I remember that my parents purchased a linen service for me when I was a freshman. I'm not sure how much they paid for it, but every Monday I would find a neatly wrapped paper package on the floor, just outside my dorm room door, that contained a freshly washed (and even slightly starched, I believe) pillow case and two sheets for my bed. Ha! Weekly sheet changing!
First of all, changing sheets ranks right up there with shoe shining, in my book. Who regularly needs to change his or her sheets every week? Okay, let's see a show of hands. Who here changes their bed sheets once a week? Huh? Come on! Let's see those hands. Oh, one person way in the back. Okay. Okay. It's my wife. Nevermind. You get the picture, though: Money wasted on a college NON-essential.
Things are a lot different today than they were when I was in college. [Insert here Dave's usually lame reference to dinosaurs roaming the earth, the earth still cooling, or a similar reference to the dim past.] Too many “offers" out there beckon for your cash. Of course the goal is to make it through college as economically as possible, which is a titanic challenge these days. Where can we turn for help?
Well, our friends at Money Crashers came through the other day with some excellent suggestions. Glen Hammond is a writer who shares money-saving and investing tips for both college students and parents. Let's see how Glenn's ideas can help us squeeze our pennies and maybe even save us from having to change our sheets every week.
Here's what Glenn sent to me. He thought my readers could use some extra cash in their wallets.
Keeping your finances intact while attending college is all about choices. You can hit the weekend keg fest or go to a free basketball game. You can run out and buy the latest clothing styles or shop on a budget at Target or T.J.Maxx. An iPad or a new laptop may be an option, or you could restrain yourself, keep that money in your pocket, and put it to good use once you graduate. It's along those lines that you should carefully review the myriad extras sure to be thrown your way once school starts. For a list of the things you just don't need to pay money for during your four years of higher education, read on.
1. Campus Health Insurance
A key piece of the Affordable Care Act legislation states that young adults age 26 and under can stay on their parents' health plan. If that option applies you, there's no need for campus health insurance. Be sure to pay attention when signing your initial paperwork at orientation – you may have to actually opt out of health coverage or be signed up automatically.
2. Errand Running
There may be companies — and possibly entrepreneurial college students — that offer to run errands for you like grocery and general shopping, movie rental drop off, and even car cleaning. While convenient, these services also come at a cost. If you think you're jut too busy to get all this done yourself, investigate some time management techniques and free up a few hours each week.
3. Dry Cleaning
Do you really need your clothes dry cleaned? After all, it's only college. For starters, do laundry yourself. If you do need some formal wear dry cleaned, or if there's a bad stain in a special garment, run it over there yourself.
4. Meal Delivery
Meal delivery is another very convenient service, but it's unlikely you're going to find it for free. If you get the late night munchies or find yourself hungry during finals week, use that time as a break. Get some fresh air, walk to the cafeteria, and clear your mind.
5. University Debit Card
Your financial aid is usually loaded directly onto your university debit card, making them extremely convenient financial instruments. There are several things to be aware of, however. Withdrawals and transfers usually come with hefty fees, and if you have unlimited funds at your disposal and plastic in your pocket, it's all too easy to overspend. Don't make that mistake. There's Money Crasher's Best Credit Cards for College Students available to help you decide. Use credit cards responsibly and don't take on additional debt.
6. Campus Meal Plan
This is listed last because it may not be an unnecessary extra. Just be sure you run the numbers to see if it's worth it for you. You usually need to eat quite a bit for campus meal plans to make financial sense, and if the quality of food is not what you expected, you're out of luck. Plus, if you're used to eating a healthier diet, your choices might be limited in that respect.
Every dollar you unnecessarily spend during your four years at school puts you one dollar further from ridding yourself of student loan debts once you graduate. These obligations can hound you for years or even decades which means it's going to be that much longer before you can get started on some real financial goals like retirement savings, purchasing a home, and building an emergency fund. Get yourself off to a solid financial start by skipping these extras and working to save a little cash. You're going to be glad you did.
What do you esteemed readers here think? What other college extras can thrifty students do without?
Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.