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Sep
8

Tara’s on a Budget: You will spend more than you planned – the hidden costs of college

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I was tempted to title this blog post, ‘Tara toots her own horn’ because it is a great day when you beat National Public Radio on a story.

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Helping students with budgeting is a passion of mine, especially when exposing the hidden costs of college. I have written blog posts and created infographics about these hidden expenses in the past, and I believe this is an important topic more students should be aware of.

It’s that time of the year again: textbook season. What I mean by that is with a new semester starting, as a student, I am required to purchase certain textbooks.

Different courses require different textbooks, and sometimes they require Internet labs. The prices of these materials are never cheap and can even put a large dent in your bank account. The advice I am giving you is to do research before buying anything.. Search the Internet for the cheapest price you can find! I use this tactic and it has cut over half of the cost down.

Clubs, organizations, and sports are another way to add to the cost of college. When you think about joining a Greek organization, I am sure the thought ‘this is going to be costly’ doesn’t run across your mind. Well, if you are a money conscious college student, that thought should. Greek organizations have the ability to bring together a group of people and make them into a very large family, but that very large family is going to cost you.

Member fees, semester dues, clothing, living in a chapter house, and additional fines are just some of the costs for Greek life. The cost obviously varies from school to school. If you really are determined to join, check with the sorority or fraternity beforehand to find out the average yearly cost. This way you can add those expenses into your fall semester budget. The cost of clubs and sports is different for every school and every sport/club. This is another possible expense that I would research beforehand. It is always important to plan these kinds of costs, because if you don’t you may find yourself very low on money, so add it into your budget!

I am sure you could have guessed this, but personal entertainment is not cheap. Whether you buy concert tickets, go to that big game, see movie, or grab lunch at a local restaurant, it will cost you money. Personal entertainment is an area you just have to be mindful of; when creating a budget, figure out how much money a month you have to spend on this category and stick to that. If you are having trouble sticking to your budget, buy a prepaid gift card. This way you won’t go over your budget.

You may have thought it was a good idea to bring your car to school this year, BUT did you think of all the costs associated with that? Gas, parking, possible parking tickets, and maintenance are just some of the costs you will have to deal with when brining your car to school. Parking is a big one and can cost you upwards of $500 a year. Once again, the price varies from school to school but this is definitely a cost to consider before bringing your car to school.

I mentioned gas as one of the expenses above. The more you travel the more you should plan to spend. Many students don’t think about the amount of times they intend on going home throughout the year, which can be a mistake. Before each school year, it is wise to calculate the amount of times you think you will be taking trips back home. Will that trip require a plane or bus ticket? Gas for your car? Budgeting your travel plans early can keep costs down or within a realistic reach.

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“So if you add up all the college costs that students and parents probably didn’t plan for — the stuff that isn’t tuition and room and board — how big is that number? The National Retail Federation estimates that, this year, it will total $43 billion.”

Claudio Sanchez, Correspondent, NPR

Living in a dorm or an apartment is expensive as it is, and can even be added the list of hidden costs. However, furnishing your dorm or apartment can make that cost even larger. I thought about this recently when I was walking through a department store that was advertising back-to-school furnishing. I couldn’t help but notice how expensive these items were and how unrealistic that is for a college student on a budget.

Most of the items that are being advertised and sold as back-to-school furnishing aren’t items that could be used in the students future; they’re temporary and most likely just used to spice up a dorm room. Don’t fall into that trap. First and foremost, when buying basic furniture for your room, hunt for the best deals. Also, when you are buying things, try to buy for your future. Pick things that you know you can use in six years. This way, you are getting the most out of your money. For the decorating aspect of your room, I advise you to engage in some DIY crafts. This way you are saving money, reusing old items, and decorating your room all in one!

Another hidden cost that I would like to address is related to clothing, but more specifically laundry and business clothes. Unless you are in a sport or in a special program, laundry isn’t free. Although the cost may not initially be large, it adds up over time and nonetheless is still additional money you need. This may not be the cleanest solution to the problem but you can save all your dirty clothes up until you go home or to a place where you can do laundry for free. This may not be the best idea for all, but it will cut the cost completely.

You might be thinking, ‘Business clothes at school? What?!’ Yes, business clothes at college and yes, you will need them. Every student should have clothing that would be fitting for an internships, career fairs, and eventually job interviews. This may require some of you to upgrade your wardrobe and in some cases this may not be cheap. Luckily, there are ways to work around this. You can borrow from a friend or purchase from a resale shop. Just make sure it’s a line item in your budget.

The hidden expenses that contribute to the overall cost of college is something that needs to be pointed out. What you expected to pay for college probably won’t be the final total. In this situation, the only way to prevent yourself from running into a financial crisis is to CREATE A BUDGET and USE IT!


As Blogger and budget aficionado, Tara K. helps students across the country enhance their knowledge about money management and everyday  life. She is constantly looking for new ideas to transform into great advice for you. Pursuing a journalism major, Tara K. has a passion for the art of inquiry, which is conveyed through her writing.

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