Frugal Words of Wisdom For the College-Bound Student

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College dorm rooms don't have to be this luxurious

By Susan Dromey Heeter, Joyful Musings

Chances are, if you are a recent high school graduate or parent of a high school graduate, you’ll be hard pressed today to remember any advice or wisdom you listened to during the graduation exercises.

You may remember what you wore or for whom you attended or where you were – but the exact words? The specific details of the speeches? I’d be willing to bet you’ve forgotten most if not all. So, I’m going to give you a Joyful Musing speech today, words that ideally you’ll use as you head off to higher education, to college, to university.

Susan Dromey Heeter

First, start paying back your loans. Today. Forgo those five dollar lattes, those eight dollar smoothies. Learn to make your drinks at home. Find a blender and a coffee maker at a thrift shop and invest in a reusable coffee cup. Bring your drinks with you. Do not buy water in plastic bottles, reuse one of the eighteen water bottles you have in your cupboard. Now. You do not need a new one. You have enough.

Second, you’ll be encouraged to outfit your dorm room as though it were going to be photographed for Dorm Beautiful Magazine. It is not. While it may be your first foray into living away, this is not a home you have purchased. This is a room for which you really don’t need that much. Get some sheets (or use the ones you already have), a blanket, a pillow.

You do not need everything new. I invite you to return to the beginning of this speech. You are working to start paying back your loans, not going further into debt. Sure, Garnet Hill sheets and comforters are lovely and Pottery Barn has amazing dorm paraphernalia but do you really want to invest that much into stuff you already have?

Save your money. If you really want some new stuff? Head to the nearest Salvation Army and get some stellar art work and mugs. I guarantee you can get all you need for less than $100. Sure, who knows who slept on those sheets before you – as long as they can be washed, they’re as good as new.

Third, save everything you purchase year one for years two, three, four, five…you do not need to invest in new every year. Put things away. Save them. Look in bins for things your friends have thrown out. See that your college has a Trash 2 Treasures program. If not, start one. Remember, everything you move in will have to be moved out. There is a lot of waste, that little ironing board your mother insisted you bring? You’ll never use it – but save it simply to appease her.

Fourth, put your money where your mouth is. If you’re majoring in finance, start paying attention to where your money goes. If you’re majoring in environmental studies? Start playing the part of someone who really cares for her environment. You have enough stuff. If you want more stuff, don’t buy new: reuse, recycle, re-wear. Vintage is cool, keeping stuff out of landfills is even cooler.

Finally, and once again, start paying back your loans. Today. Get a job to cover your expenses. You won’t be too busy studying, you will have plenty of time to wash dishes, deliver pizza, tutor. And time management is a life skill, one that will serve you well.  If you have time to spend on Snapchat,  video games and sorority rushes, you have time to ask, “Would you like fries with that?”

As I give this Joyful Musing speech, I hear my dad, Tom Dromey, son raised during the depression, whispering these words into my ears. And I thank him as I’ve already got my commencement speech prepared for any 2018 graduation for which I may be asked to speak. And my calendar is wide open.  Chances are, however, I’ll simply be cutting out this column and handing it to my daughter who will graduate from high school in June – perhaps I’ll put it in her card with some Ramen noodles.

Be well, Joyful Musers. Stay frugal and know the most fashionable accessories of all? Being debt free, environmentally conscientious and graduating from college with loans well on their way to being things of the past.

Susan Dromey Heeter, a writer from Dover who recently let her hair go au natural white, debuts her new column “Joyful Musings” at Dromey Heeter is a secondary Spanish Teacher at Dover High School and the mother of two teenage daughters.  Writing has been her passion since her English majoring days at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  Dromey Heeter has lived in The Netherlands, Alaska and currently basks in all things New England, including the frigid winters. An avid swimmer, Dromey Heeter’s great passion is to bring back body surfing as most children have no idea how to ride waves without ridiculous boogie boards. She also writes about thrift shopping and all things frugal  in a column called “Budget Vogue” for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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