10 Stupid Ways College Students Waste Money

by Broke Grad on September 4, 2008

For some students, college is all about partying. For others, it’s all about studying. While you may never see these two groups hanging out at the frat house together or studying with each other at the library, there is one thing that bonds them together. It’s the one thing that bonds all college students together — the uncanny ability to waste money. Here are 10 stupid ways college students waste money while they’re in school.

1. Buying new textbooks.

I bought new textbooks my first semester of college. Looking back, I can call it a rookie mistake, but now that I’m older and wiser, I can write articles explaining why you should never buy another new textbook. It can literally save you hundreds of dollars over the years.

2. Paying for software.

I’m a bit of a computer geek, so I didn’t waste much money on software in college. Some of my friends did though, and it made me cringe. You can find practically every type of program a college student needs for free, and these programs are conveniently categorized and listed in my broke student’s guide to free software and online resources.

3. Going over on cell phone plans.

I think this is something every college student does at least once. Who knew you’d want to talk to your parents this much when you left home? Or maybe you got a little carried away while texting some of your friends. Either way, the outcome is the same — a jaw-dropping cell phone bill and an extra dent in your wallet. Avoid costly overage fees by adjusting your phone habits or trying alternatives like Skype.

4. Keeping memberships that aren’t used.

Remember that free Netflix trial that was awesome over the summer, so you decided to stay enrolled? Then school starts, life gets busier, and you suddenly don’t have time to watch movies anymore. In fact, you get so busy that you forget to cancel your subscription and end up paying a monthly fee for something that you’re not even using anymore.

5. Playing too much World of Warcraft.

Arguably the most addicting game created so far, World of Warcraft has sucked over 10 million people into its world. While I still have yet to actually play the game, I witnessed the effects of it on many of my friends in grad school. It’s truly more than a game. It’s an addiction. And with that addiction comes a monthly fee and countless hours “wasted” in front of the computer.

6. Eating out too often.

Call it laziness, call it convenience, or maybe you just really suck at cooking. Eating out is fun … and expensive. Limit the number of times you eat out each week, and you may find a pleasant surprise waiting in your wallet — money.

7. Drinking too much.

Most college towns have hangouts with dirt cheap drink specials, but that doesn’t do you any good if you just down ten $1 beers instead of three regular priced beers. We also don’t make the best decisions after having a few too many, so keep it in moderation and avoid doing something stupid like buying a round of shots for the entire bar on your broke college student budget.

8. Failing or dropping out of classes.

I have a couple of friends who have been working on their bachelor’s degree for 8 years now. College isn’t for everybody. The money that they’ve repeatedly spent on courses they’ve failed or dropped out of could have been put to better use towards something like specialized training or certification in a field that they’re interested in.

9. Spending leftover money from student loans.

If your student loan money exceeds your tuition and fees, you end up getting the leftover money back, and you’re faced with a big decision. What do you do with the money? The wise decision is to give it back — use it to make an early payment on your student loans. What most college students end up deciding to do — spend it.

10. Not saving any money.

If I had to choose between robbing a street performer’s tip jar or a college student’s savings account, I’d choose the tip jar. Admittedly, most college students don’t have much to work with in the first place. However, I still think every college student should try to keep a small emergency fund in a high-yield savings account. That way they’ll be prepared after inevitably doing one of the money-wasting things I previously mentioned, and in the meantime, they’ll earn a few extra dollars.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Orange September 4, 2008 at 5:19 am

Hey Broke Grad Student, I recently found your blog and love it, I am a grad student too, broke most of the times, your advices are great in this post. I paid off $15000 in credit card debt with my stipend, because I was stupid enough to charge everything. I am now trying to save some money and tracking my progress in my blog, feel free to drop by.

Now I gotta read the whole archive:) and add you on my blogroll.

Orange from http://orange4money.blogspot.com/

2 Twenties Money September 4, 2008 at 6:11 am

Solid list! The people I know who are doing the worst are most guilty of playing too much world of War craft. Not only does it consume many hours of peoples lives it also costs $15 a month. My parents times must have been much easier without the distractions such as the internet, cell phones and everything else we have these days!

3 Broke Grad Student September 4, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Orange: Glad you found your way here and thanks for the compliments. Now I have quite a bit of catching up to do on your blog as well.

Twenties Money: You bring up an interesting point. I wonder what our parents did to pass the time back then.

4 Jon Kepler September 4, 2008 at 11:25 pm

That’s a pretty complete list! I started to wonder if drinking was going to be included as I began to scroll down the page, but sure enough, it’s there. One other issue I’ve seen people deal with is unnecessary cars. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes a car is really important, but it’s usually not the best time in one’s life to get hit with maintenance, insurance and, on top of that, parking.

5 Amanda September 5, 2008 at 5:44 am

My school offered some software for free. They would use your technology fee to purchase packs of softwares like Microsoft Office etc and you could get it for free with your i.d. In my 4 years I picked up 3 Office kits(I had laptop issues!), a wireless card and a USB all for free thanks to my college.

6 Uncommonadvice September 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm

The biggest waste I see with students is the need they seem to have to spend like they are earning fortune. Try to find a student in the UK who hasn’t maxed out a credit card.

7 SavingDiva September 6, 2008 at 7:32 am

I’d also add credit card & bank fees–overdraft charges, finance charges & annual fees.

Great list! I didn’t know people had to pay to play WOW….how much does it cost?

8 Tom September 7, 2008 at 10:11 am

#1 is huge. With the internet and used books, I still don’t get why college students buy new? Is it because they like new things? I can go on Amazon and save up to 75% and book looks great! After I use it, I sell it and get almost all of my money back.

By the way, I also agree with the World of Warcraft, it’s a wonderful game but you’re right, it’s more than a game and I’ve seen so many of my friends suffer because of this. It has affected their family and school life, it’s sad.

9 Jon Kepler September 7, 2008 at 2:54 pm

I still think students should buy used when they can, but one issue is that the editions change every year and they move things around. If you buy new, the professors can tell you page numbers. If you don’t, you’re on your own.

10 Broke Grad Student September 8, 2008 at 10:05 am

SavingDiva: WoW is $15 a month.

Tom: The only reason I can think of to buy a new book is if you absolutely need it that day, and there aren’t any used versions available at the bookstore.

I’ve had friends bail on plans to hang out because they wanted/needed to play World of Warcraft.

Jon Kepler: I always hated the “new” editions. I’m stuck with a few engineering books because I wasn’t able to sell my “old” edition to students the following year.

11 Marcia September 9, 2008 at 11:45 am

Okay, so I’m no grad student’s parent, and I’m not quite old enough to be one (yet), but I’m getting close.

But when I was in school in the 80′s/90′s, the internet didn’t really exist yet. I didn’t have a cell phone or email. What did we do to occupy ourselves?

Studied, exercised, worked part-time jobs, joined university clubs that did volunteer work, and well, studied a lot.

Oh, we partied too. But not too much (those of us who had to graduate in 4 years anyway).

New editions of books are problematic. One mom recently posted a request for a book on freecycle because she cannot afford to buy all her kid’s books, and she’ll have to drop a class. I looked, and the bio book is an edition from Feb 2008. They don’t really exist in used yet. I bet she c0uld probably get away with an older edition though, except for homework.

12 MoneyEnergy September 17, 2008 at 7:25 am

Yes, good list, important things to think about. I’d add late fees from library books. Sometimes it really is a better idea to buy your own if you’re using them heavily for research.

As for the new textbooks point, for some classes, it’s probably very necessary to have the newest editions (I can imagine some science courses falling in here). And in other classes, the “textbooks” are so rare anyway that it’s going to be too difficult to find a used copy somewhere. This is the case in books with special translator’s and editor’s introductions. You need the exact copy, and it might not be possible or desirable to keep shelling out money to photocopy all these things and store them in boxes and folders all over the place. I’ve done the battle of the books… and there are no easy answers!:)

13 Ibrahim | ZenCollegeLife.com October 7, 2008 at 7:27 am

More great tips, in a round about way. I love it!

14 The Scrub March 19, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Number 2 got me until I started using OpenOffice.

Great list!

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