When I was a college freshmen, I wanted to buy every item listed on the school shopping list. But there is no need for parents or students to snap up every item on the shopping list, according to Kiplinger.com’s list of "10 Things College Students Don’t Need." Here's a sample from that list:
"1. New Textbooks. To avoid paying unfathomable new-book prices, see whether your university offers a rental program — or rent from a Web site such as Chegg.com, where you can save up to 85%. Order the book for a one-time fee—for example, about $60 plus shipping for a $180 calculus book—keep it for a semester, then return it with free shipping, or you could buy it. Or, head to the used-book lot. For example, BigWords.com searches the Web for the best prices on used textbooks.
2. Big Meal Plan. Brain food is important, but avoid loading up your child's meal account with enough money to feed the football team. It’s best to start with a low number of meals and see how much your student uses. Many colleges will give you the opportunity to replenish the meal plan midyear. You could also supplement your kid's meal plan with gift cards to the local grocery (or the local pizza joint). Or you can buy gift cards at GiftCertificates.com.
3. A High-End Laptop or Desktop Computer. An inexpensive laptop should meet your student's computer needs. For example, you can buy an Acer Aspire One, which has a 10.1-inch screen and weighs just 2.4 pounds, for less than $300 at Best Buy, WalMart or Target. Be aware, though, that netbooks don't have DVD drives or huge amounts of storage space, so it'll cost extra to get plug-in external drives or memory cards.
4. Printer. Here's what you can save by skipping this unnecessary item: about $50 for a printer, $30 for replacement ink and $9 for a pack of paper. For about $10, your child could buy a flash drive instead, save his 20-page term paper on it and print the paper in the campus computer lab, which you may already be paying for. Some schools include a technology fee in room and board costs—$100 per semester in some cases.
5. Cable TV. These days, you don't have to foot a hefty cable bill when your child can catch the latest movies and TV shows online. http://www.hulu.com/, http://www.veoh.com/ and http://www.fancast.com/ let you download current TV shows for free. The movies offered on these sites are slightly old, but you can get a Netflix DVD-rental subscription for as little as $5 a month. "
The full list of 10 Things College Students Don’t Need.
Kiplinger.com’s Back to School 2009 package