The 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?”
- 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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