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12 Ways to Waste Money in College 23

12 Ways to Waste Money in CollegeThe road through college is covered with sink holes waiting to be filled with your hard-earned dollars. Today, I will discuss twelve common ways that money is wasted in college.

  1. Dropping out of classes – College classes are expensive.  Quitting or failing college classes is even more expensive.  Just dropping one class a quarter can cost you more than five hundred dollars every year and more than two thousand dollars in four years.  Is it better to pass five classes or to fail twelve?  Reduce your class enrollment, if necessary, and spend more time studying for the remaining classes.
  2. Over using cell phones – Depending on your cell phone plan, this can be a big (unnecessary) cost.  Use an online comparison site to find the least expensive payment plan for your needs.  In addition, use your cell phone as little as possible.  Instead of calling often on your cell phone, use Skype, a free internet calling service.
  3. Eating out – If you are like most people, you eat at least once (or more) every day.  If you eat out even once a day, you will lose a lot of money.  One way to get over the eating out habit is to create a special fund for something you want.  Every time that you save money by not eating out, add to it.
  4. Over spending credit cards – This is one of the most dangerous.  When you go shopping with your credit card, it is easy to splurge.  Later you will have to pay back that money with interest.  To avoid the pain and waste of money, get into the habit of shopping with cash only.  Bring only the amount of cash that your budget allows you to spend, and you will be safe from the temptation to splurge.
  5. Buying a new car – As a student, you might be better off not even owning a car.  Use a bicycle, ride the public transportation, or walk.  However, in some situations a car is necessary.  If you are one of those students who need a car, remember to never buy a new car.  As everyone knows, a new car losses thousands of dollars worth of value the instant it is driven off the car lot.  Shop around and you probably will find a good deal on a used car.
  6. Buy new ink cartridges – This is an easy one.  Instead of buying brand new ink cartridges from the printer company, get your old cartridges refilled for half the cost at your local ink refill store.  At any good store, the ink will print just as well as the original; the only noticeable difference will be in you pocketbook.  I have used Island Ink Jet and liked their work, but almost any company will do fine.
  7. Buying new furnishings – When you decorate your dorm room, do not get everything from Pottery Barn.  In fact, do not get anything from them.  Instead, look around for used furniture.  Scan the classifieds and do not forget to check Craigslist.  Often, you will find that last years furnishings are still around and can be had for almost nothing.
  8. Buying brand name products – Never buy brand name products unless they have some amazing advantage over the generic brands.  Normally, the store brand will be approximately the same value but for a much lower price.  Make sure to compare the unit price.  At many stores they conveniently display the price per ounce, pound, piece, etc.
  9. Buying new textbooks – Buying new textbooks is one of the most expensive mistakes that are made by freshmen.  If possible, always borrow from a friend, rent online, or buy used when getting textbooks.  If you have already made the mistake of buying a new textbook, be sure to sell it once you are done.
  10. Buying software – Often the necessary software can be legally downloaded free on the internet.  For example, rather than buying Microsoft Office for $100; download OpenOffice.org for free.  It does not have all the extra frills, but it will be enough to cover the basics.  When you are out of college and making $100,000 dollars a year, then you can start buying the expensive software…if you want to.
  11. Procrastinating – This is one of the biggest budget sinks.  In fact, procrastination often causes the other problems.  For example, procrastinating on a school assignment can cause one to fail a class.  In addition, procrastinating can cause other problems.  Returning a library book late forces one to pay a late fee.  Finally, procrastination adversely effects your reputation as well.  Who wants to be known as “the guy who is always late?”
  12. Spending leftover money from student loans – Suppose you got a student loan.  Now suppose you had money left over after paying for your classes.  What would you do with that money?  Surprisingly, many students choose to spend it!  By spending it you force yourself to pay interest on it later.  Instead, you should make an early payment on your student loan and save yourself the extra interest.

Obviously, these are only a few of the many money sinks in college.  What is the most dangerous money trap that you find in college?

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23 thoughts on “12 Ways to Waste Money in College

  1. Reply Kris Mar 11,2009 12:40 PM

    “If you’re like most people, you eat out at least once per day.”

    First of all, I find that hard to believe. Once a day is an awful lot.

    Second, you’re right, it is a big money trap. It costs $6 a for a fast-food combo meal and $3 for a Really Nice Dinner you cooked yourself (per meal). I cook almost all of my own food (I have a date at a nice restaurant once a week). It means I have a lot of leftovers, but everything I eat is much healthier. It also does NOT take as long to cook as people think it does.

    Another money-waster is paying too much for rent. It doesn’t always make financial sense to live on campus, or even to have a roommate.

  2. Reply Nate Desmond Mar 11,2009 12:51 PM

    @ Kris

    Actually, I wrote, “If you are like most people, you eat at least once (or more) every day.” Sorry if I was unclear. :(

    Great point about on-campus vs. off-campus living costs!

    Thanks,
    Nate

  3. Reply Luke Mar 11,2009 4:57 PM

    Nate,

    Great read! On your first point about dropping out of classes – there is also an awful lot of wasted dollars on people not dropping classes and failing them. Many of these students stay registered in order to qualify for the full time financial aid packages. Basically, without the class their financial aid will be cut a disproportionate amount.

    You’re doing a lot of great thinking about college. Keep up the good work!

  4. Reply Money Progress Mar 12,2009 5:52 AM

    I’m guilty of 3, 6, and 11. Though my procrastination was pretty severe, it luckily turned out not to have too much of a financial impact.

    I particularly like number 7, Buying new furnishings. I’m proud to say that I used a plastic bin and a nice sturdy cardboard box for a TV stand and a card table for a desk! Those were both temporary, but they worked for quite a while. I did end up buying a few new items, but the key there is that you should plan on keeping them for a long time. I think one of the biggest mistakes AFTER graduating is buying a ton of new furniture for your place… I’ve seen a number of people do this and then they are paying installments to the furniture store for a long time to come!

    Living the college lifestyle without buying lots of new things when you graduate is one of the best things you can do to get started out with your finances I think.

  5. Reply reallysparkle Mar 13,2009 9:07 AM

    All good suggestions. I’m a recent grad and can relate to these suggestions for sure. Failing a few classes and eating out really put me in a bad path debt-wise in university. Only a couple of classes adds up really quickly. Luckily, I smartened up and finished the degree (almost) on time. Still getting out of the debt, though… be careful, kids.

  6. Reply Jeffrey Mar 13,2009 11:32 AM

    Buying anything at the bookstore is a waste…unless it is the ONLY place on Earth that sells what you need.

    Good list.

  7. Reply Nate Desmond Mar 13,2009 11:46 AM

    @ Jefferey
    That is true. Sometimes books are so new that you cannot get them used anywhere.

  8. Reply Gazafi Mar 13,2009 11:26 PM

    A great post…but here in my country we students dont use credit cards much..
    And i waste money on 2 , 3 and 8

  9. Reply Jill Mar 14,2009 11:15 AM

    I’m guilty of #3 and #12. I’ve gotten two large tattoos this year- and it wasn’t from money I’d earned myself, that’s for sure. Woops!

  10. Reply Bret Mar 14,2009 8:54 PM

    I think drinking and smoking should be on this list.

    Of course, you don’t have to attend college to waste money on those.

    But, kids gotta have some fun.

  11. Reply Nate Desmond Mar 14,2009 9:11 PM

    @ Bret

    You’re right – drinking and smoking are BIG money wasters. In addition, they badly damage one’s health and character.

  12. Reply Jill Mar 15,2009 10:44 AM

    A friend of mine used to spend $120+ a week on booze. Of course, he was drinking every night of the week… But I guess that isn’t unheard of in college.

  13. Reply Anthony Nguyen Mar 17,2009 6:53 AM

    Speaking to #9: Buying new textbooks. I agree with you on this. I don’t know why anyone would every buy new, unless you planned on keeping the book or don’t like coffee stains/torn pages. I bought all of my college books off of Half.com. Generally (for the books I purchased), a used book would be about 1/4 the cost of new, and the condition was always basically “brand new” minus the shrink wrap.

    Actually, now that I look back to my college days, I think about how often I used my textbooks in the first place. Especially, in my junior and seniors years, I hardly ever opened my books. The professors would always teach their own material. Listing a textbook on the syllabus is a school policy. I probably could have went without books those last two years. And if I needed one, I always studied in a group, so someone else was bound to have one…

    Now I’m just rambling…

  14. Reply Amy Mar 17,2009 4:14 PM

    I was such a poor spender when I was in college. I ate out way too much, wasted money on partying it up, and didn’t save enough. Oh, the things I would do differently! I am not a hundred or anything, for the record :) I just look back and think on how much I have grown and what improvements I have made since I became an adult.

    You sound like you are far wiser than I was :)

  15. Reply Kris Mar 20,2009 11:54 AM

    @ Nate: no, you weren’t being unclear. I was just shocked! :)

    And thanks for the post. I am guilty of #6 – I always buy new ink. Don’t really know why…

  16. Reply Nhoel Mar 27,2009 12:12 AM

    #9 Buying New Textbooks — renting online books? now that’s new to me…

  17. Reply Marcy Webb Mar 29,2009 11:38 AM

    In most cases, it is the parents who fund the lifestyle of their students. Typically, if the parents have bad spending habit, so will their children.

    We live in a debtor’s society, fueled by consumption. So, the list posted here doesn’t surprise me.

  18. Reply Anita Mar 31,2009 9:05 AM

    This is a bulls-eye list. I’m guilty of a good number of them. Definitely brings to mind “if only I knew then what I know now”. I’m teaching my children differently so that they don’t start life out of college burdened with debt. I’ve never heard of renting textbooks on-line though – anyone have a good link they could please post? Daughter is off to college this fall.

  19. Reply LoneWolf Apr 20,2009 8:37 AM

    University was such a long time ago for me that I didn’t have to worry about cell phones (they weren’t common place yet) and software (well, I did get a Commodore 64 but there wasn’t much software that I needed for that).

    There were a lot of money sinks back then though and they weren’t very different than the ones you’ve outlined above. I’d encourage every student to learn something about living debt free so that you can start from a stable foundation. Don’t learn the hard way like I did.

  20. Reply Someonelse Nov 4,2009 7:32 PM

    “When you are out of college and making $100,000 dollars a year, then you can start buying the expensive software…if you want to.”

    Who are you kidding college graduates are lucking to even have a job 1 year after graduating. Try finding someone who cares after graduation, willing to pay you anything ($100 grand a year please) These days your be lucky to get any job period.

  21. Reply Tim Feb 26,2010 2:51 PM

    Solid article on different ways college aged students can get themselves in trouble with debt. As a college senior at the University of Kentucky, I can confirm myself or my friends have made mistakes like your examples above. For me personally, I would have to say early on I got into a lot of trouble by buying new textbooks. Some semesters this would run me over $600. One great internet site that I use now is http://www.eCampus.com . eCampus has many different options available to students so they can save money. They do this by offering book rentals, eBooks, and used textbooks. eCampus also has a marketplace where students can buy or sell used textbooks. eCampus has helped me save money and I am sure they can help you too.

  22. Reply Bobby G Nov 21,2011 9:47 PM

    Yeah, I like the My Rate Plan site in the cell phone savings advice. That is a good one. I will have to try the printer ink site you recommend sometime.

  23. Reply Andrew Dec 18,2011 10:08 PM

    I have a few tips regarding said topics:
    2) Get the AT&T basic GoPhone plan. You pay $25 every three months for 10 cents/minute voice and 20 cents/message texting. I hardly ever make calls or text, and everything a person can do on a smartphone, I can do on my laptop, so I don’t need an expensive smartphone plan.

    6) I disagree with not buying new ink cartidges. A lot of refilled cartidges tend to explode inside your printer, thus destroying your printer. However, something I learned the hard way is don’t buy that $60 HP all-in-one printer. Yes, it seems like a good deal, but the catch is that the ink cartidges are tiny and seriously overpriced. Plus, I had a cheap printer like that, and it broke two years after I bought it. Now, I have a $200 HP OfficeJet printer with huge ink tanks that last about a year, and ink is super cheap.

    7) I have seen some perfectly good furniture on the “Free” section on Craigslist.

    9) I totally agree with the new textbooks. The on-campus bookstore is a totally rip-off. (Trust me, I had a temporary job as a cashier there.) Last semester, they sold a chemistry book for $200 that I found used on Amazon for $15.

    Plus, I would not recommend selling books back to the bookstore. Rather, sell your books on Craigslist when you are done with them. I just did that with that same chemistry book, and I got $50 for it. That is $35 profit. Of course, if the textbook is no longer being used, you can get a shipping label from Amazon and ship it to them. Then, you will receive a giftcard.

    10) I would disagree about Microsoft Office. I have tried OpenOffice, and it is not nearly as good as Microsoft Office (at least for what I use it for). However, you can get Office 2010 Professional Plus on JourneyEd.com as a download for only $79.95. All you need to do is send them proof that you are a college student (like a course schedule or a copy of a Student ID).

    12) Don’t get a student loan at all, if you can help it. Fill out the FAFSA as soon a possible after January 1st to become eligible for federal and state grants. Apply for scholarships. Attend your local community college for general ed and lower division classes. Apply for financial aid from the school (I almost skipped this, thinking that my parents made too much money, but I ended up with a state fee waiver, making tuition free at my community college).

    By doing these steps, I have so far ended up with $700 in financial aid/scholarship money that I have not spent yet.

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