Unexpected Expenses to Budget for In College

You’ve created a budget for college and added up college tuition, textbooks, housing, meals, and transportation, but are there unexpected expenses to consider? Have you wondered if there’s something you might have overlooked?

Calculating college costs is crucial to allocate your funds in a way that will last you through the semester and over the course of your college years without having to borrow more money. Remember, the more money you borrow, the more debt you will accumulate.

Creating your budget doesn’t have to be difficult, but ensuring it’s thorough can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of expected expenses for college students so you remember to include them in your budget.

A student writing down expenses on a pad of paper with a calculator next to them.

Unexpected College Expenses

Tuition is just one aspect of the overall cost of college. There are several other items that need to be considered, depending on the program or major you’ve enrolled in. Living expenses and course materials will be outside of tuition. They can add up quickly and need to be factored into your college budget.

1. Textbooks

It’s no secret that textbooks are expensive and can cost around $50 to $200 for a single book or digital book. Do not underestimate how much to set aside for textbooks. You can reduce this expense by buying used textbooks from other students. However, many classes use digital textbooks, which means less weight in your backpack but also higher costs, as you won’t be able to buy a used textbook.

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2. Homework Materials

Yes, you may have to buy your homework. It may seem silly to purchase something you probably don’t want to be doing in the first place. However as more classes become familiar with online tools, professors may use an online platform to assign homework that often requires a subscription plan.

3. Required Supplies

Depending on the course, some may require certain materials or supplies to be used in class. Many two-dimensional art classes will require supplies such as paintbrushes, canvases, paint, etc. Some lab classes may require lab equipment or safety goggles. Check the classes you will be taking and see if they require supplies. If you can’t find this information on your school’s website, look to Facebook groups for answers.

4. Living Expenses

If you haven’t already, your housing cost and meal plan are a huge piece of the cost of college. In fact, the average campus meal plan is $450 a month! So you’ll need to make sure to budget all of this in. Other living expenses like toiletries, bedding, snacks, groceries, cleaning supplies, and other knick-knacks need to be considered. While some of these costs are one-time, many will be ongoing.

5. Parking & Transportation

You can save a significant amount in fees if you leave your car at home and use public transportation or walk to campus. If you do need to bring your car with you for easier transportation and convenience, don’t forget to add these costs to your college budget.

Check out your college website to find out how much a parking pass costs to park on campus. If you’re living off-campus, some apartments charge extra for parking. Also, estimate a monthly gas expense.

If you don’t currently live in a city or highly populated area and plan on moving to one for college, budget for street and public parking fees. Many populated areas will have you pay for parking in most places you go, such as for dinner or grocery shopping.

If you don’t bring a car with you and plan on using a different transportation method, add that cost to your budget too. Walking is free, but maybe you want a bus pass or train pass to get you to and from campus and other nearby locations.

6. Laundry

Another living expense to remember is laundry. Will you need to pay for laundry at your campus or apartment? If so, set aside a small amount of money for that as well.

Supplementing with Free, or Cheaper, Resources

Don’t let these unexpected expenses scare you. There are plenty of ways to keep your costs at a minimum by using the free resources already provided to you and finding cheaper alternatives.

1. Course Materials

Reach out to classmates and in Facebook groups and ask about materials and textbooks that other people have already used. Try to find these materials used for a cheaper price.

2. Gym Membership

We didn’t list this as an unexpected cost because if going to the gym is important to you, you’ve most likely already planned for this expense. Consider using the gym facilities on your college campus instead of purchasing a gym membership off-campus. You will be able to save a little but monthly to use on a different expense.

3. Snacks

Many dining halls will allow you to take one or two items with you. If it is a buffet-style swipe in the dining hall, take a bag of chips or an apple with you every time you leave and store it in your dorm room. This will help to build up some snacks and will save you from purchasing as many snacks every time you grocery shop.

Keep Track of Your Budget

Keep track of your budget by month and by semester to see what expenses you incur. If there are extra expenses that you did not plan for after your first semester, you will be able to take a look at your budget list and plan accordingly for the next semester. Don’t let these unexpected college expenses sneak up on you.

Unsure of how to start your college budget? Check out this article about creating a budget for college. College Raptor has resources and information to not only make your college search easier but also help you smoothly transition into the college experience.