Ten Things College Students Waste Money On
Just two decades ago, very few would have predicted the costs of a college education today. And unless parents have managed to put away a significant amount of cash, more and more students are financing their educations through grants and loans. Today, the average student loan debt, upon graduate with just a Bachelor’s degree, is about $36,000. And, this cumulative debt is about $1.3 trillion. It actually threatens the U.S. economy, as graduates delay marriage, home-buying, and other major purchases in order to make their loan payments.
Obviously, college students who are funding much of their own educations need to think about being as frugal as possible and look for ways to save on their expenses. And because college is a new experience, they often do not think about their spending habits and what is truly wasteful.
Here are ten things that contribute to wasteful spending.
1. Not Graduating in 4 Years and Paying Full Tuition Costs
Every extra semester that a student spends in college adds to his debt. Unfortunately, many colleges have designed programs of study that end up taking 4 ½ - 5 years. Students who think ahead can allay some of this extra cost by doing a couple of things:
- Take AP classes in high school – as many as possible. These credits transfer into virtually every college, and the tuition costs to have them added are usually ½ of the normal tuition. That’s a huge savings, not to mention it gets you out in less time.
- Take as many courses as possible at community colleges. Some students actually take a full two years at a community college before transferring to the college of their dreams, just to save money on the much lower tuition.
- Take some e-courses, at least to fulfill the general education requirements. These are much cheaper than an on-campus course.
Remember, the goal is to get out in 4 years with the lowest tuition costs possible. Paying full tuition and prolonging time spent is wasteful.
2. Paying Full Price for New Textbooks
Given that a textbook can run $60-$100 new, a lot of money can be wasted on them. There are many other options:
- Wait and see if the text is really going to be required. In large schools, many professors teach the same course. Some require the text; others do not.
- Go online and find places to rent textbooks. They’ll be shipped right to your door and you return them at the end of the semester
- Lots of textbooks are online – the e-versions are often much cheaper than that colorful hardcover version
- If nothing else, buy used.
- Never buy a new textbook for a course that is not related to your major. And absolutely rent them if possible. There is no reason for you to keep those books after the courses are over.
- If you and your roommate are enrolled in the same general education classes, buy a used book together and split the cost.
3. Maintaining a Car
Why? You may have loved having a car during your high school years, when you were living at home with mom doing your laundry and your parents taking care of your every need. Cars are expensive to keep. Even if mom and dad keep you on their insurance plan, gas, maintenance, repairs, and parking fees will eat up a huge chunk of cash. Get a bike or moped if the campus is large and doesn’t provide shuttle services. And, if you have a part-time job in town, either of these will get you there.
The money you save has plenty of other places to go, that will be more important for your future. Ph.D. students, for example, will spend 12-18 months writing their dissertations. Some of the money they save by not having car expenses can be better spent to hire dissertation editors and ensure that their final work is polished and approved. Undergraduate students under the gun and overwhelmed may need some extra cash to buy college papers from a professional writing service. There are any number of these services that are reputable and have highly qualified and degreed pros writing papers for money. Getting a top-quality paper in on time will be far more valuable than another tank of gas or an oil change.
College students are far less concerned about “labels” than they were in high school. Learn to shop at thrift stores – you’d be surprised how many other students are doing the same thing. And if you need some furniture, no one will really care where you got it.
Colleges are notorious for being a bit pricey on rent, if you intend to get an apartment rather than live in a dorm. Think about this seriously. Dorms are cheaper. But if you really cannot stand the thought of the small living quarters, then get roommates and cut the cost of rent and utilities. Only students who have parents with deep pockets are living in apartments all by themselves.
6. Food Glorious Food
Mom isn’t cooking for you anymore. If you have not opted for any kind of a meal plan, you are on your own. And in the dorm, there are only a few options – a microwave, a small fridge, and a few small electric appliances. It’s easy to buy the more expensive microwaveable frozen meals. Instead get some cookbooks specifically designed for microwaves and slow cookers. You’ll eat better.
Shop at discount groceries – even dollar stores now sell food.
And watch that budget on eating out. It’s pretty tempting to go out for ribs, pizza and beer a few times a week, but your bank account will suffer.
7. Credit Cards
Credit card companies will say that college is the time to build your credit and you can do that by getting a credit card. Not so fast. How’s your self-control? If you have none or very little, do not get a credit card. The interest rates on those unpaid balances are exorbitant. You can establish credit by getting a pre-paid credit card. It will show the balance paid in full every month (because you loaded the money in up front), and you’ll build your credit and credit score nicely. Be a “cash” person, because if you don’t have the money, you just won’t spend it.
8. Not Taking Advantage of Deals and Discounts
You may have laughed a bit silently about your mother clipping all of those coupons for savings, but not doing the same is a big mistake. Just using coupons for food and personal care items, over a four-year period will really add up. And student discounts are all over the place in college towns. You can even hire thesis writers using a discount. Take advantage of them all.
9. Too Much Spent on Social Life
Can't wait to graduate college to have more free time on social life? College is supposed to be a fund social experience as well as an academic one. But watch how you spend. Netflix more than pays for itself if you can avoid movie theatres; going out to drink during happy hours can save a bundle; if you want to throw a party or two in your apartment, make sure everyone brings their own booze and at least one food item. You could end up spending nothing for food and snacks and only be responsible for what you drink.
Find low cost social events. Rather than take that expensive trip to Florida during spring break, get a group together for a float and/or camping trip. You can have just as much fun.
10. Being Too Kind to Others
It’s easy to get into the habit of being a “lender,” especially if you have been frugal and have a bit of extra money. Unfortunately, the plea, “Can I borrow 10 bucks” can be a “rat hole” for you. Even good friends can get in the habit of not paying back, and you can get in the habit of wanting to be a “good guy.” Just don’t do it. Not only will it save you money, but it will save friendships in the long run too.
So, there you have it. Ten ways that money can be wasted during those expensive college years. But here’s the thing. If you learn frugality now, it will probably carry over into adulthood, and that’s a great thing.