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Recently Yahoo published an article outlining 12 things college students don’t need. This article listed a number of items that are common purchases for the average collage student. Some of these things a student attending schools online won’t need in the first place. Here is their list, along with an excerpt of the explanation. I will add my comments below:
- New textbooks – “To avoid paying unfathomable new-book prices, see whether your university offers a rental program — which is most often available for the school’s core-curriculum and prerequisite classes.“
- A high-end laptop or desktop computer – “An inexpensive laptop or desktop should do the trick. Netbooks are cheap, but their small keyboards and slow processing speed won’t make the grade for a student’s first year in college.“
- A printer – “If you skip this, you’ll save about $50 for a printer, $30 a pop for replacement ink and $9 per pack of paper. For about $10, your teen could buy a flash drive instead, save his 20-page term paper on it and print the paper in the campus computer lab, which you may already be paying for.”
- A pricey smart phone plan – “Students may think that a smart phone — especially the iPhone or Droid X– is de rigueur to deal with the rigors of campus life, but contracts with data plans can run as high as $200 a month.“
- Cable TV – “Your kid can catch movies and TV shows online. Hulu.com, Fancast.com and let you download recent TV shows free.“
- A car – “In a nine-month academic year, according to AAA, the average new sedan driven 10,000 miles would rack up more than $5,800 in expenses, including costs for gas, standard maintenance and insurance. Parking permits and any tickets or breakdowns would add even more to the bill.”
- A credit card – “The average freshman who had a credit card amassed more than $2,000 in card debt in an academic year, according to a recent study by Sallie Mae.“
- High bank fees – “If your child uses an account with the hometown bank, she could spend up to $5 when she withdraws money from an out-of-network ATM. If she withdraws money, say, once a week, she could spend up to $260 a year on fees.“
- Overdraft protection – “You now have the option when you open an account to opt out of overdraft protection. That means the bank either will not permit you to withdraw funds if your balance is too low or will ask whether you want to pay a $35 fee and proceed with the withdrawal.“
- A big meal plan – “Often, the money you spend on a meal plan does not roll over from year to year — if you don’t use the money, you lose it. Best to start low and see how much your student eats. Many colleges give you the opportunity to replenish the meal-plan funds midyear.“
- Campus health insurance – “If you have family health coverage, your child may still be covered under that plan when he goes to college. If your plan does not cover out-of-network costs, a campus health-insurance plan may be a more cost-effective option. Be careful, though: Some college policies have low coverage maximums, which could leave you with thousands of dollars in uninsured expenses.“
- Private loans – “The hefty price tag on higher education makes it hard to avoid student loans, but if at all possible, steer clear of private student loans. They usually carry variable rates (as opposed to the fixed rates of federal loans), have fewer repayment options and allow students to rack up high balances.“
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Here are my thoughts on these expenses:
New Textbooks – These are hardly ever worth the cost. I always purchased my textbooks used when possible, especially from sites such as Amazon.com – where you can save up to 90% off the cost of your textbooks!
Computer – I agree that many people spend tons of money on computers that do way more than they will ever need. However, if you plan to use your computer for more than just checking your emails and typing up papers, don’t go the cheap route. While in college (granted, I was an adult who commuted) I used my computer as a television, telephone, and stereo, on top of all of my computing needs. I bought a mid-range computer that is still going strong today – after over 7 years!
Printer – I completely agree with this one. Using the computer lab is a better option. Also, keep in mind that most professors are fine taking an electronic version of your paper via email – no need to print. And, if you purchased a laptop, you won’t need to print out notes for class either!
Smart Phone – About a year ago my advice to those who really want a smart phone would have been to buy one using an upgrade or new customer discount and skip the expensive data plan. However, now most carriers will force you to buy a data plan if you purchase a smart phone. So, now I would suggest to buy a used one that can access WiFi from eBay or Amazon and skip the expensive data plan. Since most colleges offer free WiFi access to all students, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Of course the bigger question is, “do you really need a smart phone?”. Be sure to read this article about cutting your cell phone costs!
Cable – Between classes, studying, writing papers, group assignments, time at the library and computer lab, eating, hanging out with friends, and interning, when would you find time to watch TV anyway? Besides, even if you do want to catch up on your favorite shows or movies, there are a lot of great, free options.
Car – $5,800 is a lot of money to spend in only one academic year! Even if your car isn’t brand new, there are still a lot of expenses involved. If you commute, try using public transportation to get to and from school. If you live on campus, take advantage of shuttles, campus buses, and classmates with cars to get around.
Credit Card – Even though a college student under 21 needs to have a cosigner before obtaining a credit card, there may not be much need for it. A better option would be to have a joint bank account (if your parent wants to send you money) and use your debit card for all purchases. Then you won’t have to worry about fighting your way out of credit card debt once you graduate.
High bank fees – Many banks offer free banking for college students – for basic checking and savings accounts.
Overdraft Protection – No matter what your age is, this is usually a bad idea! Be sure to have at least a $500 cushion in your bank account, and forgo overdraft protection.
A big meal plan – I agree with the author of this article. If you must have a meal plan, choose a modest plan and adjust during the year (if your school gives you that option). Also, learn to become a better shopper so you don’t have to rely on the school for your meals!
Campus health insurance – Since insurance companies are required to keep kids on their parents policy until they’re 26, this won’t be a necessity if your parents have insurance. Be sure to look at your options before committing to your school’s insurance plan.
Private loans – A scholarship is still the optimal way to pay for college. After this, then look into any grants or sponsors. If this still isn’t enough, and you do not have money saved, then look into loans from the federal government. A private loan should be your last choice (in most cases).
When you begin life as a college student, you will inevitably be told that certain expenses are necessary. However, what we have seen is that if you give careful thought to every dime that you spend, you do not have to fall into that trap.
What are some creative ways that you save/saved money while in school? Did you commute, or live on campus? Do you think that made a difference?
Is there anything you would do differently?