Six Things Every College Freshman "Needs"

from on 13 Jul 2011

Sometimes you need stuff. Sometimes you want stuff.

Do you know the difference?

If you’re about to head off to college, figuring out the difference between a need and a want is extremely important. If you think you “need” every little thing that you want, then you’ll graduate with a load of debt that you really will need to pay off after school.

And nobody wants that.

So we put together a quick list of items that could be mistaken for needs while you’re away at college.


Though you might not believe it, owning a Mac is not a right of passage into adulthood. The going rate on a Macbook right now is $1,000 plus tax. Think about all the tuition, the books, the gas, you could pay for with that amount of money. If you truly need to buy a laptop, check out some cheaper PCs that will still help you with projects, papers and presentations. Save the Macbook for after college, when you have a job and can afford it.

Fully furnished dorm room

Do you really need a fancy leather couch with a matching chair, ottoman and bedside table? Unless you’ve got a reality show paying for your dorm room makeover, then all you need are the basics—and it’s absolutely okay to use the folks’ old couch that’s been in the attic for a year or two. You might even find some extra change.

42-inch LCD

Really? $800 for a new television that takes up one-third of the space in your already-cramped dorm room? Come on. If you must have a television, take the smaller one from your room at home. And when the football game or your favorite show comes on, you can always head to a restaurant, sports bar or the student union if you want to watch it in high def.

Every song in the iTunes library

You do the math: If you buy 10 songs a week on iTunes, at 99 cents a pop, how much is that going to cost you over the course of a school year? Besides, you could do a lot more with your money than purchasing a Rihanna album. Nobody’s saying you can’t listen to music, but what about Pandora, YouTube or that old-fashioned device known as a radio?

The three-meal meal plan

If you’re constantly sleeping through breakfast and eating an energy bar on your way to class, you don’t need to continue paying for all three meals. Pay for lunch and dinner and save yourself that money. And be realistic about how often you eat off campus. If Taco Bell calls your name three times a week, then put less money on your meal card.

Spring Break

Oh, this one hurts. But going on a spring break trip is not a God-given right. What’s that? All your friends are doing it? Well, the fact is that 90% of those friends are already in debt and will have an average of $27,000 in student loans to pay off when they graduate. You can do better than that. Go on a trip later, after school, when you can afford it. In the meantime, spend spring break at the local pool or lake, or visit with family. Even better, volunteer some time for a local charity or nonprofit.

So the next time you absolutely must have that item, that trip, that fancy whatever, ask yourself this question: Is it a need or a want?

Get into the habit of doing that, and you really will have everything you need.

The Graduate’s Survival Guide was created just for you to use in college. It features Dave Ramsey’s daughter Rachel Cruze, along with two of her friends, Jon Acuff and Christy Wright, talking about what you can expect and how to be prepared.

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