The eternal battle between real needs and wants pales next to the battle to equip college students with what they need and what they really, really, really want.
Luckily, the Web is full of advice about how to avoid dumb things to buy — meaning, don't buy these things for your college student.
The first thing to remember, according to Kelci Lynn Lucier at About.com, is that "You'll buy stuff when you get there." Students also will get there and find they really didn't need some things.
Dealnews.com's up-to-date list of "8 Things NOT to Buy Your College-Bound Student" starts off with saying to not buy a printer. Printers are cheap; ink is expensive. "Most schools offer printing facilities that are either free or cheap to use," Jeff Somogyi at DealNews writes. If you do buy a printer for your student, be aware that everybody he or she knows will stop by to print off stuff.
DealNews also says avoid buying tablets or expensive laptops. For what students need, an inexpensive laptop will work just fine.
Expensive bedding is also a bad idea. "Your kid is going to have to buy all new bedding after he graduates, anyway," DealNews says, "so why spend a lot on something that is, for all intents and purposes, disposable?"
Do not buy an iron and ironing board. Buy wrinkle-free clothes instead. As DealNews says, "The ironing board is a thing that no college student has ever been seen using. Ever."
DealNews says to wait before getting a new Apple iPhone: "Not only do new iPhone models tend to be released shortly after school is in session, but our deal archives also show that whenever Apple announces a new product, current generation Apple products fall in price. Your kid can just hold tight with his (gasp!) old iPhone until this happens."
Lucier at About.com says avoid candles, hot plates and expensive items that could make you a target for thieves.
CBS News says no to expensive computer speakers. Noise complaints are common in dorms and could get a student evicted. Instead, get a nice set of headphones.
CBS News also says to avoid buying a car because it could be "a total money drain, thanks to gas and parking costs."
Kiplinger warns against getting a credit card, saying that the average freshman has "nearly $755 in card debt."
A big meal plan may also be a bad idea, Kiplinger says. Instead, get a small meal plan and see how much the student really eats first.
Forbes warns against wasting money on housing: "Investors love to buy rentals in college towns and sign the students up for annual leases so they have to pay all summer even if they are going home! Frugal college students who double up and share rooms all through college can save a small fortune. They do have to trade off the peace and quiet and privacy. No one said it would be easy."
Forbes adds that it is dumb for college students to not take advantage of all the discounts available to them. Gift Card Granny, for example, has a list of 81 student discounts. "Be careful not to buy simply to get a discount," Forbes says, "but if you are going to make a purchase anyway, use the student discount."