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The Top 8 Hidden College Costs Everyone Forgets About When Making a Financial Plan

It’s no secret that tuition is on the rise. But that isn’t the only factor to budget for when planning for school in the fall. Before you show up to your first day of classes, make sure you are aware of all the additional costs that will come up while enrolled at school. They might not all be as large as tuition, but left unchecked, these costs can add up fast.

Books and Other Class Materials

Ask any college student about the cost of required textbooks and get ready for a deserved rant. According to The College Board, “in 2015-16, full-time undergraduate students spent an average of $900 on course materials and supplies.”

You can save some costs by reusing folders and saving pens, but finding an alternative to buying a brand new textbook is a great way to make a dent in that total figure. Check out your campus bookstore’s policies on renting a required book, or look for it in on popular rental or resale sites like Chegg, Amazon, or eBay. You might know a friend who is taking the same class next semester, so you can sell a book to them or split the cost upfront.

Another option is reaching out to the teacher or teacher’s assistant before class starts to see if a previous edition of the textbook would work. Be polite and explain that you want to have the required course materials, but are on a budget and want to be financially responsible as well.

Transportation and Parking Fees

What will your costs for commuting to and around campus be? Will you need to buy a parking pass, or is your campus in a location where you can use public transit to get around off and on campus? If your campus has its own bus system you might have to pay an annual fee as a part of tuition.

Students who drive from off-campus will save on room and board, but often need to pay for a meter, a parking garage, or a commuter-specific parking pass while they attend class. And that doesn’t include the cost of gas getting to and from campus.

Using free forms of transit, like an on-campus shuttle, biking, or walking can be a good way to minimize your transit expenses while on campus.

Lifestyle Costs

All work and no play is not a realistic way to plan a student budget. Students who have never lived on their own might not realize how much it costs to attend games, concerts, and eating off-campus. It is important to think about how much you’re comfortable spending each month or semester, and then sticking to that plan. 

Always check for discounted student prices as well as seasonal sports packages when making purchases. These savings can add up over time and give you more freedom in your spending.

Read more: 6 Tips for Spring Break on a Limited Budget

Greek Life Costs

Are you considering pledging a fraternity or sorority? These can be a great way to make friends and make life-long bonds, but the dues and fees can quickly add up. The bill can vary wildly, making it hard to plan for. Membership dues may be a couple hundred, to thousands of dollars, and that is before you consider living in the organization’s house, special event tickets and clothing, and travel.

If you are interested in pledging, consider setting aside more of your entertainment and non-student related budget for this goal. Once you know what organization you will be joining, you can make a better estimate of future expenses, and plan your budget accordingly.

Joining Clubs and Sports Teams

Similar to the Greek system, clubs and intramural sports are a great way to stay active on campus and meet new people. They can also be hard to budget for until you have joined. Consider getting involved with two to three clubs or sports that you are passionate about, rather than joining a dozen. Not only will you be able to form deeper bonds and avoid spreading yourself too thin, but you will only pay fees for the groups you are highly involved in.

Furnishings Your Space

While your campus dorm might come with a bed and a desk, you might want to add more to your space and personalize it. If nothing else, you will need a set of sheets and a pillow before your first night. Rather than buying every little thing you could ever need before you get to school, consider buying just the basics at first. This will give you room to personalize throughout the year and create a space that reflects you, not just the dorm necessities section of Target.

Electronics and Other Tech Gear

You might have gotten away with not having your own computer before college, or maybe it was already running on fumes. Professors will not accept technical difficulties as an excuse for not getting work done, so it is important to have a reliable laptop before you get to campus.

If you won’t be living on-campus but in an apartment, make sure you have an internet provider lined up and ready to install your router when you move in.

While some students will also elect to buy a printer for their dorm or apartment, you may find that the printers on campus are better for the few times you need one. This also means you can avoid associated costs, like ink cartridges and printer paper.

Trips Home

If you will be living on-campus, you will also want to budget for the cost of going home during breaks. If you are in driving distance consider asking around school to see if you can get a ride with someone already planning to drive, and splitting the cost of gas. Some campuses have an established network for this, for others you will just have to ask around.

If you are more of a flight away or an international student, try to book your tickets in advance to lock in a good deal. Don’t book until you know when your finals are, to avoid having to rebook and pay a fee for a change.

Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.