From department stores setting aside entire sections devoted to “dorm living”, to university book stores offering starter packs full of “necessities”, it's easy to feel obligated to buy everything. While that dry erase board may seem useful and cute, most people only write two inspirational quotes and then have a $5 door decoration. So what are the things you should know before you go to college?
- Take out the least amount of loans as possible
According to Student Loan Hero, student loans are rising at $2,726 every second and it's difficult to leave college without debt. Taking out loans for college is almost inevitable, but don't take on more than needed. Student Loan Hero explains some helpful tips to paying off student loans in a faster, and in most cases, cheaper way. A few ways include paying more than your monthly minimum payment, making a payment every two weeks, creating a savings accounts with an automatic transfer specifically dedicated to paying your student loans, and considering a possible refinance or consolidation.
- Live with roommates while you still can
Usually your first year you don't have much of a choice than to live with a roommate. You will hear horror stories, and probably have some of your own, regarding crazy roommate experiences. But try and tough it out. If you find yourself in a bad living situation, most universities offer roommate changes. If you decide to live off campus, find some people you like being around for extended periods of time or those with similar interests and share a house with them. Once you find a pairing that works, you will notice that not only are you saving hundreds a month on housing, but you have a built-in support system.
- Don't get a pet until you are absolutely ready
College towns have some of the highest abandonment rates of animals. While it's exciting to think about having a cuddly puppy to come home to every night, there are extra responsibilities that come along with a new pet that you might not initially think about. For example, your dog is an investment. You will need to pay for its food, toys, vet check-ups, bedding, and more. Not to mention that depending on the age of the dog, this dog could be yours for the next 10 years. Also, dogs need to be taken outside and need a place to run around. And if you're going on a weekend trip somewhere, you need to either take them with you, or find someone to watch them. If you find yourself wanting some pet loving, but don't have to resources to support one on your own, check out your local pet adoption center. Usually these places offer volunteer time and you can come in and play with the animals while helping take care of them.
- You don't have to have name brand products
No one is going to unfriend you because you shop on a budget. You'll actually find that pretty much everyone else is in the same position you are in: broke. So talk to other people to see where they are finding the best deals. Stores like Target have affordable clothing and usually you'll find other college kids shopping around you for the same things.
- You don't have to buy all of your books through the university bookstore
Near the beginning of each semester, the bookstore may offer to put together all the books you will need in a nice box that you can come and pick up at your convenience. Though this alleviates the struggle of you having to fight hordes of other college students finding books in the bookstore, you are settling for high bookstore prices. There are so many alternatives and it doesn't always make sense to buy books at your university bookstore. Using the ISBN number of the required textbooks, you can go online to places like Chegg or Amazon for cheaper used versions of the books you need.
- You don't need the biggest meal plan
Although you think that you're going to need to have unlimited access to the dining hall, most people don't. You'll have nights when you go out to dinner with friends, weekends where you go home, and times where you just don't want to eat at a dining hall. Most students find that at the end of the semester they have a lot of extra meals and have to spend their credits at the closest school store, or worse - they just go to waste. While there are people who do use all of their colossal meal plan, for the majority, it's not necessary.
- Get a part-time job anywhere that will hire you
There are lots of opportunities for students to get jobs while still going to school. There are work-study programs through the university as well as other university affiliated jobs that not only usually pay more than minimum wage, but also work around your schedule. Part-time off-campus jobs are also a great option as long as the employer understands that school is your first priority. Keep in mind your academic needs and don't overschedule yourself. Though it's nice to have the extra money, keeping up with school is still important. So figure out when you can work and find a place that wants you.
 Watch America's student-loan debt grow $2,726 every second