The Fundamentals of Your College Budget

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student loans

It is summer, the beach beckons, and all your friends want you to hang out with them. Thoughts of getting ready for college seem crazy right now, but coming up with a basic budget now will save you from much anxiety later. Besides, if you need to get financial assistance, you’ll want to explore that option once you know what your expenses will be.

A college budget isn’t a difficult undertaking, but it is something that can help you have a clearer picture where you stand financially. Your 529 savings plan, scholarships, grants, and other monies may not cover all of your expenses, leaving you short by several hundreds of dollars each month.

To get a handle on your expenses, make a best estimate on what you expect to spend for the following:

Tuition and fees — You may not be paying your school’s full $325 per credit tuition plus fees, but you probably know what amount is expected from you to cover both the fall and spring semesters.

Books — Books can be the “wild card” when it comes to college budgeting, so figure on an amount above what you expect to pay. In other words, paying one thousand dollars for textbooks for the coming academic year may not be a stretch.

Academic supplies — incidentals such as paper, notebooks, pens, and the like can add up quickly.

Electronics – laptop, printer, etc.  What college student have his or her own laptop these days? Sure, the computer lab is an option, but you won’t have any privacy and you have to connect on their time, not yours.

Housing — room and board on campus v. off-campus housing.

Food — don’t expect that you’ll want to eat cafeteria food every day. Determine what you’ll have to pay out of pocket and add that figure here.

Entertainment — on campus entertainment costs a lot less than the off campus variety, but you’ll want to find your diversions away from school from time to time.

Transportation (around the campus and town) — foot traffic is cheaper than maintaining a car, but you’ll at least need bus or train money for trips several miles off campus.

Travel home — whatever costs associated with making the occasional trip home should be included. Check with the airlines, trains, buses for fares. Consider “ride sharing” with other students who live in your area.

Other — anything that doesn’t fit the above categories goes here. This could include prescription medications and other health expenses not covered through your parent’s health plan. Clothing is another item you may need to purchase.

Your budget won’t be precise, but it should be very close to what your expenses will be for the coming academic year. Find out what monies you have available to you and see how much can be applied for this school year. If you have a shortfall, consider working a part time job or taking out a student loan to meet expenses.

Once done, reward yourself and hit the water. Yea, your friends are waiting, but at least you don’t have a burden hanging over your head for the entire summer.


Adv. — Visit SayStudent.com to find out what your college money options are for the upcoming school year.

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