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Cutting Costs in College: 10 Things You Don’t Actually Need

dollar-cuttingThe cost of college tuition alone is enough these days to shock parents into catatonia, and the price seems to rise each year, with no discernible upper limit.  Families are stretched thin to meet basic expenses.  Personal observation suggests many kids may be excluded from the opportunity for advanced education, just because of the lack of a relatively modest amount of money.  Thus, when budgeting for college, examine every cost closely.  Eliminating any unnecessary expenditures could eventually ensure completing your degree, on the one hand, rather than dropping out for financial reasons, on the other.  Let’s see what expenses might be eliminated.

A car:

Many campuses withhold parking permits from freshman, and others strongly discourage all students from bringing their own cars to campus.  Colleges want students sticking around to study, not gallivanting off to waste their time on non-academic activities.  Automobile care, especially without familiar and trusted mechanics, is a burden and a distraction.  Car insurance for young people is notoriously expensive as well.  The rule of thumb should be that unless a car is necessary it should be left at home.

Of course, there are exceptions.  Many students need to commute to college, and public transit may be lacking.  Another exception t is a job substantially helps with tuition.  Alternatively, a job that maximizes one’s chances at a graduate program (e.g., research lab work as preparation for medical school) might justify a car.

Try to get the least expensive second hand vehicle possible that has a decent safety record.  Stay away from flashy models that might attract the unwelcome attention of car thieves/vandals or prompt the urge to take road trips, with their attendant dangers of driving while intoxicated.  Choose what is sometimes called a ‘beater’ car.  Appearance and cool factor vehicle are irrelevant – these can wait until that first big job is secured.

Space-hogging TV:

Unless you are jointly furnishing shared off-campus housing, chances are your living space will resemble a submariner’s.  The space consumed by an enormous TV is better spent on living space or something that can actually save you money, for example, a refrigerator or microwave, if allowed.  Additionally, the presence of a big screen in the room constitutes a constant temptation to watch (see below).

Cable TV service:

This is not the time in your s life to be vegetating in front of the boob tube.  Spending any time on TV when there are grades to be earned and knowledge to be gained is simply ludicrous.  If you feel that life without your favorite show is not worth living, then services such as Netflix can feed the need at a lower cost than a cable subscription.

Tons of clothes:

Yes, college students need enough clothes to last between weekly laundry sessions , but a massive wardrobe is a potential source of friction between roommates, rather than an asset.  Storage space at most on and off-campus housing is minimal.  Enough items to get through the week, and one or two dress-up outfits should be adequate.   Your prom outfit will probably be a special acquisition, anyway.  Comfortable footgear is where students/families should allocate some serious money.

Lots of furniture:

College dorm rooms, furnished with the basics, are already generally over- full (see above). Furniture merely makes move-in/out more cumbersome.  Even most off-campus housing includes a minimalist supply of furnishings.  Besides, most college towns are blessed with thrift shops and second hand furniture stores.  If, once installed, you discover that you simply cannot study without a Barca-lounger, chances are you will find one nearby.  Check Craigslist for ‘free stuff’, or a curb alert, and exploit the desperation of most folks to offload such large pieces of furniture.


These neither store as efficiently as soft luggage nor repel mice (from painful personal experience).  Use soft-sided luggage for travel, and plastic bins for pest-resistant long-term or off-season storage.  See about purchasing bins from departing seniors.


Buy textbooks second-hand whenever possible.  The college library should have access to everything else you need, either directly or via interlibrary loan, and you are paying for the service already.  Choose your light discretionary reading from the college stacks and save!


No.  No.  No.  This is neither the time nor place for Buster/Tweetie, no matter how accommodating your off-campus landlord promises to be.  You will lack the time to give your long-beloved pet the attention that they deserve, if you are a committed student.  A shelter rescue commits you to a level of maintenance and care that you can ill afford – at this point in your life!  If you insist on dragging along your animal companion, you could be liable for very expensive damages to your residence, as well.

Hometown boyfriend/girlfriend:

You will spend vast amounts of money (on travel and phone calls, for example) that is not necessary to your academic future.  More importantly, although this is non-financial issue, you will distract yourself from both your studies and the opportunity to make new friends, if you are tied emotionally to your high school past.  Just agree to suspend your relationship after high school and if it was meant to be, it will last through college.  Your experience at college will be much more fulfilling.

A super-duper-fancy computer:

A good computer is necessary.  An ultra-cool computer is not.  A costly unit can be damaged in transit, stolen, or left behind just as easily as a cheaper version.  Spend some money instead on back-up storage for crucial notes and paper drafts, whether a back-up drive, or the Cloud, or both.

Keep all these potential cost reductions in mind, and spend the savings on tuition or broadening travel or a down payment on a home, or an entrepreneurial investment.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from David Tucker – editor, writer and a passionate guest blogger.  David starts his day with writing, then writes the whole day and has a short writing session right before bed. So yeah, he’s into writing… 🙂


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