Everyone knows that education is not cheap. But were you aware that most students end up paying more than they budgeted for their educations? Even if you’ve taken the cost of tuition, fees, and housing into account when planning your college degree, you may be forgetting some of these hidden costs of your education.
1. Overpriced Textbooks
Textbooks are a mandatory component of your college education, but they don’t come cheap. The average freshman at SUNY and CUNY, for example, coughs up between $400 and $800 per semester for required textbooks, according to New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. These figures are on par with nationwide reports. By the time you graduate, you may have spent several thousand on required textbooks. So before you lick the envelope on that college application, make sure you know where those extra dollars are going to come from.
2. Transportation and Vehicle Maintenance
Students who live on campus generally go home for holidays. Have you checked the cost of airfare? On the other hand, if you plan on living at home, you’ll need to get to campus somehow. Car maintenance, fuel, and insurance are all expensive. If your vehicle needs emergency repairs, you’ll have to come up with the cash quickly or risk missing too many classes. Public transportation is much cheaper, but still needs to be factored in as an additional cost when you’re budgeting for your college degree.
3. Incidental Supplies
Planning on taking notes in class? You’ll need to budget for notebooks, folders, binders and any other office supplies you might use. Granted, a $3 notebook on sale at Target isn’t going to break the bank, but that’s $3 you wouldn’t be spending if you weren’t in school. The minor expenditures over the course of four years or more can add up to a fair sum. Anything that’s not in your normal budget is an extra expense, so do factor the cost of supplies into your financial calculations.
4. Meal Plans and Other Food
Campus meal plans range between $3000 and $6000 a year. Over the course of four years, that could be as much as $24,000! If possible, figure out how much you spend on food normally. Then subtract that figure from the cost of the meal plan at the institutions you’re considering. The remainder is the amount you’ll need to budget for when planning your education. And if you’re commuting to school, you’ll likely end up eating out between classes a lot more than you think, so plan for that too.
Earning a college degree while balancing other life commitments can be challenging enough. Don’t add to your stress by under-budgeting for your education. Take these four hidden expenses into account when planning your finances. You may also want to look into other cost-cutting options, such as online degree programs, scholarships, and government funding.