By: Contributor On: July 10, 2016 In: Money, Paying for College, Student Life Comments: 2

A college budget includes so much more than just mandatory tuition fees.

When creating a budget, many college students forget necessary odds and ends they will need to pay for, like books and transportation costs.

Planning a budget in advance saves stress later. You don’t want to face unexpected money troubles when you’re trying to ace that midterm! Check out this list of costs to consider as you start planning your college budget.

The Bare Necessities: Tuition and Rent

These two basic unavoidable necessities are likely to be your biggest expenses in college, although the cost will vary from one school to another.

Before you head off to college, make sure you are prepared to pay the cost of your first semester tuition (most schools take payment on a semester-by-semester basis) and your rent. Whether you live in a college dorm or are renting an off-campus apartment, odds are you’ll have to pay at least one month of rent upon arrival.

Books and Related Fees

Your college budget should also include funds for textbooks and other class-related fees, like lab fees for science classes. The cost of textbooks at college can add up – some students spend up to $1000 each semester on books alone!

Most colleges can provide an estimate of how much books and other school supplies and fees will cost. Students often find other, creative ways to save money on college textbooks as well such as buying online or second hand editions.

Extracurricular Activities

Odds are that you’ll want to participate in some type of extracurricular activity at school, whether it’s singing in the choir or playing on an intramural sports team. You may have to pay a fee to participate in these activities.

Fees can range from $20 to join the photography club, to more than $100 to join the crew team. These fees are used to maintain club facilities and cover equipment costs.

If you want to join a gym (a great way to make sure you’re staying healthy at college!), most schools have facilities just for students, but again, there may be a fee.

Conversely, many schools will automatically charge you a “student fee” which covers any clubs you may join as well as your gym membership — so if you’ve already paid for it, you may as well use it!

Transportation Costs

Depending on your school’s location, you may have to include the cost of transportation to and from campus in your college budget. There may be on-campus transportation that students have to pay to use. If your campus is urban, you also may want to take public transportation to explore the city.

The amount of transportation costs in your college budget will depend on the location and size of your campus. Some schools are so small that the only transportation you’ll need is your own two feet!

Food and Fun

Food is an essential part of any student’s college budget! Many students participate in an on-campus meal plan during their first year. At more rural campuses, students may use an on-campus meal plan all four years. In any case, make sure you budget enough money to keep your stomach full.

College isn’t just about studying, so be sure to include some space in your college budget for fun. Whether it’s going to see a movie or throwing a theme party, there are tons of ways for college students to spend their money on fun.

By including a set amount of “just for fun” money in your college budget, you’ll ensure that you’ll be able to relax outside of class while still saving your pennies!

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J. Scott
J. Scott
11 years ago

This is some good advice. With college expenses growing every day, budgeting in preparation is what everyone should be doing. In addition knowing how to get the best prices on college essentials also helps. I use this site called They are a textbook search engine that searches all the other online retailers to find you the best prices on your books. It’s worth checking out.

10 years ago

This is a great list. Want some more ideas and tips on how to have fun while sticking to a college budget? Check out