Hidden Costs of College

March 8, 2021

Beyond tuition, room/board and your meal plan, college costs can vary. It's important to budget some money to cover the hidden costs you'll have as a college student. Some items may be expected, others may be unanticipated, but now is the time to consider your lifestyle habits and save for the year ahead.

  • Food/Snacks, Drinks too! Craving a candy bar? Need something to snack on during that late night study session? What about a trip to the local ice cream parlor? Growing tired of the same offerings at the Caf and want to have dinner off campus?
  • Toiletries. According to fastcompany.com, the average person uses 10  bottles of shampoo a year. Don't forget you'll also need conditioner, hair products, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouth wash, razors, shaving cream, lotion, make-up, feminine products, hand sanitizer, and the list goes on...
  • Textbooks. Your first visit to the bookstore to purchase your textbooks may have your jaw hitting the floor, but you can save a great deal by shopping around, planning ahead, and renting or buying used books. The cost of textbooks can vary greatly from semester to semester which can make planning for their purchase challenging. Check with your professors once you receive the syllabus to determine what you will actually need and whether purchasing those 'optional' or 'recommended' readings is needed.
  • Coffee. You can save quite a bit by halting your caffeine intake, but let's be real, the aroma of coffee and the idea of a cozy coffeehouse study night can be luring. That $5 beverage, once a week, can tally up to $180 for an academic year.
  • Laundry. Check in with your residence life staff to see how laundry facilities operate on your campus. Are the washer/dryer coin operated, or is a laundry card required? Is cash needed to add more money to that card? Costs can add up, especially when your clothes don't dry on the first go in the dryer.  
  • Travel Related Expenses. If you have a car on campus, you'll need money for a campus parking permit, general car maintenance and gas. No car, no problem, but you will still have some travel related expenses. Think about the shuttle to and from home for breaks, or some cash to chip in on gas for the ride with friends to local shops or for a day trip.
  • Health Services and Medications. Living in close quarters with other people, increases your likelihood of getting sick. Even the common cold can be costly. Your best bet is to buy a first aid kit and add in some cough/cold medicine, cough drops, allergy medication, box of tissues, with the understanding that many of these items may need to be replenished throughout the year..
  • Adverse Weather. The weather shifts before you've had time to make that trip home to swap out your summer/fall gear for winter wear and you find yourself in desperate need of some mittens and a winter coat. How about an umbrella for when you're caught in that downpour? You can save money by planning ahead, but when you're caught off-guard, you may find yourself needing to make a quick purchase.
  • Fun Money. You may think that everything you need is available on campus, but every now and then it's nice to get away, even if just to your local diner, coffee shop, or ice cream parlor.
  • Stress Relief. Relaxation techniques and tools to help you cool down during stressful times in the semester can cost a little bit of cash. Consider your needs for adult coloring books, sketching supplies, or music subscription services.  
  • Tools of your trade. Your choice of major can mean planning for additional needs. Think safety goggles, lab fees, voice lessons, art supplies and other necessary equipment.

This list may not include all of the extras you might need at college but it does provide a good idea for some of the hidden costs you can expect. Make note of the items you missed on your buy ahead list throughout the year and you'll be better prepared for your remaining time at college.