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College Students and Spending
My experience tells me that college students are guilty of unwise spending on a fairly regular basis. I'm not trying to say students are irresponsible with their money (although, of course, some are), but that they're not as responsible with it as they could be. And I think most of that relates simply to a lack of knowledge or experience.
Check out our brand new web site (as of November, 2012) - www.gotocollegecheaper.com. We'll share tons of ideas to make college less expensive for anybody.
Parents can go a long way to help alleviate this deficiency by simply teaching, guiding, and coaching their students with some fairly simple concepts and practices.
Through using these simple concepts and practices, college students can learn better ways to spend money (or not spend it), thus resulting in more money in their pocket. One way of thinking about this concept, is to think about these simple facts:
This topic, along with other ways of saving money on college, is the reason I published my second book, How to Go to College Cheaper. Far more than what is included on this page (literally, hundreds of suggestions and strategies) are contained in that booklet.
The three types of spending I think are most important (in this case, most problematic), are shopping, comparison shopping, and conserving.
When shopping, I don't think college students in general pay much attention to price. They're more often just concerned with getting the right stuff (or maybe with just getting it done - with speed and convenience), and don't pay attention to brands or sales/specials. I'm sure they don't like paying the high prices required to buy what they need and want, but I don't think they truly know how to shop. How to consider different brands, or sizes of packages, or stores...
Parents can really help out here. Students, before you leave for college, ask a parent or other frugal adult to take you shopping and show you how to find bargains, select brands and sizes of products, and how to save money shopping for what you need.
I differentiate comparison shopping from shopping because students often don't do a good job of comparing purchases, whether it's one brand vs. another, one store vs. another, or even purchasing vs. waiting. An example of what I've seen students do is this:
While shopping for textbooks, a major purchase (several hundred dollars a semester at least), students often simply just pick the most convenient location and purchase there. Others may actually compare the cost of purchasing all their books at each store, and then choose the store with the lowest total cost (or even just choose the place they've heard has the best prices). Rarely do students check the price of each book at each store (including online stores, of course), and purchase each book at the cheapest location. I once saved a student in the neighborhood of $65.00 on the purchase of one book by suggesting she purchase it elsewhere. When I asked her about that choice, she was all about saving that much money, and very willing to drive to a different location to do it.
Students also may prefer to purchase new textbooks, which are much more expensive than used, when they can simply dig through the pile of used books and find one of the ones "used" by the "F" student last semester, and get a practically new book for much cheaper.
Conserving is just something most people (college student or not) don't do. Whether it's conserving gasoline by walking, riding a bike or catching a ride on the bus, electricity by turning off the lights and down the thermostat, or money by forgoing that manicure (or just doing it less frequently), college students often don't think about these ways of saving money. Because most individual conservation activities don't result in large savings, we're often not interested in or excited by the possibilities they provide. However, when carried out over a long period of time (throughout college), and when several conservation activities are undertaken, real savings can be realized - not to mention the amount one can save in a lifetime of conserving!
Literally hundreds more ideas and strategies for college students (and those preparing to go) are provided in How to Go to College Cheaper. In addition, I just published a new web site - www.gotocollegecheaper.com - where I'll be publishing many of the ideas and suggestions from the book. Check it out!