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Personal Expenses for College Students

When you’re tackling the process of budgeting for college, it’s easy to focus on the marquee expenses and forget the secondary costs.

Unfortunately, if you do your number-crunching and leave out a long list of incidentals, you may end up relying more heavily on student loan money than you intended. Here's what you need to know to plan in advance. 


The unexpected costs of college


To help you come up with a realistic, all-inclusive cost budget, we’ve pulled together a detailed list of possible expenses. Each student’s needs will be different, so this list covers expenses that may crop up in a wide range of situations.

Academic costs

The most obvious expense is tuition. However, you may also need to consider some of these academic line items:

  • Other administrative fees related to enrolling/attending (varies from college to college).
  • Books and other class materials/supplies. See: How Much Are College Textbooks? How Can You Save? We Break it Down
  • Lab fees.
  • Tech-related expenses, including a computer or tablet,  printer, print cartridges, or fees to use the school's computer lab. 
  • Added costs for studying abroad or other special programs. See: Student Loans for Study-Abroad Programs
  • Lesser-known charges that vary from school to school – these include fees charged to attend orientation, campus spirit fees and more general fees related to campus maintenance and buildings.

Social and activity expenses

  • The cost of going out to eat and/or socialize.
  • Dues and other fees related to joining campus organizations.
  • Athletic event tickets (basketball and football games, for example).
  • Fees related to Greek life, if you decide to join a fraternity or sorority.

Day-to-day/personal expenses

  • Room and board, including on-campus housing and meal plans.
  • Rent, utilities, and groceries if living off-campus.
  • Cell phone and WiFi service.
  • Furnishing/outfitting a dorm room or apartment.
  • Transportation expenses, whether for getting around at school (via public transit or car – which means auto insurance, gas and other costs) or traveling home on breaks.
  • Health insurance, co-pays, prescriptions and other incidental medical costs that come up and may not be covered until your deductible is met.
  • Personal expenses, such as clothes, toiletries and laundry costs.

This list may seem daunting, but we believe that the old saying “Forewarned is forearmed” is especially true when it comes to budgeting for college.  Happy budgeting!

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