Thursday, May 24, 2012

Big Thirsty: What Don't Students Spend Money on, But Should?

We had some interesting discussion a few days ago of how students waste money, so I thought I'd turn the question around: what don't students spend money on that they really should?

I'll provide a few answers of my own below; please chime in with additional ones (or objections to mine, or the way I've worded/formatted/named the Thirsty, or whatever) in the comments.

  • Textbooks.  If I've named specific chapters that you should read in preparation for particular classes, and/or keep writing things like "see Jones for more on approaches to hamster-fur felting" in assignments, YES, YOU NEED TO BUY THE TEXTBOOK! (sorry; can you tell I've answered a few emails on this subject lately?)  
  • Time -- time to study, time to eat right and exercise and sleep and generally consolidate/reflect on your learning.  Maybe even time to have a life while you're preparing for life.  Time is, unfortunately, an expensive commodity, and I can't really recommend taking out student loans in the current economy.  So maybe this is one you pay for with scheduling/lifestyle decisions: attend the local CC and/or live at home if necessary, start out with a 6-year rather than a 4-year plan, whatever it takes.  
  • Tech devices appropriate to the job at hand.  To complete the work in my writing (and research and reading)-intensive classes, you do need a working computer (or maybe a really good tablet) with a decent-sized screen and internet connectivity and reasonably up-to-date (but not necessarily cutting-edge) software (and/or you need to take a bit of time to identify and download free programs that play well with the more expensive standard ones, e.g. Open Office).  Most 5-10-year old lap- or desktops, or a cheap new netbook, will do just fine.  You don't need a smartphone with a data plan (and if you try to read scholarly articles on that little screen, you're going to make life much, much more difficult for yourself).   
  • An automatic data back-up plan.  Actually, you can get this, too, for free, though you'll have limited storage space.  But for the cost of one or two coffee drinks a month, you can back up all of your important digital belongings using any of half-a-dozen reliable, set-it-and-forget-it (but do check up on it now and then) cloud backup systems that work very, very well.   You can also access your files from anywhere, even that %#@! smartphone. 
Hmm. . .I seem to keep straying back into "don't spend money on this" territory.  Can any of you do any better, or are the two subjects inextricably intertwined?


  1. * Subscriptions: a newspaper or news magazine subscription would keep them much better informed about the world. Their reliance on TV news -- and highly inconsistent news-watching habits -- leaves them deeply uninformed. School newspapers.... not much help.

    1. Of course, then they have to read what they are subscribed to.

  2. -A better place to live. Skimping on your domicile falls into the "penny-wise and pound foolish" area. I have a lot of students who miss class because their pipes bust and flood the apartment, or their landlord decides to evict them mid-semester, or their roommates are screwing in the next bed, or they get bedbugs. All that lost time translates to lost tuition. Or to additional money/time spent on moving and finding new apartments.

    -Same principle applies to working too much. I know that students need to work, but working 40 hours a week doesn't do much good if you have to drop all your classes or retake.

  3. Actually, Cassandra, most online backup options have plenty of free space for the sort of thing we're talking about here.

    All of my essays, papers, research notes, and other work that I have done in the course of my undergraduate, graduate, and teaching career comfortably fits in my Dropbox account. Word documents and other text files really take up very little room at all.

    I'm not talking about things like PDF copies of scholarly articles (although I do have quite a lot of them backed up as well). I figure that I can download them from JSTOR or ProQuest or EBSCO whenever I need them, so backing them up is not really a priority. But backing up my own work is easy, and free, and doesn't take up that much space at all,

  4. Ditto on dropbox. It's the best thing ever.

  5. Please spend more on clothing that fits. Or, at least, underwear that covers what the clothing does not.

    p.s. tattoos do not count as either clothing or underwear

  6. An editor for their essays. A good one is worth every cent.

  7. Good food at home: good ingredients from the grocery store cost less than prepared foods, and one can eat better. It saves money, helps with one's health and mental ability, and is a great way to woo someone without having to spend too much money on going out.

  8. @ Cassandra -- Once one goes beyond the "typewriter functions," Open Office doesn't play well with MS Word, as many of my students have discovered to their dismay.

  9. Dear students:

    Buy one of those stupid fucking professional development books. Charm School (aka Finishing School) may be out of the budget, but, for Crikey's sake, learn how to behave!!!!

    Take your fucking hand away from your mouth when you speak in class! And when I tell you to do it, don't think I am being "mean" or "unfair" or "picking on you." I am TEACHING you what you should have learned in elementary school. Also, speak loudly and clearly. Learn to project and neither mumble nor whisper. I am sure you'll give that lame-ass, overpriced book more credit than you will me and your other profs, so, since you think we're as dumb as your kindergarten teacher (and he or she was probably not dumb either), then read the book that you just might ascribe more ethos to than it deserves simply because it's written for "professionals."

    /end crank

    P.S. Also buy a book on study skills. Since you're too damn thick to go to the FREE class the college offers, learn it on your own. 'kay? Thanks. Bye.

  10. An academic calendar or use Google Calendar or something. Stop asking me when the next quiz or assignment is. I don't know, I don't memorize the syllabus, I just write it. I check on the weekend to see when stuff is about to happen.

  11. Paper and writing implements. Then use the damned things to take some tea partying items already.

  12. Oh my heavens, where to start? Some of these have already been mentioned, but now I'm feeling the need to vent.

    Hygiene. I have any number of students who do not bathe and/or wash their clothing as often as they should. I'm not talking about students who are homeless (and I do have them), but students who have running water available to them in their domiciles.

    Better tobacco. If they're going to smoke, I wish they'd smoke something that doesn't linger on their clothes like the stench of a barroom floor.

    Nutrition. Doctor BPD beat me to it. Rather than spending money on tobacco at all, I wish many of my students would eat better. I know how difficult this is to do, as I lived below the poverty level myself for several years when I adjuncted. (I am not kidding.) Instead of that high-priced, corn syrup-based breakfast in a bottle, students should purchase something healthier (and cheaper) that they can eat at home. And they should eat before they come to class.

    Vitamins. A 100-count bottle of Vitamin C is $2.00 at the local grocery and dollar stores, even in the poor neighborhoods. I know this for a fact. I would appreciate this purchase; I'm tired of teaching in a Petri dish.

    Condoms. Seriously.

    Loose leaf paper and blue or black ink pens. Seriously, why is this so tea partying difficult? I even put this in my syllabus. (Thanks, Annie, for adopting my pet phrase!)

    An organizer/day planner of some kind, something that keeps them on track, as Phil suggests. They are incapable of keeping themselves on track, sometimes because they have very, very complicated lives.

    The textbook. Buy the tea partying textbook. I had two students in a lit class last semester who never bought the textbook. I wasn't at all surprised when they failed.

    And I'm with Sarcastic Bastard on the clothing. To that I'd add appropriate footwear for winter weather.


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