Financial Education Blog

Common College Expenses to Budget for

If you or a loved one is getting ready to head off to college in the near future, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about related expenses. While tuition is to be expected, there are quite a few other common expenses related to attending college that often go overlooked. Making an effort to plan ahead will put you in a better position to handle these expenses and any other financial surprises that pop up along the way.


Anticipating your expenses

In addition to tuition, college students are also required to purchase items like textbooks, transportation and food. Here’s a list of what to expect:


Textbooks and school supplies. These items aren’t covered in your tuition costs, and can quickly add up. The average estimated cost of textbooks and supplies for in-state students at a public four-year institution is $1,291, according to To reduce expenses, you can buy used or rent off of sites like Chegg ®.


Electronics and equipment. Don’t forget that you’ll also need to plan for purchases like a laptop and a printer. In some instances, students can get away without a printer. Check with your campus before purchasing one.

If you or your student plan to live on campus, don’t forget supplies like lamps; towels; sheets; a microwave and a small refrigerator (to name a few). If roommates are involved, see if you can split costs or share items to help reduce costs.


Room and board. If you or your student plan to live on campus, you’ll need to consider food and living arrangements. For some, living off campus and shopping for groceries is cheaper than living on campus and getting a meal plan. If living on campus is the more convenient option, be aware that most colleges offer different dorm and meal selections. Regardless of what you choose, just be sure to compare your options before making a decision.


Transportation. It’s important to figure out your transportation needs in advance so you can budget and plan. Can you walk to class? How will you get to work? Will you take the bus? Can you bike? If you need a car, be prepared to find and/or pay for parking. Owning a car is generally the most expensive option. And don’t forget about gas, maintenance and insurance when budgeting.


Personal expenses. Consider this as a catch-all. There are plenty of other things that will come up, like cell phone bills, entertainment, utilities, laundromat fees, etc.


Thinking ahead

It may seem overwhelming, but being prepared is key. Use this time to create a budget and to figure out small – or big – ways to save. You can also use this time to figure out how you or your student will pay for these expenses. Money from family and financial aid can help. Also, don’t forget to explore scholarship options to help defray the costs. As a community-minded financial institution, 7 17 Credit Union offers a robust scholarship program tailored to help students succeed with 12 scholarships for post-secondary education at accredited schools and universities. For details or to apply, visit


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