Unless you live in a cave you've surely heard the advertisements about the "historically low interest rates" for buying a house. And that's mostly true -- rates are quite low after the 2008 housing shenanigans. But, does that necessarily mean it's a good time to buy a house for you? There are a lot of financial factors that first-time homebuyers often forget, or were never aware of to begin with. Renting often makes financial sense, despite the higher monthly payment. So, when is it time to consider buying a house?

First, ascertain if you can even buy a house. A credit score of 660 or above can usually get a fair loan, provided you have a solid job history -- meaning you've had a stable, well-paying job for at least a year or two. Lenders also like to see a debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of around 36 percent (including the mortgage) with the mortgage taking up about 28 percent of your total income. This is somewhat flexible, but if you're in the 45 percent or more range, it's probably better to eliminate some debt first and raise your credit score in the process.

If you meet these criteria, there's still more to consider. Can you afford a down payment of ten percent? If you can't, there are programs out there that allow you to purchase a house without a down payment, provided you meet the credit criteria, but it's always best to make a down payment, as you'll pay thousands less down the road. If you don't have at least ten percent down in savings, the chances are you are not ready to buy a house -- even if you can qualify. Being able to buy a house and being financially responsible or financially sound enough to buy a house are not synonymous. Be honest with yourself here -- no one will reap the benefits or pay the price but you.

In addition to the down payment, maintenance costs can be significantly higher. Many older houses have quirks and damage that you may not notice until after it's yours -- even with a thorough inspection. If your air conditioning goes out, can you afford a $300 service call and still make your mortgage and car payments? If your hot water heater tanks (pun intended) can you swing $400 for a new one? Once you move in, you'll likely want to paint, maybe put some carpet in and buy a lawn chair or two. These obviously aren't free, and it's best practice to double what you think you'll spend on these. Most houses won't come with appliances, but most apartments and duplexes do -- so if you're a first time homeowner, it's not uncommon to spend several thousand on a refrigerator, washer and dryer -- and putting this on credit is a huge financial mistake.

Buying a house has a ton of benefits -- you can change it to what suits you and build equity in something valuable and keep it years after it's paid off. But before you buy, be sure that it makes smart financial sense. If not, calling a landlord to repair the heater is much more preferable than living without heat until you can afford a service call.

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You've worked hard all year, whether at school or on the job, and you're finally in the process of planning a much-deserved vacation. If your idea of a good time involves sun and sand, figuring out where to go is easier said than done. With all the resort options out there, pinpointing your ideal vacation spot can be dizzying. So before you start browsing through online brochures, you may want to ask yourself whether you'll be looking at an all-inclusive resort versus the type where you pay as you go along.

All-inclusive resorts definitely have their appeal, so much so that in recent years, the number of U.S. travelers who have stayed at an all-inclusive resort has increased. Not sure if an all-inclusive is right for you? Consider the pros and cons.


You won't have to worry about going over budget. When you stay at an all-inclusive, you pay a single price up front for your room, food, drinks and activities. This means that as long as you've saved enough to cover the base rate, there's no need to keep a mental calculation of what you're spending as you go along. Instead, you can sit back and relax knowing that there's no way you'll be exceeding your budget.

You won't feel guilty for indulging or trying new things. If your food and beverages aren't included in your base rate, you may feel compelled to skip that appetizer or sip water over soda in order to save some money. On the other hand, if your meals and beverages are already paid for, you won't have to think twice about ordering that extra iced tea or treating yourself to a more elaborate entrée.

You won't have to deal with gratuities. Many all-inclusive resorts have a no-tipping policy, which means you won't have to worry about having cash on hand or remembering to add a gratuity each time a waiter brings you a beverage.


You might pay more than what you would've spent otherwise. There's a reason why all-inclusive resorts are able to offer so many amenities. Most charge a premium for unlimited access to food and fun, and depending on where you stay and what your dining habits are, you could end up paying more for an all-inclusive than you would've paid a la carte. This especially holds true if you're not a particularly big eater or prefer to sit on the beach rather than participate in different activities.

You're limited to the resort itself. When you stay at a traditional resort, you can explore the neighboring town and dine at its local restaurants. With an all-inclusive, you're stuck where you are unless you're willing to pay extra on top of the premium you've already paid.

"All-inclusive" may not actually include everything. It's counterintuitive, right? You'd think an all-inclusive rate would cover every amenity and activity offered at a given resort, but that's not always the case. If you're an adventure junkie, be warned that activities like hang-gliding or parasailing often cost extra. The same goes for massages and spa services.

Weighing Your Options

When deciding whether to stay at an all-inclusive resort, think about what's most important to you. Do you want the freedom to indulge in fine food? Or is it enough to simply stay in a comfortable room with easy access to the beach? An all-inclusive isn't for everyone, and if your tastes are simpler, you may be better off sticking to the traditional pay-as-you-go model. On the other hand, if you can swing an all-inclusive, there's nothing wrong with treating yourself to a little taste of the good life.

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Though dorm life is still a far cry from real adult life, it's a step in the right direction. If you're headed off to college for the first time this summer, here's a list of things you absolutely need to do before bidding your parents' house adieu:

Open a checking account. Find one with a low minimum balance or better yet, no minimum at all. Ideally, your bank should also offer features like online bill paying and mobile deposits. Also, choose a bank with several branches in close proximity to your school. Accessible ATMs mean you're less likely to incur fees for
withdrawing cash elsewhere.

Get a credit card. College is a great time to start building credit, so find a card that caters to students. Look for one that comes with no annual fee and a rewards program, like cash back on everyday purchases.

Create a budget. Be clear about what your financial aid will and won't cover, and from there, figure out how much money you'll need for your remaining expenses. If you don't have enough savings or financial support from your parents to bridge that gap, you may need to find a part-time job.

Learn how to do your own laundry. We're not judging if you've never done it before--that's one of the perks of living at home. But before you head off to college, ask your mom for a crash course on separating your darks from your whites.

Refill your medications and prescriptions. You may not have easy access to a doctor (and certainly not your usual doctor) while away at college. Before the semester starts, check in with your doctor to make sure your prescriptions are current, and get refills as necessary. This goes for everyday medications as well as contact lenses or glasses.

Get in touch with your new roommate. Your school will probably let you know who you'll be bunking with over the summer. Call your new roommate to say hello, get a sense of his or her living style and figure out who's bringing the TV or microwave.

Stock up on dorm room supplies. Don't raid your bedroom at home--if you do, the stuff you need won't be there when you go home for weekends or breaks. Make a list and purchase your desk lamp, laundry basket or shower caddy when your local store has college items on sale.

Take some pictures with family and friends. And don't just leave them on your phone--print and frame them so you can display them in your new dorm room. It'll help you avoid getting homesick.

Pack. Leave yourself ample time to do this, as getting your life in order is a process. Dorm rooms are tiny, and it'll take time to figure out what to take and what to leave behind.

Apply for a job on or near campus. Don't wait until classes are underway--all the good jobs might be taken by then. You should especially act quickly if you won't have a car or access to public transportation, as your choices will likely be limited. Bummed that you'll need to work? Don't despair. Your job will be yet another outlet for you to meet new people and make friends.

Getting ready for college can be overwhelming, but the more organized you are, the less stressed you'll be. The key is to stay calm and have fun with it--because in essence, what you're really doing is gearing up for one of the most awesome, exciting experiences of your life.

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Like many young people my first priority after high school was to go to college. However, upon doing further research (hours of Googling and browsing Craigslist for jobs), the future employment market for college grads didn't seem as lucrative as it had been made out to be. So I took the opposite approach. I figured I could get a house and rent out the rooms for income when I was ready to attend school.

In most cases you need three things to get a mortgage loan: A good credit score, proof of income and a big pile of money. I only had two of the three. My credit was good. I'd got a credit card at 16 to pay for gas and had always paid it off each month. I had a decent paying job, but after a recent setback in the stock market, I was short on cash for the down payment.

I made a spending plan and through budgeting, cooking at home and resisting the urge to upgrade my generic car, I had the money required two years later.

The large down payment necessary to purchase a house would empty my entire savings account. While I wanted a house, having no money left over for emergencies and other expenses would leave me very vulnerable, which sounded like a bad option. I wanted to find a different way.

At the time, I had just completed my first stint with the military. This allowed me to qualify for a home loan through the Veteran's Affairs office without putting any money down. The VA is notorious for making veterans jump through more hoops than a dolphin at SeaWorld, but this process was much simpler than anticipated. I went to the bank with my documentation, and left with a pre-approval letter for a $350k loan.

Just because someone is approved for a larger loan, doesn't mean they are obligated to spend the entire amount. It's smart to take future plans into account before trying to imitate the designer homes shown on TV. My intent was to rent out any extra rooms to my former soldiers and fellow college students. This would allow me to capitalize on my networking skills, relieve much of the financial strain and have some extra play money.

It's a big commitment buying a house. It ties the owner to a certain area, and obligates them to make payments for the next 15 to 30 years depending on the type of mortgage. Considering the location and future job potential in the area is crucial.

I bought a four bedroom, three bath house located on a small lot with a fenced backyard near the local college in my hometown. The loan was for $185,000 which meant the monthly payments would be around $1300 for the next 30 years. The master bedroom was massive and segregated from the other side of the house. This was important to my sanity as I wanted to escape the drama that comes with having roommates.

With a mortgage and other bills (water, power, internet, etc.) costing an additional $200, the grand total came to $1500 in monthly expenses. By renting two rooms in my house, at $400 each, I was left with monthly bills of $700. That was less than I was previously paying for my crappy, one-bedroom, wrong-side-of-town apartment.

My house ended up being the best investment I ever made as it continues to generate rental income. The key to my success was that I worked first, and set up a cash flow stream prior to taking on the additional expenses associated with college.

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Summer is a popular time for weddings, and while you may be genuinely happy for all the people in your life who are about to tie the knot, you're probably not as happy about the toll their nuptials are going to take on your wallet. For 2015, the average cost of attending a wedding as a guest is estimated at a whopping $673--which means if you've got multiple affairs to attend this season, you're quite potentially screwed. On the bright side, there are a few things you can do to reduce your costs as a guest. Start with the following:

Wear the Same Outfit Over and Over Again
Unless you're in the wedding party, you've got free reign over your wardrobe. And while it can be tempting to wear a new outfit to each affair, you can save hundreds of dollars this season by recycling the same garb. Even if your various invites include overlapping crowds, you can still get away with a number of repeats. The same black dress, for example, will look different when you augment it with a shawl or varied accessories. And all you need to do is switch up your shirts and ties to jazz up the same suit.

Give a Creative Gift Instead of an Expensive One
The average guest plans to spend about $100 this year per wedding gift. If that's not a figure you can comfortably swing, opt for sentiment and imagination over monetary value. Instead of buying the happy couple a pricey kitchen appliance, for example, choose a low-cost gadget but include a homemade book of your favorite recipes. Or, if you're truly strapped for cash, offer up your services in lieu of a gift. Got a knack for photography? Volunteer to snap a pre-wedding shoot. Got culinary skills? Tell the bride and groom you'll be their personal chef for a night. A good gift doesn't have to cost a fortune, and if it comes from the heart, it's bound to go over well.

Don't Pay for Lodging
If you're attending an out-of-town wedding, ask the bride and groom to hook you up with a friend or family member who's willing to host you for the weekend. Eliminating a hotel stay could save you a few hundred dollars.

Reduce Your Travel Costs 
The process of getting to and from a wedding is often the most expensive component of attending. If you're driving to attend a wedding, one easy way to save is by carpooling with other guests and splitting the cost of gas and tolls. Don't know anyone else who's invited? Ask the bride or groom to put you in touch with other guests who are also leaving from your area. The same concept applies if you're flying and renting a car. Since others will presumably be in the same boat, why not get together and share the cost of a vehicle rental?

While you can take steps to minimize your costs as a wedding guest, if you've got a crazy number of invites this summer, you may have to resort to just saying no. It's noble to want to celebrate with the important folks in your life, but if other people's weddings are driving you into debt or causing you a true financial hardship, it's time to be more selective in your RSVPs. Yes, the bride and groom may be disappointed, but if you're honest about your situation and take the time to send a heartfelt card loaded with good wishes, chances are you'll still come away with the relationship--and your bank account--nicely intact.

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Content marketing is the most effective way to attract people to your brand. If you're just starting out, you're in for a lot of fun. At first, it may seem insurmountable, but before you know it, you'll achieve the glory of successful content marketing.

Marketing techniques, such as content marketing, can take time and dedication to be successful. It's a long-term strategy! To add content marketing as a strategy for your business, you'll want to start with some basic steps, and then scale them as you get more comfortable and advanced.

You'll Need to Come up With Goals and a Mission Statement
Skill Level: Beginner

The Content Marketing Institute reports that the two most essential parts of getting started with this form of advertising is to:

  • Identify your goals
  • Come up with a mission statement

Be as specific as possible. Your goals and mission statement should be measurable, so you can know when your content marketing is working for you. Think about how much of an increase in traffic you want, how much more revenue, etc. You won't know you've succeeded if you don't know where success is.

Tip: This is the fun part, because you are defining your vision! The goals are simply what you want to achieve for your business and the mission statement should be a compilation of what you want and what you want to give your customers.

Plan the Content for a Week, Month or Longer
Skill Level: Beginner to Moderate

Once you've got your ideas down, it's time to take action. An editorial calendar  can help you plan for holidays, connect topics and organize. While you may find this to be time consuming at first, you'll be in love with it after a couple of months because you'll find that it keeps you moving forward without wasting time trying to think what you're going to write about next.

You can create a simple editorial calendar on Word or Excel. For a more advanced option, you might consider downloading one of the many templates available online.

Tip: Set aside time at the beginning of each month to organize your content. If you're setting up an editorial calendar for the year, you may want to devote an entire afternoon to it. A year-long calendar will be good for bigger items, but give yourself some flexibility, as the industry and your ideas may change over time.

Learn How to Write an Effective Article
Skill Level: Moderate

You may have your goals and editorial calendar, but they won't matter if your content isn't effective.
There are six types of blog posts you should learn how to write:

  • How-To posts. Can be incredibly helpful to readers, especially if you are providing troubleshooting for issues they may be having with your products.
  • List-Based Posts. Give readers several options they can consider when trying to make a decision.
  • Curated Posts. Taking ideas from several different websites, which can be highly valuable to readers since they don't have to visit many sites to find what they need.
  • SlideShare Presentations. For the visual learners out there.
  • Newsjacking Posts. Write about search trends. People are searching for topics, and you're giving them the information they need.
  • Longform Posts. These posts are much longer and more informational than other types. They can be as long as 1,500 words, or even over 2,000 words, depending on your topic.

As you can see in this longform example, the format includes subheadings, bullets, short paragraphs and related images. This helps readers scan the information and then focus in on what's important. Not only do search engines love this type of content because it has a lot of information for their Internet users, readers love it because they get valuable information in one place.

Tip: Writing high quality content takes time. Shorter articles may take you 60 minutes, while longer ones can take as long as two hours or more, including research. As you get better at writing, you'll get faster, but never sacrifice quality for quantity.

Share the Gift of Content
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced

Treat your content like a gift to be shared and do so on all your social networks. It's also important to make sharing easy for your readers. Many of them will likely want to put it on their feeds, and you can make it easier for them by having social media sharing icons next to your posts.

This has such a wide range of skill level because sharing a link is easy, but knowing what to do on social media to improve your brand can be more challenging. Just start with posting the links and trying to engage with your audience. Through experience, you'll learn what you need to do to get noticed.

Tip: The more time you put in, the more results you'll see.

Repeat for as Long as You're in Business
Skill Level: Advanced

According to SocialTimes, "Unique content is essential for a site's natural Google ranking. Ninety-four percent of search engine users click on organic results compared to six percent on PPC."

It's essential to continue publishing high quality content on your website and sharing it on social media. The more unique the content, the more traffic and brand awareness you'll receive. Each month, you'll have to create an editorial calendar, continue to write effective articles, and give the gift of content.

Tip: At least an hour a day should be devoted to writing and marketing your content on social media.

Remember, content marketing is anything but soft. You need to work hard. The harder you work, the better the rewards. You may not see results in the beginning, but if you keep going, your small business will see the fruits of your labor.

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I spent my first two years of college living in a dorm, and I loved it. It was great having 30 people down the hall to hang out with, study with or enlist as partners in procrastination. And living in a dorm was super convenient. I could roll out of bed and walk to classes (often in my pajamas), and when I was hungry, I'd simply stroll on over to the dining hall, swipe my card and indulge in whatever slop du jour they were dishing out.

Yes, dorm life was good. But it was also expensive, and in many ways not so conducive to learning how to function like an adult. So after doing the dorm thing for a couple of years, my friends and I decided to give living off campus a try, and I'm really glad we did. Here are some of the perks:

It Can Be Cheaper
If you attend college in a place like New York City where $2,000 a month won't buy you more than the equivalent of an insulated cardboard box, dorming may be more cost-effective. But if you go to college out in the sticks, there's a good chance you'll save money by renting a house or apartment and splitting it with friends. These days, you can expect to spend close to $10,000 per year on room and board, but some schools charge $15,000 a year or more. Find a place that accommodates multiple housemates, and you can cut your costs by splitting the rent and utilities.

You Can Make Your Own Rules
Living in a dorm is fun and all, but it does come with certain restrictions. When you rent your own place off campus, you don't have to worry about quiet hours, nor do you have to feel guilty when you'd rather curl up in bed rather than participate in your living hall's weekly social event. You can go crazy turning on halogen lamps and plugging in hot plates, and there won’t be a soul around to write you up for it.

You Get More Living Space
Dorm rooms don't give you much space. Rent a house off campus, on the other hand, and you may wind up with more square footage at your disposal. Another benefit of off campus living is the possibility of snagging your own bedroom, or even your own bathroom--options that usually aren't available in a dorm.

You Have More Food Choices
It may be nice not having to cook, but dining hall food isn't exactly known to be high in quality. And chances are your meal plan isn't all that economical, as you're paying for the convenience of having someone else prepare your food. When you live off campus, you can show off your gastronomic prowess and expand your culinary horizons (well, to an extent--if you're on a budget, you're probably limited to fast food and pizza, but it's far better than dining hall meatloaf).

You'll Be More Prepared for the Real World
Living off campus means doing adult-style things like paying individual utility bills and going grocery shopping. Sure, that stuff can be time-consuming, but it's a good way to get ready for life outside your college campus.

While I highly recommend off campus living, I do suggest waiting till your sophomore or junior year before bidding dorm life adieu. You can always rent a house or apartment with roommates once you enter the working world, but unless you're a student, you won't get a chance to live in a dorm and experience the fun and craziness that comes along with it.

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Ah, summer--the warm weather, longer days and general freewheeling feeling you get, no matter how old you are, that school is most definitely out for the season. There's something fun and refreshing about summertime that makes you want to just soak it all in. But if you're low on funds, summer can feel like a taunting beast--because while your friends are all out there dining at rooftop restaurants and road-tripping their way through the country, you're spending your weekends stuck on the couch, nursing your boredom with an endless stream of bad television reruns.

Yep, it's hard to take advantage of all summer has to offer when you barely have enough money to buy groceries. But worry not. Even if you only have a disturbingly minute amount of wiggle room in your budget, you can still enjoy your fair share of summertime activities. Here are a few that won't set you back financially:

Even if you're not particularly outdoorsy, hiking is an easy way to get out there when the pleasant weather beckons. In case you've never done it before, hiking is basically walking, only with trees around you instead of buildings. Find a trail, pack some water and snacks and spend a few hours in nature. You'll get some exercise while achieving the ever-important goal of getting off the couch and out of the house. Oh, and the best part? It doesn't have to cost you a dime.

If you don't mind roughing it a bit, round up some friends, load up your backpacks and set off for a weekend camping trip. You'll have fun roasting marshmallows, building a bonfire and spending as much time as you like gazing up at the stars. Not up for a trek deep into the woods? Try car camping, which basically involves driving up to a campsite, paying a nominal fee and setting up shop for the night. It's not as authentic as pitching a tent in the middle of the woods, but really, no one's judging.

Minor League Ballgames
For some folks, summer and baseball go hand in hand, but unless you're making serious bucks, you may have to settle for watching your favorite team on TV. These days, the average Major League Baseball ticket price hovers around the $29-mark, and if you live in or near a big city like New York or Boston, that average is more like $50. If you can't swing it, try catching some minor league games instead. Tickets are a fraction of the going MLB rates, and food, drinks and parking also tend to be considerably cheaper. Be on the lookout for promotions courtesy of your local team, from $1 admission to free t-shirt giveaways.

Local Fairs and Festivals
Need something to do on a Saturday afternoon? Check out the festivals happening in your town. You can search online to find local events, from car shows to craft fairs. Most festivals charge little or no money to get in and often feature live music and other free entertainment.

Movies in the Park
Sure, you could pop a movie in your DVD player and grumble about it. Or, you could gather some friends, pack a picnic basket and make a night of it with a free movie outdoors. It won't be a new release, but you may discover an old classic you never knew existed.

Remember, you can have fun this summer even if you're on an extremely tight budget. And with the right company, even the simplest activity, like walking on the beach, can make for a memorable experience.

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You've seen the commercials or driven past one of many car lots in town and there it is: that shiney, new car you want. You imagine yourself in it, how cool you'll look driving it and how you'll be the envy (and chauffeur) of all of your friends. Yes, having a car is all about independence, freedom and access, but acquiring a car is not only about looking cool. You have to take into consideration necessities like gas, maintenance and insurance.

My first car, a black 2002 Dodge Avenger coupe, was being sold at a local auction, and I was hoping for a good deal. The sticker price was $5000. However, I was able to negotiate the price to around $3800 including all fees. I put down $1000 and financed the rest over a 3-year period. Here's how I did it.

Price/Maintenance (and additional fees) - The car's price can help you to budget for maintenance costs. The more expensive the car, the more expensive its parts (i.e. Mercedes vs. Nissan). Before I purchased my car, I factored my expenses into my monthly budget: car payment, gas, insurance, savings, rent, etc., which helped me determine what I could afford. I also did my research using websites like kbb.com, which tells you the car's value, based on mileage and other factors, as well as price comparisons on cars.com to ensure I would pay a fair price.

Insurance - You need it before you can drive the car off the lot. The amount of insurance you will pay depends on factors such as age, the type of car and its price and repair costs.

You shouldn't choose an insurance company based on the lowest premium, but on what the policy covers should something happen to you, your passengers and/or the car. I was under 25 at the time (rates for drivers under 25 are high because they're at a higher risk for accidents), and my grandparents offered to put me on their policy. To help with costs, I also took a six hour defensive driving course which took ten percent off my grandparent's insurance premium.

Gas/MPG - The MPG is the number of highway miles you can drive on one gallon of gas. This is important when factoring in gas, which you may need to fill up on regularly (depending on how often you drive).

Safety - How safe is this car? How well did it match up amongst other vehicles in its class? Does it have all the safety features that you need to feel secure?

Credit Score - To be able to finance 100 percent ($0 down) or one percent, with a low interest rate, your credit score should be at least 650 or higher.

Job Stability - Remember, If you lose your job you are still responsible for your monthly car payment.

Down Payment -You want to make sure that your down payment is at least a $1000 or ten percent of the asking price. Anything less won't make a dent in your monthly payments. For every $1,000 that is financed, you pay $17 to $29 toward your monthly payment.

The Purchase - Utilize resources that can help you with bargaining, auto loan terminology, numbers and getting the best deal possible.

I loved this car! I kept it for one year then traded it in for something newer. It got me from A to Z and everywhere in between. I traveled up and down the East Coast and enjoyed every minute of it. May your new purchase take you places and give you experiences that you will remember for a lifetime.

Happy Shopping and travel safely!

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Well, you did it. You've graduated and been accepted to your dream college. So now what? Even though you have the whole summer ahead of you to get ready for this next chapter, getting ready to go away for school does require some planning ahead.

For me, living in a dorm was sort of like one awesome extended sleepover. Unfortunately, it also costs a heck of a lot more than I expected just to move into my dorm room in the first place. If you're heading off to college for the first time, make sure to plan accordingly. You'll need a bunch of new stuff, and it's going to cost you some money.

Thinking of raiding your parents' linen closet instead of buying new bedding? Think again. Most college dorm beds require extra-long sheets--the type your folks aren't likely to have. Taking stuff like pillows and blankets from home isn't a great idea either. If you haul it all away to college, it won’t be there when you come home to visit, and lugging a comforter back and forth just isn't going to work. Your best bet is to buy new bedding, and you can expect to spend at least $75 for a basic set.

Sure, you'll probably spend a fair amount of time studying and going out with friends, but you'll still want some basic entertainment in the comfort of your dorm room. This means there's a good chance you'll need to buy a TV, and probably a DVD player to go along with it. These days, you can score a DVD player for as little as $30-40, but a decent TV might cost you $400 or more.

Your room and board fees should cover a basic meal plan, but what happens when you get hungry at 3:00 in the morning during an all-night study session? Midnight (or post-midnight) munchies are common among college students, and to indulge your craving, you'll need to invest in a mini fridge. Some schools have these available for rent, but that might cost you almost as much as buying your own. Most models start around $65. Throw in a microwave, and you're looking at over $100 to ensure a steady supply of food and snacks.

A New Laptop
The laptop you used throughout high school--you know, the one whose battery dies after 12 minutes--probably isn't going to cut it once you get to college. You're going to have notes to type up during class and papers to write, so you'll need a reliable laptop from the start. While you can go cheaper, the average laptop will run you about $600. Throw in a printer, and you're looking at another $100.

New Clothing
You'll need to invest in a new wardrobe if you're going away to school in a different area of the country. If you're headed for a warmer climate, you'll need to stock up on shorts and, if you're lucky, beachwear. On the other hand, if your school is known for its harsh (or in my case, extended) winters, you'll need to purchase snow boots, warm clothing and a serious supply of gloves.

A Car
Some colleges don't allow freshmen to have cars on campus, but if yours does, and there's no public transportation in town, you may be tempted to buy one. Even a used vehicle can cost several thousand dollars, so be sure to have a decent chunk of money on hand before you go car shopping.

Preparing for college can be stressful on many levels, but try not to let the cost of everything wreck what should otherwise be an exciting summer. Budget accordingly, and with any luck, you'll get all the stuff you need to start off on the right foot.

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