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Small Expenses Add to Cost of College

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College applications have been completed, approval letters have been received, and build up have been made. Now you are receiving the first expenses with the college logo design on it, which will include expenses with regard to items billed to you by the college: tuition and fees, and space and board if your child lives on campus. But your children are likely to have other expenses that you must plan for as a family, like books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. Additional college planning can help you reduce the likelihood of overspending and accumulating unnecessary education-related financial debt.

Books and Supplies

On average, learners spend about $1, 200 each year on textbooks, and buying textbooks in the college bookstore is probably going to become convenient but expensive. Students might be able to get their books more cheaply on places like Amazon . com or by renting them online at Chegg. com . Other options consist of sharing with a roommate (if they are both taking the same class) or even checking the book out from the library. Professors often place textbooks on book in the library, and this is a great option if a student is not going to be using the entire book and is willing to make the trip to the library when necessary. Another trick that worked for me was to consider an older edition of a textbook; your child should check with the professor for virtually every major changes, but newer editions are often not much different from their precursors.


Colleges will build in transport costs for the average student within their Cost of Attendance estimate, but these costs can vary quite a bit depending on how you take a trip, how often , and how far. You may find student discounts on bus and train fares, but if your child can be planning to travel home for the holidays, plan early as costs are usually higher. Before your children head off to school, make a plan with them regarding exactly how often you will pay for them to come home. If you are going to buy a ticket to get your child to college in September, also think about the return trip home for Thanksgiving holiday or winter break.

Personal Expenses

Make sure that you set certain expectations for your kids beyond the calculated college costs. Extras like study abroad and fraternity or sorority expenses can be very costly, while dorm décor along with other personal expenses also add up. Are you currently planning to give your child a credit card as they leave for college? If so, possess a conversation with your son or daughter about your requirements regarding the use of this card.   Discuss who is responsible for paying the particular bill and whether you expect them to consult with you before making a buy. Many students are given credit cards to be used during emergencies, so provide your child with some examples of when credit card use is appropriate (e. g. for take a trip home, taxi fare when a specified driver has been drinking, or a trip to the doctor, perhaps). Make sure your child realizes that a late-night pizza craving does not constitute an emergency.

Planning for the small things should continue throughout your child’s college education. Other activities that you will want discuss in advance are dorm selection for upper course years, meal plans, and potential off-campus moves. During the first year, you and your child may be able to start putting together price range for the following year, which can assist account for where he or she is spending money (books, transportation, housing, food), and exactly what costs can be reduced. Finally, motivate your children to earn money while in college or over the summers, which may offset some of the small costs that really mount up.

Beth Feinberg Keenan is a member of College Coach’s team of college finance experts . Before joining College Coach, Beth worked as a Senior Financial Aid Official at Northeastern University.

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