7 Overlooked College Expenses: How to Prepare

7 Overlooked College Expenses: How to Prepare

In college, there is so much more to pay for other than tuition and room/board. Before students head off to their new adventures, it’s important that they know what’s ahead of them financially so they can prepare in advance.

Here are 7 often overlooked expenses for college students and ways to prepare for them:

1.   Textbooks

Those who have already been through college know how big of a hassle textbooks are. Books that are required for class can cost an arm and a leg if you buy them outright.

My advice: Investigate the option to rent textbooks through the university or online. This can be tremendously cheaper.  You can also check with those in your major to see if they already have the textbook!

2.   Necessities

Many times, college is the first time students are away from home. When I first arrived at school, I found myself running around buying the things I was so used to having at home. For example: laundry detergent/dryer sheets, paper towels, cleaning supplies, cookware, vacuums, etc. These seem like small purchases, but add up if you have to buy them all at once.

My advice: Buy the necessities in advance (preferable on sale) so you don’t have to get them last minute.


3.   Laptop/Technology

Typically, colleges and universities provide computers to use at the library or computer labs, but most college students have their own laptops. I highly suggest investing in a lap top because it is much more convenient and helpful to use - especially when you can work from the comfort of your room.

My advice: Look for the best deal and the best time to buy your laptop - this could potentially save you hundreds. Also, confirm if there is a specific laptop or operating system needed for your major. For example, a graphic design/multimedia student may need to invest in a MacBook for certain editing software. Call your university to find out the specifications related to you.


4.   Having a Car in College

Typically, keeping a car on campus or to park on campus requires registration/parking permit. Specifically at my university, a parking permit is $200/per academic year.  In addition to the permit, don’t forget gas and car maintenance expenses, such as oil changes.

My advice: Don’t try to get away with parking without a permit at your university. If they have specific parking restrictions, most of the time they will ticket you if you violate them (those tickets add up)!


5.   Activities

Whether you’re joining an intermural sports league or you want to join greek life, be prepared for extra costs.

My advice: Although it is an extra expense, I highly suggest getting involved as much as you can in college. Your academics always come first, but the fun, enjoyable memories and additional connections made are well worth it.


6.   Food

Even if you have a university meal plan, eventually you will change it up a bit (at least I did) if you start getting tired of the food. This includes groceries and going out for a bite.

My advice: Set aside money each month so you don’t have to turn down the invite to go out, but don’t make it a habit. The food bill can rack up if you’re not careful.


7.   School Supplies

Not only do you have to buy the given (writing utensils, notebooks, folder, etc), but depending on your major you might have to buy things specific for your classes which can include lab coats, graphing calculator, and online math programs. 

My advice: Call the university or look online for the extra supplies you’ll need to buy. You can also check with upperclassmen who are in your major to see if you can borrow theirs!


Recognizing these often overlooked expenses in advance can help you budget for them. In college, your stress shouldn’t be about your finances. Saving in advance can set you up for financial success during your college years. Check out our Earn and Learn Savings accounts, specifically designed to help students up through age 21 earn more money.

Did you have to spend money on any other unexpected expenses? If so, how did you save for it? We’d love to hear - let us know in the comments!

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