Monday, August 26, 2013

Kids Going To College? What They DON'T Need!!

Pic Courtesy: Google Images
The air is thick with anticipation in many a household this week! Either kids are going back to college or you are one of those nervous parents sending a kid off for the first time! To the latter, you are probably in sticker shock over the bills for tuition, room & board, and fees for this & fees for that. You are excited, you are stressed, it's easy to just swipe the ol' plastic now & "deal with it later", since you happen to be one of those who just can't say "No" to the long wish list. 

Not all college students' needs are the same, however, I have a list of items that a college student can do WITHOUT that would apply to college goers in general. 

A High End Laptop or Computer One does not need a high end laptop/computer, an inexpensive one should do the trick. While shopping for laptops recently for my daughter, I found a Dell Inspiron 15R Intel Core i3, powerful and affordable for about $400 at Office Max. It has a 15.6" screen, sufficient memory & a powerful hard drive. 

A Printer A lot of colleges are already charging you "technology fees" included in room &
board, some almost $100 a semester. If one purchased a flash drive, you could not only print from your dorm room to a computer-lab, you could also save money on a printer, paper and ink. 

Pic Courtesy: wvgazette.com
Textbooks Many universities offer textbook rentals for prerequisite or core curriculum courses. One can download or access e-books from your laptop or comparison shop & buy used books as long as they are the recommended edition. Some website like www.slugbooks.com make comparisons between various sites easy. 

Pricey Smart Phone Plans Explore less-expensive, no-contract plans before signing up for a pricey long time contract with a data plan for your student. Many no-contract plans, like the ones from Walmart, Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile, offer very reasonable plans with unlimited talk & text and even data plans. If you have a family plan which your college goer is using then make a comparison & check if you will save with taking him off and getting him one of the above listed plans. 
Pic Courtesy: wisechoice.com

Cable Plans So many channels now stream entertainment & news online. All one needs is a web-enabled device like a laptop or a gaming device. One can catch TV shows on websites like Hulu.com, watch episodes of your favorite shows on the networks' own sites. College students can get breaks for some premium options if signing in with their .edu email address. Movies can be also streamed through Netflix. Most of these subscription options work out less costly than going for a cable plan. 

A Vehicle According to AAA, a small car could add up to about $3,200 in expenses for gas, insurance and standard maintenance. Add to this, parking permits, repairs and tickets if any, so if your college kid is in a dorm, it would be less expensive to park the car at home. 

A Big Meal Plan I have heard of the Freshman 15, so reading up on ways to avoid over doing the meal plan in college, I found that parents can start low and see how much the student is eating and review the plan midyear. This works out better since most meal plans cannot be rolled over if unused. Kids can be given gift cards to use at local groceries or eateries. 

Campus Health Insurance Family Health Coverage extends to college going kids as well. Compare what the campus insurance offers if your child is going out of state to see if your plan out-of-network costs far out weigh campus insurance premiums. If they don't keeping your kid under family coverage usually works out better. 

Pic Courtesy: gionnicrawford.com
Credit Cards According to Sallie Mae, an average freshman racks up nearly $755 in card debt. A good way to start off is with a Debit Card. To prove their ability to handle use of a credit card, anyone younger than 21 years of age is required to have an adult over 21 years or a parent co-sign the application or prove an ability to repay debts. 

High Bank Fees It is better to open an account for your college kid with a branch on campus and with nation-wide coverage. If she/he is going out-of-state, it will not benefit to open an account with a bank in your hometown and pay fees every time money is withdrawn from a local ATM on campus. These fees could add up. It is also advisable to know if the student's bank will charge for transferring funds online. It is safer to transfer funds than to mail checks. One could also benefit from a membership with a credit union which belongs to a surcharge-free network. 

Private Loans One would be lucky to totally avoid college loans, the high-cost of education make loans necessary, they have to be incurred and paid off (See this earlier post). Staying clear of private loans can save you lot of money, federal loans have better rates and repayment options. 

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Please read my disclaimer here. For more questions regarding this and other matters, I can be contacted at manasa@mntaxsolutionsllc.com.