Cutting the cost of
The stores are full of back-to-school merchandise.
Save your money. Send your child to college with a basic wardrobe left over from
high school and enough money to buy a few new things online after she decides
what she wants." Styles or weather or both are almost certainly going to
be different than they expected," says Louise Reilly Sacco, host of the Internet
radio show Frugal Yankee.
12. Decorate creatively.
Outfit the dorm room in early Salvation Army.
Raid the basement for study lamps, old sheets and towels, faded
quilts and worn rugs. "Whatever you send is going to be ruined
anyway," Sacco says.
13. Forget the phone.
If possible, waive the dorm room's wired
phone and its pricey long-distance plan. Opt instead for a cell
phone with lots of minutes. Better to have too many minutes than
to pay killer overage charges, even once.
14. Eat at home.
A dorm-room fridge filled with goodies purchased at the grocery
store, a microwave and a coffee pot will save lots of money. Coordinating
with roommates about who will bring each of these keeps the cost
15. Buy used books.
cost several hundred dollars a semester. Buying them used and reselling
them promptly helps. Tell your student to get the lists of required
books from professors as early as possible and head for the bookstore
before the used copies are gone. Another possibility is buying through
an online bookseller. BestBookBuys.com, an online comparison-shopping
site, will help find the lowest price, both new and used.
16. Look for cheap travel.
Most colleges have ride-share boards. Amtrak and Greyhound offer
student discounts. But if your child absolutely must fly home at
the end of the semester, buy the ticket early, but carefully. The
window of travel opportunity may be small. The dorm will close promptly
at the end of the semester, but your student probably will have
final exams near that deadline. Look now to snag a bargain flight
at an acceptable time. Later in the year, you're likely to have
to pay top dollar.
17. Devise a money delivery system.
Figure out how you're going to manage money for
incidentals. Some parents give their children a lump sum to last
the semester, but Diane Giarratano, director of Education for Novadebt,
a nonprofit financial education organization, says most 18-year-olds
aren't ready for that kind of responsibility.
She suggests figuring out a way to send spending money
weekly or biweekly, just like a paycheck. Depositing money in a
bank account and giving the student a debit card works, but only
if the student never withdraws all the money that is there. If that
happens, the bank is likely to close the account and charge a fee
to reopen it.
Giarratano warns against credit cards because it's
so easy for a student to let them spiral out of control. Many of
the organization's clients are recent graduates who are overwhelmed
with student loans and credit card debt. "Kids say, 'I'll pay
the minimum monthly payment and I'll pay it off when I graduate
and am making lots of money.' But it doesn't work that way,"
18. Be sure the price is worth
Before you have to worry about incidentals, make
sure college is the best choice, both financially and for your student.
Do some math before you sign any financial aid agreement.
Carl Buck, vice president for financial aid services
at Thomson Peterson's, the publisher of college preparation guides,
suggests that parents accompany their children to the financial
aid office or at least join the discussion in a conference call.
You want to get an answer to this question: Based on my child's
current financial situation and the average annual tuition and fee
increase at your school, how much is my child likely to owe in loans
if she graduates in four years?
If the number is staggering -- more than a luxury-car
loan -- think hard about signing that agreement. As Buck asks, "What's
the likelihood that your child will be making $100,000 at age 23?"
And if your child drops
out, he (or you) will still owe the money and won't have the
skills. Most student loans can't be retired by declaring bankruptcy.
Jennie L. Phipps is a contributing
editor based in Michigan.