College “extras” aren’t worth it

Posted on October 30th, 2013

Before starting college, it’s normal to be nervous about many things, such as getting along with your roommate, being in a new place, and managing your time.

But don’t let your unfamiliarity with the college experience persuade you to sign up for college “extras” you don’t really need. These extras are usually unnecessary and can significantly increase your college bill.

And if you’re taking out student loans, you’ll end up paying even more for these services in interest.

6 unnecessary college expenses

Money Crashers put together a list of the top 6 unnecessary expenses that colleges often rope parents and students into buying. Here are our thoughts on each:

1. Campus Health Insurance

If you’re under 26 and you already have insurance, there’s no need for campus health insurance. Many colleges enroll you in their campus health plan automatically–mine did. (Sneaky right?). I had to contact campus health services to opt out by showing I was already covered by my parents’ insurance. Read your paperwork carefully and ask if you’re not sure what the fees in your bill are for.

2. Errand Running

This probably isn’t offered directly by your school, but there may be companies at college orientation offering to run errands for you like grocery shopping, movie rental drop off, and cleaning. Few people are too busy to handle these things at college. Part of the college experience is completing these ordinary tasks with your new friends.

3. Laundry & Dry Cleaning
Laundry-College student
Same thing with college laundry services or dry cleaning. Unless you have a special garment that needs to be dry cleaned, just do your laundry yourself. Besides, college is for learning new things (like how to wash your own clothes).

4. Meal Delivery

There are always food options, restaurants, and dining halls located a short distance from most campus housing. Most students enjoy visiting these places with friends. Besides in cases of severe illness, a food delivery service is rarely necessary.

5. University Debit Card

If your college gives you a debit card pre-loaded with your financial aid award, be very careful. It’s easy to overspend when you can make purchases with a single swipe. The same goes for your personal debit and/or credit cards–fees and interest can really add up if you don’t manage your money carefully.

6. Campus Meal Plan

Many colleges require students to be on at least some form of a meal plan for at least a year. If you must get a plan, we recommend sticking to the lowest (least expensive) plan possible. Many colleges enroll you automatically in higher plans, but if you don’t use all of your pre-paid money or meals, they usually go to waste.

On-campus meals also tend to be overpriced, so you’re better off making as many meals as you can at home and limiting your plan. Besides, if you do run out of funds on your plan or change your mind, most colleges will let you add on extra money or upgrade later in the semester.

Other college costs to avoid

We’d add a few expenses to reconsider to the list. Of course, your situation may require you to spend money on these, but consider the following before committing to the expense upfront:

  • On-campus housing (if it’s not required). Living on campus tends to be significantly more expensive than living off-campus, but you may decide the convenience is worth it.
  • A printer.We’d also recommend against buying a printer unless you’re not located near on-campus printers. Ink and paper are expensive, and many colleges give you a prepaid printing balance that you can use for on-campus printers, and it’s usually more than enough. If you only use your own printer, this printing credit goes to waste. See if you get by without one and purchase one later if you decide it’s necessary.
  • New textbooks. Used are much cheaper and are almost always fine to use. And you can usually find better prices online than at your campus bookstore. But don’t order textbooks before figuring out your final class schedule–you may decide to add or drop a class during the first week of classes.

What do you think of the list? Can you think of anything else? Let us know below or tweet us at @CFGCollege.

Category: College Costs

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