7 Unexpected College Expenses to Factor Into Your Budget

Education A mature African-American man helping his daughter relocate, perhaps into an apartment or college dorm.  They are in a parking lot unloading their cars. The young woman is carrying a laundry basket filled with her belongings.

So, you’re getting ready to head to college for the very first time. First of all, congratulations! Graduating high school and taking the step to go to college is a huge accomplishment, and you should be very proud of yourself.

College may be the first time you will be living independently, and we know the new financial responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with this experience may seem intimidating to consider – but have no fear! If you account for common, expected (and potentially unexpected) expenses that you might experience, you’ll already be one step ahead for the school year!

In addition to earmarking money for expenses such as tuition, food and room & board, you may also want to consider all or some of the following unexpected college-related costs when creating a budget and allocating finances:

  1. Class & supply fees: In addition to paying for any unexpected, additional classes you may need to take in the event that you study abroad, take time off from school or need to take/remake class credits in order to graduate, you may also have to foot the bill for class-related expenses. These expenses can include laboratory or studio fees and relevant educational materials (textbooks, software, test booklets, study guides, a computer and more).
  2. Entertainment and social outings: Since a new schooling experience means new social connections, you may want to factor in costs for participating in outings and activities such as athletic events, concerts, outdoor activities, trips to the movies, festivals, wine tastings, restaurants, etc.
  3. Professional attire: If you participate in a work-study program, internship or are beginning to attend interviews, chances are that you will need the proper attire to wear on these occasions. Be sure to factor in the cost of smart business wear that you may have to purchase as you prepare yourself for a more independent life.
  4. Greek Life & extracurricular activities: If you’re planning to join Greek life or another club/sport, don’t forget to take into account the cost of dues, membership, uniform/equipment, and merchandise fees.
  5. Living expenses: While living expenses may just seem like food and rent at first glance, there are many different financial costs that come with living on your own that you may not expect. These include the cost of things such as utilities, renter’s insurance, furnishings, laundry-related fees, etc.
  6. Transportation & parking: If you’re bringing a car to school, you’ll need to factor in the cost of gas, parking (on and off-campus), auto insurance, maintenance, and the price of any tickets you may (but hopefully do not) receive. If you do not have a car, you’ll likely have to consider the cost of public transportation, taxis and other ride-sharing services such as Uber/Lyft.
  7. Travel: If you’re planning on taking any trips to visit family or friends for the holidays, or even just thinking about taking a fun spring break trip with all of your friends, you should factor in all trip-related costs such as plane tickets, hotels/Airbnbs, luggage, and traveler’s insurance.

Don’t forget, you or your parents may get a tax break for your college expenses at tax-time like the American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $2,500 or the Lifetime Learning Credit worth up to $2,000.  If you have a student loan, you may be able to claim the Student Loan Deduction worth up to  $2,500.

Don’t worry about knowing these tax rules. TurboTax will ask simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your answers. If you have questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent to get your tax questions answered. A TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent can also review, sign, and file your tax return.

College is thought by some to be the best time in a young person’s life. Although first-time independence is all brand new, there’s no rush to have it all figured out. There are resources out there, like Mint, that can help you create and stick to a budget throughout your college career.

Any other unexpected expenses you have experienced while in college? Share your thoughts with us!

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