Going Back to College? What’s Truly Essential for Your Dorm

Back-to-college shopping can get expensive. Besides tuition and books, there’s clothing, class supplies, and dorm essentials. The National Retail Federation’s Back to College survey reports that this year students (or their parents) will spend an average of $969.88 for dorm furnishings and college supplies. Of this spending, the top four categories are projected to be electronics, clothing, food items, and furnishings.

While this might seem like a small dent compared to the cost of tuition and housing, it can take a significant chunk out of a student’s savings or, worse, end up on a credit card. The question then, is how many of these ‘essentials’ are necessary? Regardless of how convincingly retailers market their back to college lists and attractively arrange their mock dorm showrooms, it’s doubtful students really need all of that.

Based on feedback from students and parents who have learned the hard way, here are a few things you do and don’t need as you start getting ready to go back to college.

1. Furniture and Appliances: Be Picky

It sounds plausible that students without full access to a kitchen would want their own microwave, toaster, or mini-fridge, but students often find that these are either redundant (many dorms have a common area that includes these appliances), take up too much space, or don’t get utilized much. Go light on the kitchen appliances, especially if you or your student is on a meal plan. On the other hand, appliances like small fans might be useful (and don’t cost much).

Colleges usually supply basic furniture, but if you need to fill in a few gaps, bring items from home or shop second-hand. After all, you’re shopping for items that will probably only get used a maximum of four years. The one furniture item many students recommend spending a little more on is their bed. Between sleeping and studying, a mattress pad and comfortable blankets and pillows will pay for themselves.

2. Personalize, But Don’t Deck It Out

Another category that eats over $100 of that survey average is dorm décor. It can be easy to get carried away with making a new space into a personal statement, especially if you enjoy decorating. Remember: it’s only temporary. Spending money on how your room looks isn’t something you’ll look back on as a good investment in your education.

On the other hand, saving money doesn’t mean you need to settle for an outdated dorm room. Put up a picture board, bring some personal items from home, hit the thrift shops, and choose décor items that are also functional (like a cushioned footstool that doubles as storage).

3. Don’t Forget Practical Things

If you’re too focused on dorm room aesthetics, you might forget to save some cash for practical items – the things that come in handy when your home consists of a tiny room shared with another person. For instance, things like adhesive hooks and non-mounted shelves for storage, power strips with USB plug-ins for those scarce outlets, and a sewing kit for missing buttons or small tears – are all practical things nearly everyone will find useful. They also happen to be inexpensive.

4. Start Simple and Buy for Your Needs

Despite the lure of sales and beating the long lines at the local department stores on move-in weekend (remember, there’s always online shopping with direct delivery), the best overall strategy for shopping for college dorm supplies is to wait until you’re settled in. It’s better to start with less than you need and shop for specific items than to over-anticipate your needs and be wasteful.

Want to earn cash back on all your back to school purchases this year? Apply for a Visa Signature Credit Card from First Financial! You’ll earn 1% cash back, no restrictions.*

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Signature Credit Card. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. APR varies up to 18% for the Visa Signature Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date. Visa Signature Card Cash Back: Your First Financial Visa® Signature Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

How to Get Your Child Financially Prepared for College

college-students-awesomeAfter high school graduation, your teen will probably be spending the summer gathering dorm necessities, picking classes and hunting for the cheapest textbooks.

One major point of focus should also be signing up for the right student financial accounts, specifically checking accounts and credit cards. With so many choices, it can be confusing for parents and students, but there are simple approaches to getting college-bound kids financially prepared.

Pick the Right Checking Account

When looking for a checking account, parents may be quick to sign their children up to their own banks or to a major bank close to home. However, that approach may not be the best for the college student.

Since college students may need cash for spontaneous occasions, it is important to have an in-network ATM at or near the college campus. Constant cash withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs can amount to plenty of fees. At the 10 largest U.S. banks, the average out-of-network ATM fee is $2.45. Furthermore, the operator of the out-of-network ATM has the right to impose a surcharge, which typically ranges from $2 to $3.

Besides location convenience, parents also have to consider their ability to fund their kid’s accounts. Parents and students should research which financial institutions are around campus and near home to find the one with a student checking account that would allow them to stay financially connected. Parents, you should also make sure that the financial institution you choose has instant transfers during the times you have to transfer money into your child’s account electronically – you don’t want a 1-2 day delay period.

First Financial’s has a great Student Checking Account available for 14 to 23 year old students!*

Sign Up for the Right Credit Card

Credit cards are less attainable by college students since the Credit Card Act of 2009 took effect, requiring anyone under age 21 to provide proof of reliable income to qualify for a card. If a student can qualify for a credit card on his or her own, it is crucial to evaluate spending and repayment habits to maximize any rewards and minimize interest paid.

For instance, a student who will be driving around campus may prefer to get a credit card that offers rewards on gas purchases. Or if a student doesn’t expect to be able to pay off their balances every month, he or she may opt for a card that doesn’t have rewards but carries a lower interest rate.

The more likely situation would involve parents adding their children as authorized users on an existing credit card account. Parents can limit how much their children can spend on their authorized cards, and when the occasion calls for it, they can raise or reduce the limits accordingly. As authorized card users, students can also start building their credit profiles, which can increase their chances of qualifying for credit cards and loans in the future.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

Do your children know what to do in the case of a financial emergency? College students may encounter dilemmas that cannot be solved with the financial means available to them.

Parents should keep an open line of communication that would allow their children to contact them in the event of financial distress, regardless of how bad the situation may be. It’s important for parents to continue providing financial and emotional support, so their kids can focus on the most important aspect of college: their education.

Click here to view the article source courtesy of Simon Zhen of US News.

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.