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BTS Study Shows Cost Conscious Students Willing to Splurge on Fashion

College students have been schooled on saving money. Fluent, a marketing agency dedicated to translating brands to college-age Millennial consumers, conducted its annual back-to-school study, which found that 78 percent of the 1,420 undergraduate college students surveyed described themselves as more cost-conscious this year than last—down just one percentage point from 2013.

However, students said they are more willing to make exceptions to their low spending plans when it comes to purchasing clothing, technology and dorm room accessories, showing discretionary spending may be increasing.

Michael Carey, Fluent EVP director of client services, said, “The recession has made a strong impression on this generation, so there is an overall cautiousness when it comes to spending. They want to make economically smart choices, but at the same time, there are certain items that play heavily into their social capital, such as the right clothing and technology.” He added, “Consequently, we are seeing a slightly more open attitude to discretionary spending in those categories.”

Students may be forced to tighten their purse strings due to the fact that only 33 percent said they reached or surpassed their income goal for this summer, down from 45 percent in 2013. Summer job earnings are becoming increasingly important as a main source of funds. Students said they relied on summer job earnings the most to pay their expenses this year, followed by financial support from parents and family, student loans, off-campus jobs during the school year, and work-study programs.

The survey found the top five items on students’ spending lists this year are textbooks, transportation expenses, clothing, standard school supplies and computer software. Friends influencing those purchases most, with 93 percent of students relying on suggestions and reviews from their peers. Online and mobile coupons ranked second, followed by product review sites and blogs, which replaced 2013’s third place, in-store test-drives.

Contrary to the amount of buzz surrounding the power of social media, the survey revealed that online product demos, Pinterest and other social media platforms, and magazine articles or other editorial pieces are the least significant purchasing influencers.