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College Spending Dos and Don'ts

5 Things Not to Buy for College and Ways to Save on 5 Things You Need

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When it is time to get ready for college, you may have a long list of things that you need or want to buy to get ready to school. It is expensive to break out on your own, and you may need to spend some serious time considering what items are the most important and what things you can currently pass on to save money in college. There are exceptions to every rule but for the majority of most people you may be able to save a good deal of money by choosing to skip some of these purchases for you or your college student. It is important to manage your money carefully while in college. Choosing the right bank accounts for a college student can also save you money in fees.

1. Skip Buying a Car

Students walking on college campus
Christopher Futcher/E+/Getty Images

Most college freshman and even upper classmen do not need a car to get around town and to campus. If you live on campus, then you really will not need a car. You can find a college job close to or on campus, and purchase a meal plan so that you do not need to buy groceries. You can save quite a bit of money on gas, registration, parking and insurance by doing without a car for a year. College towns usually have excellent bus systems if you need to visit the mall or do other shopping as well.

2. Leave the Television at Home

One thing you may be able to save money on is by foregoing a television and gaming systems. Most dorms have a common area with a few televisions that you can use if you want to watch a major sporting event or a popular television show. If you like less popular options, you can view most programs online through Hulu or other venues. This will save you time, and can help you spend your time more effectively. This will also save you money on a cable bill.

3. Skip the College Health Insurance

You can save money on health insurance if you stay on your parents plan and they have decent out-of-state coverage. If you are attending school in the same sate you will save even more. Most student health centers will accept off campus insurance. You may want to call ahead and see if they accept your insurance. The health insurance fee can add up quickly, and it’s usually best to stay on your parents plan until you are kicked off when you get married, turn twenty-six or qualify for your own insurance once you graduate. You may even be able to save by shopping for your own policy rather than going with a group plan.

4. Don't Buy Furniture

Dorm rooms are small and they are already furnished. If you add anything extra you will overwhelm the entire space. If you are living off campus, some of the housing will offer furnished apartments. This is easier to deal with since you will need to pack up and store items over the summer when you go home. You can save a lot of money by using what is provided and just decorating your room with pictures. You should even skip buying a lot of organization components until you actually see the space and will know what will fit.

5. Don't Buy a Whole New Wardrobe

Many college students put on a few pounds when they first get to college. It is best to purchase just one or two new outfits and save the money for new clothes, as you need them throughout the year. If you do buy new clothes like a new suit or dress for presentations, make sure it has a little bit of growing room in it

6. Save with Kitchen Supplies for Your Dorm Room

Many people save money on the meal plans by stocking a few supplies in their dorm room. Some things make sense to have a mini-fridge and microwave in your dorm room. You should check out the set up in your dorm before you go, because most floors will have a microwave available for you to use. The mini-fridge may be worth the expense, but you should check out the renting options as well as Craigslist before you buy one new. Hot plates are not allowed in most places. You will need a basic set of dishes and soap to wash them with.

7. Spend Money on a Computer

A college student needs a laptop or desktop computer. Many schools have a requirement about the type that you need or the minimum requirements that you need to have. You can save money by looking for an expensive option. I don’t recommend going with a top-of-the-line model because it is not uncommon for them to be damaged, lost or stolen while in college. It will save you a great deal of time to have a laptop to complete your work on wherever you are. You can save on discounted software by purchasing it through your college bookstore. You may want to wait to buy the software until you are on campus because student discounts are quite significant.

8. Save on Textbooks

Many colleges are going to e-books and may require an e-book reader, or you can read the books on your computer. If your college is still going with traditional textbooks, buying used is the easiest way to save money. You can also save by renting the textbooks from an online site or by shopping around to find the best price. Your campus bookstore may not offer the lowest prices available, but they can give you a list of the required texts so you can look elsewhere to purchase your books.

9. Invest in a Meal Plan

Carefully consider the meal plan options, if you are living on campus. The most expensive plans often offer more food options than most college students actually need. Considering purchasing a two meal plan option and supplementing by purchasing the milk and cereal or other foods to cover the other meal. This strategy can save you a lot of money. If you are living off campus you can use several different money saving strategies for your food budget.

10. Spend Money on a Good Backpack

Your backpack is one of the most important purchases you will make. It is worth it to spend the money on a quality backpack that will last through your entire college stay. You need one that will carry your laptop and your books. Make sure that it fits you properly. Look for a backpack with a lifetime guarantee. The money you spend here is money well spent.

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