5 Things Your College Student Doesn’t Need this Fall

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StudentBack to school is well underway, and some college students are on campus and ready to get on with the semester. As you send your college student off, it is tempting to provide him or her with everything necessary to live comfortably. Indeed, it’s easy to go overboard with what you buy for your college student.

Before you shell out for your student’s needs, consider these 5 items he or she won’t actually need this fall:

1. University Health Insurance

Many universities offer campus health plans. However, it’s important to really check the plan. At all of the schools my husband and I have attended, the campus health plans are more expensive than our own coverage. Besides, your student is probably covered under your family health insurance plan. Health care reform requires that your student remain on your insurance until age 26, as long as certain conditions are met. Check to see what in-network providers are available in your student’s college town. Also, consider asking about basic services. Many campuses have clinics that are free for students to use for preventative and basic care.

2. Cable/Satellite TV

By now, many of us are aware of the options that make cable/satellite unnecessary. It’s possible to watch shows, sporting events, and movies through the Internet with the help of services like Netflix and Hulu. Many of these services work through game systems, so if your student takes a PS3 or Xbox 360, it’s possible to stream from the Internet to TV. There are plenty of low cost and free ways to use the Internet to access TV content, so paying for cable/satellite really isn’t necessary.

3. Expensive Phone Plan

There are plenty of ways to save on cell phone plans. One of those options is to get a prepaid cell phone plan. These plans are even available for smart phones. Instead of paying $100 to $200 for phones with data plans, consider pay as you go options with unlimited talk, text, and data for between $45 and $60 a month. And you don’t get locked into a contract! You can even try to convince your student that a smart phone isn’t necessary. I’m still doing just fine with my non-smart phone.

4. Pricey Meal Plan

One way that I avoided paying a lot for a meal plan in college was to get the smallest meal plan, and then supplement with groceries. (It also helped that I worked in the cafeteria and received a free meal after my shift.) Your student can save by cooking for him or her self. Even in a non-cooking dorm, there are often ways around it. I had a microfridge. I could keep milk and fresh produce in the fridge section, and prepare simple meals in the microwave. This is a great way to help your student think creatively, and save money on those pricey meal plans. And, if your student ends up needing more money in the plan, you can usually add it.

5. Printer

Most students don’t need printers these days. Check to see if your student’s campus uses Blackboard or Canvas for assignments. In many cases, there is no need to print out homework; your student can just upload it to the system. And, if printing is needed, many universities allow students to print off their work in computer labs, or with dorm printers. Just get the laptop on the system, and send the file to the appropriate printer. Double check to see what page limits there are, or if there is some other fee.

What other things do you think college students can do without?

(Photo: CollegeDegrees360)

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “5 Things Your College Student Doesn’t Need this Fall”

  1. I lived in 4 different apartmets in college and Vista Way while at Disney World in FL. The problem I had was that I needed more and more wherever I went (plastic rubbermaid containers for food were needed in FL due to bugs). I wish I would have gone to thrift stores or craigslist was around when I was in college as that is a great way to get things cheap that you might only use for 9 months out of the year.
    I think one of the best ways to save in college is to borrow from the parents/relatives. I used my mom’s old dishes in college (and my roommies loved them) and I still use them today. Ask your relatives for items that they are no longer using or they would like to have an excuse to buy newer/better items.
    People used to steal silverware from the dorm for their room, but I do not recommend.
    IKEA was a great place for items cheap for college.
    You can get a printer for $30 at Staples which is way more convenient than the computer labs. We had a print limit in college though.

  2. daenyll says:

    I totally agree with the cable and meal plans. My freshman year we were required to have a meal plan in dorms, so I got the lowest possible offering available to freshman 14 meals in the cafeteria plus about $300 value a semester that could be used at any of the on campus independent places or the grocery. I usually only used 9 meals a week, so sophomore year i got on the 10 meal plan, and after that I had a kitchen to work with. Printer is a toss up, you may rarely use it these days, but there are times you may really need to but be unable to get into a lab

  3. Jim M says:

    Just sent a set of twins off to college. The only thing I splurged on was the high end meal plan. Couldn’t bear the thought of them not getting enough to eat.

    • Scott says:

      Jim, hate to say it but from my own experience at college all you did by splurging on the high end meal plan was subsidize your children’s friends meals (who got much smaller meal plans that they will actually use up). It is next to impossible for a single person to consume in one semester the amount of food that a top-end meal plan contains. Hopefully you have the ability to course-correct in the winter/spring semester.

      • Martha says:

        Yep, that was the case with my friends too. We all had to purchase the same meal plan but I never ate it all so ended up buying my friends meals at the end of each two week period!

  4. A good black and white printer is not that expensive (Brother laser printers seem to do decent). And they’re a huge step up from printing via the computer labs. The one time the printer gets your assignment in on time it will pay for itself. I can’t imagine not spending a little money there.

    I scrounged an old used LaserJet III with a PostScript cartridge when I was in college, because there were no discount laser printers. I can’t imagine not having had it.

  5. I would disagree about the printer. You could easily share ine with a roommate but I would hate to be running to the library or computer lab to print things out.

  6. Ray says:

    If your school offers a prepaid food plan, this maybe the way to go. It teaches students to budget their costs or otherwise they have to dip into their savings, and at the same time they are less likely to pick up the freshmen 15.

  7. JP Adams says:

    Thanks for the post Miranda.

    I would add a few more:
    – New laptop (you can get great used cheap laptops from Apple)
    – New clothes (get them a couple pairs of things but give them some cash to buy clothes once they arrive at school and see what other people are wearing)
    – Expensive Spring Break Trip (volunteering Spring Breaks are some of the best ways to connect with other students and make a difference)

    A couple unexpected do need items
    – Foam supporter for the mattress (college beds a rough – its worth a few hundred dollars)
    – A drawer of health munchies (try sending this by mail, my Mom did that a couple times and it was awesome)

  8. Susan says:

    Good advice.

    We didn’t change a thing about health insurance – he’s still on our employer plan. He also kept the same phone plan, and the school includes cable tv.

    Our son took his printer from home after deciding he didn’t want to walk to the print lab every time he needed something printed.

    We got him the cheapest freshman meal plan (about $1800 per semester). We’ll see how it goes – when it comes December, we’ll just have him keep track of how much he has left and adjust next semester accordingly.

    No new clothes other than the school t-shirt.

    New laptop we got – only because his home computer died in April.

    I second the foam mattress pad. That will save us a fortune in medical care for a bad back down the line. 🙂 I also second the healthy munchies (and a case of Ramen noodles). There’s already been a couple of times that my son said he just made Ramen instead of going all the way to the cafeteria.

  9. Nice post Miranda, only 5? LOL My son lives in a dorm where there are 10 rooms of 2 (they only share a bathroom btw them) and a large common area with a 60″ TV on the wall and leather sectional in front of it. Way different than my college experience. He works for housing and dining so he got a free meal plan thankfully. You are totally right about the health insurance, university plans are usually pricey with limited coverage.

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