When you created a budget for college, you probably factored in tuition, a meal plan and room and board. These are bound to be the highest costs throughout college, but may not represent the full price of sending your child to college. There are several costs that can easily be overlooked for the first year. Here are some things that you may have forgotten to budget for:
1. Visits Home or Visiting Your Student
If your student does not go to college near home, visiting for the weekend or the holidays may add up, especially if they have to fly home. You may also want to visit your student at school for a Family Weekend or a home football game. In this case, you will need to budget for transportation to get there as well as any hotel or dining costs.
The College Board reports an average transportation budget of $1,170 for four-year public college students for the 2016-17 school year.
If your student chooses to bring a car to school, they will likely have to pay a parking fee. The cost of parking will vary across colleges but it can be anywhere from $40 up to $2,500 per semester, depending on where the school is located. It's no surprise that often, parking costs are much higher in bigger cities, according to Affordable Schools, a higher education resource.
3. School Supplies
For 2016-17, students spent between $1,230 and $1,390 on books and supplies, according to the College Board. However, that number can vary depending on your student's major or what store you purchase from.
Your student may also need supplies like a laptop, a printer or software. The National Retail Foundation found that households with college students plan to spend an average of $229 on electronics, with most "back-to-college" shoppers planning to buy a laptop.
Buying textbooks at used bookstores or online, renting textbooks for the semester or getting a refurbished computer can help cut down on these costs.
4. Extracurricular Activities
When your student gets involved in extracurricular activities, this can come with unforeseen expenses, especially if they join a sorority or fraternity. To cover the costs for things like national dues as well as chapter, pledging and facility fees, students may have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars each semester.
Other non-Greek organizations may have club dues, costs to buy club t-shirts or fees to participate in certain club-sponsored events.
5. Living Expenses
Even if you've purchased a meal plan, your student may still need to go to the grocery store for cleaning supplies, toiletries, snacks or coffee. They will also need money for laundry, which could cost a few dollars per load.
According to the College Board, the national average for living expenses for a nine-month period, in 2017-18, was nearly $18,000 on a moderate budget and close to $12,000 on a low budget. These expenses include housing (which also includes utilities and food), transportation and miscellaneous items. Housing accounts for more than half the total cost overall.
Refreshing your wardrobe at the start of the school year is almost a ritual among many students and has become a large part of the back-to-college shopping budget. For students moving across the country or to a place with a different climate, they may especially need to make a few new clothing purchases. Items like rain boots, a warm winter coat or a few new outfits might be helpful as your student adjusts to their new locale.
The National Retail Foundation reports that American families with college students are expected to spend a record $54.1 billion this year, with the second largest lay out of cash being on clothing ($8 billion). Families plan to spend about $143 on clothes and $81 on shoes to get their child ready for college.
7. Dorm Room Items
Items like bedding, dishes, storage bins and a shower caddy may be helpful for getting your student organized and settled into their new home. Your student may also want to take a microwave or TV to college, but it's possible your child's roommate can split these costs. The average amount college students and their families will spend for these purchases is about $106, according to the National Retail Foundation.
Students may want to spend some of their money on entertainment, which varies broadly per month. Streaming services can range from $5 to $75 for TV and $5 to $20 for music each month. Going out to eat adds up to about $64, and they'll spend $59 for sporting events. However, they can save money by using free streaming services, using their meal plan or cooking in their dorm or taking part in free school-sponsored events.
9. Class Fees/Testing Fees
Some classes will require an additional fee on top of tuition to use equipment. This happens particularly with science labs or art and music classes. Depending on when your student will take professional level exams or even graduate school admissions, this could also cost a couple hundred dollars. Some schools may also require an additional payment for tutoring services.