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By Tracey Rector, Alumna of IUPUI

Let’s face it: It can be tough to be a college student and have to make large purchases out of your own pocket.

Times are tough, and sometimes it’s just easier to buy the cheapest thing because it’s all you can afford — or so you think.

For the most part, it’s great to save money. It’s important learn how to save and spend wisely when you’re young. It will set you on the right path for later on in life.

However, sometimes when it comes to major purchases, or items you’ll use on a regular basis, you may want to rethink buying the cheapest item possible.

For instance, let’s look at an obvious one: a laptop. Spending $800 to $1,000 at once can be scary, but you have to consider what you will use it for and how often.

Odds are, you’ll use it daily, perhaps even for a good portion of your day through classes, on projects, etc. Just going off an average work day, that’s eight hours. Then let’s factor in the time you will be spend on it recreationally (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest). That’s a lot of time! So all things being considered, this is something you want to invest in.

You can buy the cheapest computer, but odds are it’s not going to last and you may start to notice it deteriorating in the first six months to a year. The last thing you need during a major project is your computer crashing or simply not working at all.

Purchasing something a little more expensive that’s more durable, like a MacBook Pro, could potentially get you through your entire collegiate career.

So think of it this way: You can buy one reliable computer for approximately $1,000 upfront, or two to three computers over a four-to-five-year span, which can also equal up to $1,000.

Looking toward items less expensive than a laptop, if you’re in the market for supplies you’ll use regularly, like cameras, hard drives, notebooks or backpacks, apply the same mentality.

Think of it this way: If it’s something you will use and benefit from and falls into a category of products where price determines quality, it’s OK to spend more. It’s an investment.

Keep in mind many schools offer certain items for students. So if your school will loan you equipment or software you need, take that route and save your money. But if you’re paying for it, sometimes it’s better to spend a little more now.

On the flip side, don’t waste your money, either. Instead of buying a $4 pen, opt for the pack of 20 that’s $4. Or, instead of buying a $30 planner, find the one your bookstore sells for $10 to $15, which will also include campus events and information.

So on a final note, invest in your future and be frugal with some of the “not-so-important” items.

Sometimes you may have to sacrifice getting a really cute outfit for the weekend to save for something bigger. But hey, just find a really great inexpensive accessory that will liven up an outfit you already have — but that’s onto a different topic. Happy shopping!