Kiplinger’s List of Things College Students DON’T NEED

In the spirit of the back-to-school season, I thought I share with you Kiplinger’s list of Ten Things College Students Don’t Need. Here are the first 5 from their list (along with my thoughts in italics):

1. New Textbooks. To avoid paying unfathomable new-book prices, see whether your university offers a rental program—or rent from a Web site such as, where you can save up to 85%. Order the book for a one-time fee—for example, about $60 plus shipping for a $180 calculus book—keep it for a semester, then return it with free shipping, or you could buy it. Or, head to the used-book lot. For example, searches the Web for the best prices on used textbooks.

Textbooks are such a ripoff! It’s simply ridiculous that a textbook should cost anywhere near $100, much less several hundreds of dollars. Not only are they expensive but students get ripped off when reselling their textbooks at the end of the semester. I remember keeping my textbooks just so I wouldn’t give the campus bookstore the satisfaction of ripping me off. I still use some of those textbooks.

2. Big Meal Plan. Brain food is important, but avoid loading up your child’s meal account with enough money to feed the football team. It’s best to start with a low number of meals and see how much your student uses. Many colleges will give you the opportunity to replenish the meal plan midyear. You could also supplement your kid’s meal plan with gift cards to the local grocery (or the local pizza joint). Or you can buy gift cards at

I lived at home while going to college so this wasn’t a priority for me.

3. A High-End Laptop or Desktop Computer. An inexpensive laptop should meet your student’s computer needs. For example, you can buy an Acer Aspire One, which has a 10.1-inch screen and weighs just 2.4 pounds, for less than $300 at Best Buy, WalMart or Target. Be aware, though, that netbooks don’t have DVD drives or huge amounts of storage space, so it’ll cost extra to get plug-in external drives or memory cards.

4. Printer. Here’s what you can save by skipping this unnecessary item: about $50 for a printer, $30 for replacement ink and $9 for a pack of paper. For about $10, your child could buy a flash drive instead, save his 20-page term paper on it and print the paper in the campus computer lab, which you may already be paying for. Some schools include a technology fee in room and board costs—$100 per semester in some cases.

5. Cable TV. These days, you don’t have to foot a hefty cable bill when your child can catch the latest movies and TV shows online., and let you download current TV shows for free. The movies offered on these sites are slightly old, but you can get a Netflix DVD-rental subscription for as little as $5 a month.

DUH! They are in college! They should be studying…NOT watching TV!

The full list: 10 Things College Students Don’t Need

5 thoughts on “Kiplinger’s List of Things College Students DON’T NEED”

  1. Good luck with that meal plan item. The colleges my two attended had a required amount for Freshmen. It was way too much for my daughter. At the end of the semester, because she could only carryover $50, she was buying cases of sports drinks, and paying 3x what I could have paid for them at the local grocery. Granted, it was better than just giving the school the money.

  2. When I was in college (during the Ice Age) I’d try to get the book list early and see if the library had a copy of my books. It wasn’t as helpful for textbooks like Biology, Chemistry, etc. But it was extremely helpful for history, english and social science classes where the textbooks aren’t so traditional. Usually you didn’t need books for the entire semester anyway – just a couple of weeks – so overdue fees weren’t really a problem. But with today’s online resources most of these books should be easy and cheap to obtain. If you are resourceful you can find books cheaper. This was how I did it in grad school since the internet was in popular use at this point (wasn’t really an option as an undergrad).

    As for food, if you have a daughter in college, you are wasting money on a food plan. Girls don’t eat that much – 3-4 meals a week at most in the cafeteria. I always ate breakfast in my room (cereal or granola and yogurt) and usually ate dinner in the dorm (again something light) or off campus. Regardless of the gender of your student they will not eat 3 meals a day on campus – they will eat off campus quite a bit.

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