Six Spending Tips Every Parent Should Give College Students

February 4, 2015

by Michelle Perry Higgins

Most parents send their child off to college sharing pearls of wisdom on a number of topics like study habits and how to do laundry. Many, however, fail to share with them how poor they are going to feel or how far they are going to need to stretch a dollar. Once the euphoria of the first few days of college life wears off, the reality of limited resources sets in.

Here are six shopping tips for every college student to make the transition easier:

1. Practice the 15-minute and one-day tests before you buy anything. Students take a lot tests in college, so here are two more. Before buying anything at a store, wait 15 minutes to decide if it is a need or a want. Does this fit into your budget? What will you have to eliminate in your budget to be able to buy this item? If you still want the item and can afford it after wandering the store for 15 minutes, make the purchase. The same concept goes for online purchases, but instead of waiting 15 minutes, give it one day. Put the item in your cart and come back one day later. This eliminates impulse purchases and gives you time to consider your purchase and how it will affect your monthly budget. If you are like me, you might even forget you saved this item and never make the purchase.

2. Books are expensive and should never be purchased new. Even if you have all the money in the world, there is no need to purchase new books because they are readily available at a significant discount on the Internet, through school websites, or friends. Students can check out websites like or their unofficial college Facebook page.

3. Shopping for clothes is not as much fun in college when Mom isn’t there to foot the bill. Now it is time to get thrifty and frequent the local consignment or thrift store. You will quickly get over any aversion to wearing used clothes when you see the prices compared to department stores. Make it a fun day with your friends and go consignment shopping.

4. Find a local dollar store by your campus. I am talking the “real” dollar stores where everything is one dollar. Dollar stores carry everything from food and decorations to cleaning and school supplies. This should be your first shopping stop before you head anywhere else.

5. Learning to love generic or store-brand items is critical. This is a quick and easy way to save big dollars at the grocery store. Give it a try. You will be amazed at the price difference and how much you can save.

6. Never, I mean never, go to the grocery store without a shopping list. Before you know it, your cart is full of items you can’t afford and do not need. The list will keep you focused and within your budget.