Have and Have (Nots)

My Dad's Car on Freshman Move-In day

So this post should have been written before school started, but hopefully you can still find it useful. I remember before my freshman year of college, I was bombarded by catalogs, credit card offers (this was when you still could get one at 18), blog posts, and my own university’s recommendations on what I need for college.  For the most part I got everything that was suggested and I thought I was good to go. How wrong I was. I found myself lugging home a ton of unnecessary knickknacks and clothing on breaks. I also got a rude awakening on things I should have packed. So here is my list on the must-haves and have-nots of college living.

Must-Haves:

-Bank Account at the college or local bank: Unless your regional bank reimburses you for ATM fees (are there still any out there?), open an account with the bank that provides the on-campus ATMs or another local bank. Additionally, if you have a job or receive a check, it is much easier to deposit it when you have an account with a local bank.

-Checkbook: Never written a check before? Well you better learn how. Although checkbooks seem outdated, they still come in handy when you need to make your housing deposit or pay bills.

-Insurance card: Make sure your parents give you a copy before you leave.

-Formal Business and Business Casual attire: Don’t wait until senior year to begin your business wardrobe. Whether you are a freshman or a grad student, it is always smart to have at least one formal business and one business casual outfit in your closet at all times. This means: one suit or a dress with a blazer, khakis and a nice blouse (or the equivalent), and a professional pair of heels or flats. You never know when an internship or employment opportunity may arise, and you don’t want to be stuck with jeans and a sweater for the interview.

-Business cards: When someone asks for your information, sending it to them via text message is efficient but not professional. Invest in some business cards to hand out while networking. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, just your name contact info, university and perhaps major. You can usually order a few hundred online for less than ten dollars.

-Cooking Skills: If you are entering college or in college, now is the time to learn how to cook. There is nothing worse than eating ramen noodles for the fifth night in a row. Ask your parents or consult food blogs or even YouTube to get some great tips and meal ideas. Cooking for yourself is not only fun, but healthier and less expensive than eating out. Here are a few of my favorite food blogs: Brokeass Gourmet (how fitting), Smitten Kitchen, Green LiteBites, Noble Pig, and for my vegetarian/vegan friends Chocolate Covered Katie and SpaBettie.

-Sewing Kit: I absolutely guarantee you will need this at least once during college, and it is definitely something I overlooked while packing.

Must Have (Nots):

-Pets: Sure that puppy/kitten/gerbil was absolutely adorable when you first bought it, but having a pet in college is a bad idea. Not only do you have to spend money on vaccinations, food, pet visits and toys, pets can also take up an enormous amount of time and energy, two things most college students lack. Who wants to house-break a puppy when you have a final to study for? Or who wants to argue over whose turn is it to clean the kitty litter box? I don’t and I don’t think you do either. If you are in desperate need of an animal companion, consider a fish or volunteer at the local animal shelter once a week.

-Car: Okay, I’m going to be honest here, I wish I had a car at school. It would be easier for groceries and trips home, but cars can be a big financial burden on college students. Living in NYC, it is completely unnecessary for me to have a car when I have a ton of affordable transportation options off campus. However, if you absolutely do need a car in college consider carpooling to grocery stores, class, or back home that way you don’t have to pay for all the gas. Also, never let anyone borrow your car. That is just setting yourself up for disaster.

-Printer: Yes, having a printer in your room is convenient, but having to blow $30+ on cartridges each month isn’t. At-home printers also have a wonderful way of not working when you need them to. Do some research and see if your school offers free printing or has multiple printing stations across campus. If schools do charge it is usually only between 5 and 10 cents per page.

-Credit Cards: This is a point of contention amongst college students and parents. I personally do not have a credit card and have never had the need for one.  I disagree with having an “emergency” card especially if you know you like to shop. If you and your parents decide to go ahead and get you one, do not use it without your parents’ knowledge or if you don’t have room in your budget to do so. Also, NEVER EVER EVER bring it out when going out to dinner or out to the bars. Bring enough cash to cover yourself and perhaps a bit more for a taxi, but leave the plastic at home. You wouldn’t be too happy waking up to a $300 credit card bill from TJ Shenanigans because you were in a generous mood and decided to buy the bar a round of shots.

-Decorations/Knickknacks: Having a great looking dorm room is a must. However, your dorm room shouldn’t resemble an audition video for Hoarders: Buried Alive. Bring a few pictures, and a knick-knack or two but keep in mind how little of a space you will be living in. Apartment Therapy has some great ideas for dorm room decorating.

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Thrifty Thursdays Fridays

I’ve got a riddle for you: What do the following objects in the pictures have in common?

Any guesses?

Still stumped?

What if I told you that not only did I get everything here at thrift stores, but every item was less than $15? Would you believe me? Well you should. As a college student, thrift stores are great for finding unique, well-made clothing and accessories for super cheap if you know where and how to look. Luckily, I’m here to help. I’ve been thrifting for about eight years, and any thrifter can tell you there is not better thrill than nabbing a great item for a few bucks (or in some cases a few cents). I’m going to be honest here, thrifting does take time and patience. It is not the most fun to sift through the land of misfit clothing. However, the rewards do pay off. Here a few of my favorite finds.

Dooney & Bourke Purse from Goodwill: $10

Vintage scarf from random PA thrift store: $8

That blue blazer in picture one? Thirty dollars cents. I would give you a close up shot, but it has a date with the dry cleaners later today.

If you have never been thrifting before, or, like many, gave up after setting eyes on the umpteenth 5K t-shirt, I’ve come up with a few rules/suggestions that will make you a pro thrifter in no time.

Thrifting Commandments:

1. Thou shalt not buy if thou does not absolutely love it. Just because the price is right, doesn’t mean the look is.

2. Thou shalt not be label-conscious. A big mistake for first timers. That $30 Burberry shirt? No one’s going to care if you got a huge deal on it. They’ll be too busy trying not to laugh at your hideous shirt.

3. Thou shalt not buy stained/hole-y/pill-y clothing. This should go without saying. I usually avoid buying sweaters as many are not in the best shape. But, if you’re looking for the perfect pair of worn jeans or a soft leather jacket? I’d say a thrift store should be your first stop.

4. Thou shalt try and try again. Like I said, thrifting takes time. You may not find what you are looking for the first, second or third time, but believe me you’ll strike gold soon enough.

5. Thou salt seek out unexpected areas/stores. Want to know a secret? Some my best finds came from small-town thrift stores. Many times stores in the city know how much they should charge, but a lot of the mom-and-pop joints sometimes pass over a diamond in the rough. My $0.30 blazer? I got in a $3 fill-you-bag sale in upstate New York.

6. Thou shalt haggle. I don’t know why more people don’t do this. Yes, it may seem annoying, but you can score some major deals this way. Because thrift stores set their own prices, they are more willing to make a deal. Buying a few items? Offer the lot for $20. Also, look for non-profit thrift stores. I’ve found they have offered me deals on purchases without me even asking!

7. Thou shalt do your research. This rule is mostly when purchasing a designer bag. Youtube, Ebay and Spotfakehandbags.com have great articles on how to spot a fraud.

Here are a few of my favorite thrift stores:

-The Goodwill: I have found that they offer a greater selection on designer bags and accessories. Also, their auction-based website has some great discount designer duds.

-The Salvation Army: Great for furniture and household goods. Also, my neighborhood salvation army always has half-off sales and a great selection of coats and leather belts.

-Non-Profit Thrift Stores: If you are looking for a well-tailored suit or brand-names, non-profits are usually the way to go.

Do you thrift? What was your favorite find? Let me know!

Thrifty Thursdays

I loves clothes and shopping. Know who doesn’t? My bank account.You may have limited means in the financial department, but there’s no excuse to let your wardrobe reflect that. It just means you have to get creative and wander off the beaten trail.  Each Thursday I’ll feature a few great little numbers from some unlikely sources with every piece under $50 (and much, much less). This week’s finds are from the Haus of Kmart. Oh and they’re all less than $20 a pop.

shirt dress on sale $18.74

rt. 66 heart ring: $2.99

tunic top: $18.74

jaclyn smith bracelet: $15.00

Do you have any unexpected fashion sources? I’d love to know about them!