks or more coffee pods for the Keurig, students can undoubtedly take advantage of the two-day shipping afforded Prime subscribers -- to say nothing of the many other Prime perks. A trial subscription is available free for the first six months; after that, it's $6.49 per month or $59 annually -- half the regular price.

See it at Amazon

Apple discounts and bundles: Apple has long offered price breaks for students, including a half-price Apple Music subscription (see above) and discounts on iPads and Macs. One standout deal that's available through Sept. 25: Buy a Mac or iPad Pro (at education pricing) and get a free Beats Solo3 Wireless headphone. Students can also save 20 percent on an AppleCare warranty program.

See it at Apple

Best Buy discounts: Best Buy offers student savings on a wide variety of products, from laptops to TVs to mini-fridges. To get the discounts (which in some cases can be applied to existing sale prices), you need to create or sign into your Best Buy account, then sign up for student deals. Thankfully, you don't need a .edu email address, and in fact you don't actually have to be a student: parents of college and K-12 students can sign up as well. 

See it at Best Buy
groupon-student-program

Eligible students get extra savings on Groupon's already cheap local deals.

Groupon

Groupon local deals: Save 25 percent: Groupon's new program (currently listed as "limited time only") affords college students an extra 25 percent off food, drink, activity and other local deals. That's for the first six months; after that, you save 15 percent for as long as you remain an eligible student.

See it at Groupon

Lenovo laptops: Save an extra 5-10 percent: Students, teachers and administrators can all score an extra 10 percent off Lenovo's Thinkpad line and an extra 5 percent off Ideapad laptops. That's on top of any existing sales or bundles. (You'll have to provide verification at checkout.)

See it at Lenovo

Microsoft Store savings: In addition to free Office (see above), Microsoft offers discounts for both students and their parents. However, it's not immediately clear how to obtain those discounts -- laptop prices, for example, were the same via the student portal as they were through the main Microsoft Store -- and Microsoft say the savings can be "up to 10 percent" in one place and "10 percent or more" in another.

See it at Microsoft

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!