Between tuition, room and board, and textbooks, college is already expensive. There are, however, a handful of hidden costs of college life that can sneak up on you. If you want to keep your budget intact and minimize your sticker shock, it helps to be prepared. When you head to college this fall, watch out for these seven often overlooked expenses.
Parking passes can be surprisingly expensive, and some colleges will even use metered parking in some areas of campus. Costs vary depending on the school, of course, but many colleges charge hundreds per semester for parking permits. You may be able to get around this expense by carpooling, biking, or using public transportation. If those aren’t an option, though, be prepared to spend money on a parking pass each semester.
2. SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
The costs of extracurricular activities add up. If you have your heart set on joining Greek life, you can expect to spend hundreds each semester on dues, housing, required clothing, and travel. But even simply hanging out with new friends can get expensive: The cost of dinners, sporting events, and movies adds up.
3. LAB FEES AND COURSE MATERIALS
Many classes charge extra fees beyond the base tuition price. It’s hard to get around lab fees and other course materials, but you might save some money buying your supplies used or splitting the cost and sharing with a classmate.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost of traveling back home to see your family or taking a fun spring break trip with friends. When you’re already on a tight budget, flights and gas can be expensive, so you’ll want to plan for them in advance. Luckily, certain travel services also offer student discounts that can save you between five and 40 percent.
5. MEAL PLANS
Meal plans can be a few thousand dollars per year, and while you get a certain amount of meals per week, that’s a big expense many students overlook. It pays to learn some basic cooking skills, and frugal food websites can help you make meals on the cheap.
6. HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
When you’re on your own for the first time, you have to stock up on essentials. Groceries are a no-brainer, but don’t forget to budget for a slew of household staples: toilet paper, cleaning supplies, paper towels, tools—the list goes on.
Laundry is another expense that’s easy to overlook. You may only spend a few bucks per load, but at a few loads per week, your laundry expense will likely be between $30 and $50 a month. That might not sound like much, but when you’re already on a tight budget, you’ll feel the squeeze (and, despite what you think, not doing your laundry isn’t an option).