Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dorm Room Shopping

College shopping. What to buy? What do you need? What should you wait on? Well, if you go to any of the big chains right now, not only are they stocked to the rafters with must have items, they’ll give you a copy of their pre-printed registry so you can make sure and buy one of everything. Have no fear, you needn’t go overboard in shopping or packing for college. Here are a few ideas and guidelines:

1. Do not buy anything “for the room” until you have physically been inside the room and know exactly how it’s situated. I’m talking about curtains, loft systems, anything that fits “over the door” and anything that is going to sit on the floor. A loft system is a great idea and there are good ones out there, but remember, you haven’t seen your room. Your bed may already be lofted. Usually, you do not need to buy your own curtains for privacy, there will be blinds. Anything that sits on the floor—hampers, 3 drawer chests, bookcases—until you know what kind of space you have, hold off. There is shopping near your new school just as there is shopping at home.

2. Once you know your space, use your vertical space as much as possible, especially near your desk. 3M Command Strips and their whole storage line will help keep things up and off your desk. Their hooks will be great for towels, robes, purse, keys.

3. If you are buying a trunk or footlocker, make sure it has wheels. These items are very bulky to move and without this added function are practically impossible to move, fully loaded, by yourself. Footlockers are great because once unpacked, they usually clear the bed height and can be stored underneath. They can then help to store extra things that you don’t need to have out at your fingertips.

4. If you are moving far away from home, check with your school’s shipping policy. Will they accept delivery of boxes before school is in session? Can you ship your bedding etc. in advance?

5. You will need to know if your bed will be a regular twin or an XL twin and you will need to check the sheet packages carefully before you purchase them. Buy for comfort—get the softest sheets you can afford. If you have favorites at home and they fit, take them! There’s no substitute for “your” bed. One thing to splurge on, but if space is an issue, wait until you get there—Buy a nice mattress topper, whether it is a tempurpedic or a simpler variety, it will add comfort and coziness to a college mattress. You are going to want your bedding and your towels and toiletries asap, whether you bring them yourself or ship them in advance.

6. It is important to check with roommates regarding big items—who has the TV? Do you need to buy a microwave or a fridge? Does the school lease these items? Leasing for the semester is a great way to go because then the item does not have to be stored at the end of the school year. Room arrangements and roommates change from year to year so it’s nice not to have doubles of everything. If roommates agree to lease, then they can split the cost as well.

So don’t worry about having everything before you even get there. Leave room to find out what you really want and really need. Bring the items that you normally use during the course of the day and don’t worry too much about the stuff you “might” need. There’s the bookstore on campus and chances are there is shopping nearby and there is always shopping on-line if the big chain store is too far out of the way.

Relax and enjoy getting ready. Shopping is fun but it’s not fun to try and figure out how to pack it all up on moving day. Shop within your means and bring less than you think you need. Other things can be shopped for and shipped from home as needed. Enjoy your move-in day, the rest will come.

Hometown Savings

Well, it's the end of July and in just a couple of weeks, it's back to campus. Maybe it's your first time on campus or maybe you've got another year to go, but now's the time to think about money. One of the best moves you can take to ease your mind is to set up a hometown savings account. The purpose of this account is to provide easy access to emergency cash. The days of mom and dad sending a check in the mail are long gone, however, banks do not have universal branches and wire transfers are expensive and take time. Let's face it, we all run out of money occasionally, and there are always unexpected expenses.

In the few weeks of summer that remain, take a ride down to your local bank, preferably the bank that your own (or your parents') accounts are already at. Set up a (joint) statement savings account and order a debit card with the student's name on it. You want a debit card that acts like a Mastercard or Visa. It's nice to know that whether it's for rent or medicine, you can have money to your student with a couple quick keystrokes online. No paperwork as with a wire, no wait time that you'd have sending a check and having to wait for it to clear. With a debit card, your student can access the funds at her local ATM or pick up a product at a store.

My daughter would take a larger balance out and deposit it into her own account so she would not be charged ATM fees by her bank if she used her home-town debit card to withdraw funds. The important thing is that the account is in place. The peace of mind that it can provide, knowing you can have money in an instant is priceless. It might not work for everyone, but it worked for us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The College Student: Living on Her Own

My oldest daughter just completed her second year of college. She moved out of the dorms and into an apartment so she could intern over the summer. She was very excited at the prospect and grateful that she has a waitressing job to cover her expenses. We thought the opportunity would be good for her both for the experience of interning as well as the experience of "living on her own." We figured it would give her a good idea of whether or not she was ready for an apartment setting for the school year.

There are a lot of things a college kid doesn't know. How to set up a budget, how to balance a checking account, when is rent due, what is a wire and how does it work? All this was new to her. She asked questions, got answers, but felt like she should have been imparted with this knowledge somewhere along her educational journey. That's what this blog is all about.

I told her I would look for some sort of reference for her. I didn't know if it would be a beginning budget or bookkeeping book, i really didn't know what I would find when I went to the bookstore. The answer was "not much". It is funny, there is a huge push for college shopping, outfit your dorm room with the coolest, latest, greatest stuff. $pend money, money, money (after you've paid the tuition$$ mind you). But there is no reference for a college student to spend their money WISELY.

I plowed through the section, looked through books and the best I could do was a woman's guide to living independently. I did buy a copy as it did have a chapter on how to budget your money as well as how to save, how to invest. A grow into guide if nothing else. I left with my purchase, a little disappointed that there was nothing more substantial available.

My daughter has decided to live off-campus this year, has found a rent and a roommate. I'm very proud of her. I'm also glad she has the opportunity to learn how to live on her own with the safety net of college and mom and dad before it's just her, an apartment and work. She is going to have to work hard to keep up an apartment as well as her grades but she feels she is up for the challenge. This is the next step in her journey through college. We'll see what the new semester brings.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


If you have landed at this sight in your search for college information, welcome! I have a 20 year old daughter entering her junior year of college and two more children to follow suit shortly. We are currently exploring the topic of living in an apartment as opposed to living in the dorms. I am hoping to post comments, tips, and insights to help kids and parents during their college career. It's a start, let's see how it goes!