The one big ticket item you don't need for college



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Managing Editor

Myles Ma is a health care expert & personal finance writer for Policygenius. He edits the Easy Money newsletter.

Published August 10, 2018|3 min read

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When I went to college, everyone needed a TV. My roommate and I were scrambling to acquire one the summer before our sophomore year.

My boss at the bank where I worked as a teller came through a few weeks before move-in day, rolling an ancient cathode ray tube television in a wooden console cabinet off her pickup truck into my parents' driveway. It was an antique, even then. I got weird looks on the elevator while moving the old TV into my dorm, but it made for a quirky centerpiece for our room throughout the school year, which it barely survived.

Today a TV no longer needs to be the centerpiece of a college dorm. A working LCD screen, much lighter and more functional than our clunking CRT TV, can now be had for little more than $100, and you won't need any help carrying it up to your dorm. But is it even worth spending that amount on a dorm TV?

The dorky reasons you don't need a TV

First of all, money is tight in college. You can put those dollars to use by starting a retirement fund — the earlier you start letting compound interest do its work, the better off you'll be — or set them aside to pay off future student loans.

Plus — and let me put on my old man hat for a second — TV shouldn't be a priority while you're in college. Yes, you should be studying and attending class, but outside of that, college gives you time to find out what you like, who you are and who you want to be. Join clubs; meet people; write a novel; get absolutely ripped at the gym.

As great as it is to veg out in your dorm, there are plenty of better, more productive uses for your time.

The real reasons you don't need a TV

OK, let's be honest, you're totally going to veg out in your dorm. You don't need a TV to veg out in 2018, though.

You're probably going to bring a laptop to school right? One with a screen? So why, when you're already spending several hundred dollars on one screen, would you spend more money on another screen?

You don't need a TV to watch Netflix or HBO or even most of your favorite network shows. Everything streams these days and if your parents have an account, you can mooch off them like you raid the fridge every time you visit. I am a 30-year-old married man and I still use my dad's Netflix account.

If you don't have this luxury, Hulu and Amazon Prime each have student discounts. Students can get Spotify Premium and Hulu's limited commercial plan for $4.99 a month, and Prime Student for $6.49 a month after a six-month trial. If you have roommates, ask them if they'll split the cost of services without student discounts like HBO or Netflix.

The only thing you won't be able to stream on these services is sports. Sports networks have apps that let you stream live sports, but you need a cable subscription (you may be able to mooch off mom and dad for this too). The big sports leagues have their own streaming services, but they can be expensive and typically black out local games, so if you're attending school locally you won't be able to watch the home team.

The best solution for live sports is to go to a sports bar if you're 21. If not, see if the student center has televisions or if someone in a nearby dorm will let you watch. Watching sports is more fun with your fellow fans anyway.

Not feeling ready for the new semester? Prepare yourself by reviewing our summer college checklist.

Image: skynesher