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10 ways college students waste money

Here's how to help your college student spend their money wisely.

We’ve all heard that college tuition costs are rising, but that’s not the only factor in what makes the college experience expensive. Here are 10 ways that young people waste money, with ideas for how you can get them to save instead.

1. Food

As teens graduate high school and go off to college, it's the first time many of them have to manage their own budgets and meals. There are a lot of ways food costs can add up. For example, letting food go to waste and eating out can really add up. One way to save money and not waste food is to avoid grocery shopping while you are hungry. A study on consumerism and hunger conducted by the University of Minnesota, University of Southern California, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong finds that hunger influences shoppers to spend more money on food and non-food items. Eating before you head out to the store can save you money and unnecessary calories. When you shop with a full stomach and a clear mind, it can help you to not overspend and buy only what you need. As a result, you won’t have more food than you actually eat.

Also, while dining is a huge part of socializing, all those late night food deliveries or lattes add up too. Students might want to study over lunch, grab a cup of coffee, or do dinner but there’s a more cost-effective way to do that than to go to restaurants all the time. Allison Beacham, co-author of the book "Official Money Guide for College Students," says a good way to have fun without feeling pressured to spend money is to cook at home and invite others over. This might not be as realistic for those living in dorms, but buying a meal plan at school and socializing in the dining area can be another way to help your teen save money.

2. Books

For many students, college is the first time they have to pay for books and they often experience sticker shock. During the 2015-2016 academic school year, students spent an average $602 per year on course materials in bookstores, according to indiCo, a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores’ Student Watch Study. The study also notes that 75% of the purchases were made in campus stores. Ways to lower these costs and save money are to rent, borrow, or share books with a friend. Buying new or used books online can also cut costs. Students can also read books that teachers place on reserve in the school’s library. They can recoup some of the cost by selling them back at the end of the term.

3. Late fees

Life happens and sometimes students miss a deadline. It is important to keep in mind that past due payments can cost you more than you expect. When bills aren’t paid on time, there can be consequences, like late fees, accrued interest on credit cards, and a negative reflection on a credit report. When books are returned late to libraries, they may charge anywhere from 25 cents to $25 and can place holds on your student account. In other instances, if rent is paid late, a landlord can charge you an additional fee. Encourage your teen to pay their bills on-time so that they avoid wasting money.

4. Entertainment

Social expenses are not a parent’s responsibility. Events can cost teens anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars for concerts. Have a conversation with your student about what you will and won’t pay for. Beacham believes students should budget for their own social expenses and that they should realize that social expenses are not a parent’s responsibility. She recalls wanting a Halloween costume in college and calling home for the money and being upset by the realization that her mom wasn’t going to pay for it. “Once you leave the house, paying for your fun is on you,” says Beacham. When it comes to everyday entertainment, like watching TV, if parents have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming services, they should consider adding their teen as users on the account. Students should also know how to search online for free activities and events which can help save money.

5. Printing costs

Although libraries are great resources, some libraries charge for using their printers. 10 cents per page can quickly add up. Beacham recommends students buy their own printer, and share the cost with their roommate. While it may seem like a large expense up front, it can pay-off over time.

6. Electronics

Fancy electronics like headphones, newly released smart phones and expensive computers, aren’t necessities. In 2016, consumers spent $11.54 billion on electronics alone. Although bright and shiny objects are appealing, they can break the bank. So make sure you and your teen are savvy about what and when you’re buying. Try making purchases during back-to-school sales and holidays as a way to save money.

7. Clothes

Lots of students want to look good on that first day of class and the rest of semester too. But buying “the perfect” outfit doesn’t have to cost hundreds of dollars. According to research from the University of Michigan, teens with part-time jobs spend most of their earnings on clothing. Shopping at secondhand stores and during sales can help teens be more frugal.

8. Room and board or expensive rent

According to College Board, room and board fees can range from $3,520 at two-year colleges to $11,580 at four-year colleges. Moving off-campus and having roommates can cut those costs in half. Most college towns have off-campus student housing with deals on rent and utilities. Unsure where to look? Some colleges even have this information listed on their website for students who are looking for alternative housing options.

9. Not using student discounts

Being a college student comes with a lot of expenses, but there are also ways to not pay full-price for everything they purchase. Retailers off and on campus often offer discounts. Students can save on electronics, travel, movie tickets, events, clothing and a variety of services with their school ID and email. Encourage your student to inquire about discounts or look online when they are getting ready to make a purchase.

10. Skipping class

A study about skipping class by Student Scholarship Search found that the average student misses 104 classes over the course of four years. Classes are expensive and many students don’t realize that there is a cost per unit associated with each one they take. When they did the math, they found that it costs families of students who missed classes at in-state public universities $8,737 and families of students at private universities $21,324. When students decide to sleep in and skip out on that class, they are wasting money. Make sure that your student goes to class!

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher and VP of Strategy, and Brian Page, Educator and Financial Literacy Leader, Reading Community School District.