College and graduate school are so horrifyingly expensive these days that any extra expenditure must be looked at with care. Unless your parents are rolling in money, the cost of tuition is a massive drain on family or personal resources. The money you save now is going to be your cushion for job-hunting later when you graduate. What are the ways we can avoid breaking the bank and ruining ourselves or our families financially?
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The student car is probably the most expensive and often least useful and indulgent ongoing expense. Unless you have a serious job that requires commuting, this should be a non-negotiable sacrifice.
The expenses associated with a car are manifold. There is the purchase price, the interest on any loan, the insurance, the registration, the tags, and regularly required inspection. That is before one single gallon of gas or motor oil goes in.
Maintenance of a car at college is an immense inconvenience unless one is a superb mechanic. Even equipped with skills and tools, where does one set up shop to do auto maintenance at a dormitory? Finding a reputable mechanic near a college may be problematic – consider the unwary student who took her car to a garage close to campus for a tune-up, and then noticed that it was running roughly. To her horror, she found when she took it to a different repair place that the spark plugs were not all plugged back in. So much for quality assurance! Which course is the time going to be robbed from to perform the sort of ongoing upkeep that is needed by a car, whether personally or for a fee?
Then there is the temptation that having a car on campus exerts on all students. There are road trips to consider, shopping off-campus to undertake, trips home in between holidays in which to indulge, and myriad other distractions to resist.
Gas is costly, as are all the other fluids that the car consumes with the avidity of an athlete after a hot and dusty workout. Do you have the time to shop around for the best deal on gasoline? Probably not.
Finally, there is the safety issue. This has an economic implication as well as the potential to end a promising young life practically before it starts. An accident can cripple you for the rest of your years on this earth, and end all possibilities of a paying career as anything at all by consigning you to a wheelchair. This is not unrealistic: the chances of a serious mishap are far more serious for a young person. The reason is at least two-fold. Students have an unfortunate affinity for intoxicating substances. Additionally, recent research demonstrates that the adolescent brain does not finish developing the areas responsible for decision making until at least 25 years of age.
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Some campuses are, to make matters even worse, located in areas that often are rather marginal in terms of safety and security. This means that a car is exposed to the possibility of theft, break-in, or even vandalism. Campus security forces tend to be more concerned with personal safety than with protecting automobiles.
What is the take-away message of this article? Cars on campus are usually a liability, and their expense is difficult to justify for the vast majority of students. This is an area where you can save!