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Sometimes you need stuff. And sometimes, well, you just want stuff.
You know the difference, right?
If you’re about to head 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.
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So before you step on campus, think about a few of these items and whether you really need them:
If you’ve already got a Mac, then don’t apologize. They’re awesome! But you don’t need a Mac to get into college. It’s not a rite of adulthood.
The going rate on the cheapest MacBook right now is $1,100 plus tax. Think about all the tuition, books, and 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.
Related: A Simple Question That Keeps My Technology Use in Check
2. Fully furnished dorm room
I love a fancy leather couch with a matching chair, ottoman, and bedside table as much as the next person. But I’m not sure if they’re college dorm room essentials. 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 your parents’ old couch that’s been in the attic for a year or two. Grab a hand vacuum and some stain remover, and you’re good to go.
3. 42-inch LED
Have you seen the size of dorm rooms these days? They’re about the size of your bedroom closet. Fitting a giant TV in there might get a little cramped. 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, a sports bar or the student union to watch it on the big screen.
4. 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? I’ll tell you: a lot! Think about using a streaming service like Spotify. They have a student discount rate for only $5 a month!
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5. The three-meal meal plan
If you’re constantly sleeping through breakfast and eating an energy bar on your way to class, stop 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 Chipotle calls your name three times a week, then put less money on your meal card.
Related: 5 Simple Ways to Cut Down Your Grocery Bill Without Coupons
6. Spring break
I know…spring break trips are awesome, but they’re not a God-given right. Most of your friends are already in debt and they’re just adding to it by paying for a trip to the beach. In the meantime, spend spring break at the local pool or lake, visiting with family, making some extra income, or even volunteering 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.
Rachel Cruze is a seasoned communicator and presenter, helping Americans learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. Her new book Smart Money Smart Kids, co-authored by her dad Dave Ramsey, released April 2014 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times best-sellers list. You can follow Rachel on Twitter at @RachelCruze, online at rachelcruze.com, or at facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.