Kiplingers has published an interesting article on 10 Things College Students Do Not Need. The full article is located at: http://www.kiplinger.com/features/archives/2009/08/10-things-college-students-do-not-need.html
Having spent NINE years getting undergraduate and undergraduate degrees, I feel I am an expert on college spending. While I agree with many items on the list, I do not agree with the following:
1 . A Car – In cities like Boston/NYC, their advice is certainly true. In many rural/suburban areas, a car is more of a necessity. In particular, a student who intends to work off-campus may need a vehicle. Of course, that does not mean a new car. In college, I had a 5 year old car and my sister got a 7 year old car. If they need a car, get the child a "beater" car that only needs liability insurance. If the child will come home for holidays/summer, it should be reliable enough to be driven home.
2. A high-end laptop or desktop computer: The article is confused on this point. On one hand, they advise getting a basic laptop while warning they may lack things like a DVD player or storage space. When I started graduate school, I took a computer that was inadequate for my needs. Ultimately, I had to buy a new computer 3 months into my program. Because it was an "old" computer, the experience did not cost me anything but time. A laptop bought for a freshman needs to last 4-5 years. Getting a "cheap" computer will likely mean buying a 2nd computer a few years later. My advice – get a mid-tier laptop. NOBODY gets a desktop. Get an extended warranty b/c laptops are notoriously finicky.
3. Printer: They advise against getting a printer without recognizing that time is money. Going back and forth the lap to print a paper is not always a practical solution.. My advice: get an inexpensive black/white LaserJet (not ink). While they may cost more upfront, one cartridge will last for a long time. We got one for under $200 that is fantastic. It is MUCH better than the inkjet (aka the "money pit") that it replaced.