Six tips for saving money on the first year of collegeEveryone knows that college tuition and fees are high-cost items, but what about the many other expenses associated with higher education? Parents of freshmen are often surprised by the price of books, travel, dorm accessories and other college necessities.
By: Staff Report, Alexandria Echo Press
Everyone knows that college tuition and fees are high-cost items, but what about the many other expenses associated with higher education? Parents of freshmen are often surprised by the price of books, travel, dorm accessories and other college necessities. In fact, this year, parents are expected to spend an average of just more than $800 on purchases that include clothes, electronics, dorm furnishings and food, according to the National Retail Federation. The Minnesota Society of CPAs offers six tips on how to save on these and other expenses.
Most dorm rooms are pretty cramped, with limited space for each occupant. That’s why it’s a good idea to be conservative when shopping for dorm room accessories. A basic set of linens, a couple of pictures or posters and some personal items to sit on the desk or dresser should be enough. Make a list of the minimum number of things necessary, then buy only what’s on that list. You can always buy more if you need it, but you’ll probably find that you don’t.
Don’t be too hasty in buying appliances
Before purchasing appliances or electronics, check first with the college to find out what it supplies and what items might be prohibited. A mini-fridge may not be necessary, in other words, if there’s a kitchen down the hall or in the room. In addition, some schools don’t allow students to bring appliances such as toasters or coffee makers because they are fire hazards. Don’t forget also to check with roommates to see what they are bringing that can be shared.
Take advantage of college discounts
The lion’s share of college spending will be devoted to electronics, which will cost an average of about $210, according to the National Retail Federation. Be aware, though, that colleges often arrange for generous discounts for their students on technology purchases, so be sure to contact the school before you buy to take advantage of any possible price breaks. In addition, remember that some financial aid packages cover the cost of computers.
Buy gently used books
Students spent an average of $1,137 on books and other course materials in the most recent academic year, according to the College Board. Less expensive used books are available in college bookstores and many online sources, so be sure to turn to these sources first. Check online for chances to rent textbooks as well.
Don’t waste your dining dollars
Many freshman sign up for a meal plan when they start college, but some find those plans don’t really suit them once school begins. Some plans emphasize meals eaten in the dining halls, while others feature “dollars” you can spend in a number of ways. If you’ve committed to an all-you-can-eat plan in the dining hall but find that you’re more likely to grab a sandwich on the way to class, you could be spending far more on your plan than necessary. Determine your realistic dining habits—on the go or at the buffet—and see if it’s possible to switch to the least expensive option that best matches those habits.
Many students drive home every weekend but, with the high cost of gasoline, that can add up to a very expensive trip just to get some laundry done. In fact, since some college parking permits cost in the hundreds of dollars, it may be a good idea to leave the car at home. When students need to travel, they should consider carpooling or taking less expensive public transportation.
Your CPA can help
Whether you’re trying to limit college spending or address a range of other financial concerns, be sure to consult your local CPA. He or she can provide the advice you need to make the best financial choices for your family.
The Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants (MNCPA) serves the public interest by advancing the highest standards of ethics and practice within the CPA profession.
MNCPA delivers on that promise by offering extensive continuing professional education and resources; advocating for members and the public with regulatory agencies and boards; and mentoring and encouraging the CPAs and business leaders of tomorrow. Founded in 1904,
MNCPA’s 9,500 members work in public accounting, business and industry, government and education. To locate a CPA, visit www.mncpa.org/referral.