Prepping for college
Plan ways to save money before moving to a dorm
While the benefit of a good education can’t be overlooked, sending a student to college these days has become increasingly expensive. When prepping a new student for dorm and college life, make financially sound decisions to bolster savings. With parents and college freshmen proactively managing expenses, you’ll maximize savings. Here are five saving tips while preparing for freshman year.
1. Be smart about textbook purchases.
Renting textbooks saves money, but be sure to consider purchasing if the textbook is for a major course. It can be useful to have core textbooks down the road. Big-name rental companies aren’t always the best option. Keep comparing until you find the lowest price.
2. Choose a suitable meal plan.
Many schools have multiple meal plan options, from a 7-, 10- and 14-meals-per-week to an unlimited number. Don’t overpay for a plan if you have a picky eater or a student with food allergies who will prepare many meals in his or her dorm room.
Conversely, it also isn’t price-efficient to buy a cheaper meal plan for your student if he or she eats frequent, smaller meals. If you choose a 10-meals-per-week plan and your student goes broke ordering pizza and going to a campus shop for overpriced convenience food, you can lose major money. Saving money with a meal plan is multi-dimensional and unique to each student.
3. Split expenses with the roommate.
For large dorm items like TVs and fridges, you may think you’ll save money by deal-hunting and buying all of them upfront. However, it could hurt you in the long run. Roommates can split the costs of these items. For example, one roommate can bring or buy a TV; the other one can provide the fridge. They can split the cost of cable TV service. Your student should discuss these options with his or her assigned roommate.
4. Do one-stop supply shopping.
Getting dorm supplies and furnishings at one store or through an online retailer can save gas, time and money. Large discount stores such as your local Wal-Mart, Sears or K-Mart may have everything you need. Or you can use an online dorm specialty store. At DormCo.com, you can buy college supplies — from bedding and storage options, to trunks and seating — and the company offers a flat-rate $2.95 shipping on your entire order. (Yes, you can ship a bedding package and a trunk from DormCo.com for just $2.95.) Ordering everything online can be cost-effective and convenient.
5. Teach students how to save.
Students can take on an inexpensive monthly bill to learn budgeting (e.g. cell phone and/or iPad data fee), or you can allot them a certain budget that they have to stick to. Parents find that it’s really up to the student — once he or she is at school — when it comes to running up unnecessary, discretionary expenses. So be clear about the budget and involve your student in a family effort to save money.