Unexpected college costs are bound to come up, so it’s important to be prepared ahead of time. With a little extra financial padding, you can be ready for some of those variable (and maybe downright surprising) college costs.
Here are a few tips that can help you save for unexpected college costs:
1. Budget realistically and include savings. If you’re a college student out on your own for the first time, it can be easy to underestimate just how much everything will cost. You’ve got your fixed expenses, such as housing and tuition, but you’ve also got variable expenses that will change every month. Variable expenses could be things like food, gas, entertainment, utility bills, and so on. Underestimating these variable expenses can be easy to do, which could put you in a financial jam. Talk to parents, friends, and other students who’ve been there to help you more accurately predict how much money you’ll need, and be sure to leave yourself some extra wiggle room for those variable expenses so you aren’t caught off-guard. For non-necessities, like entertainment, limit yourself as to how much you can spend each month and stick to this amount. You’ll also want to account for savings your budget, just in case any other unexpected costs or emergencies arise. This way you can be prepared by having some extra cash on hand.
2. Carefully consider your major selection. Did you know that not all courses—or majors—are priced the same? This means that over the course of four years, some majors can cost a lot more. If you’re indecisive as to what you want to major in and have quite a few options, you might want to begin looking into cost differences. If you’re looking to save on college expenses, the cost of each major could be a helpful deciding factor. And if you do choose a more expensive major because it’s the best choice for you, be sure to get an accurate picture of the costs so you can plan accordingly.
3. Consider all your job options. If a part-time job can comfortably fit in your schedule (in other words, it won’t interfere with your studies and cause your grades to suffer), it’s certainly worth considering. Even if you just work a few hours a week, having some extra cash available can be tremendously helpful for any of those unexpected college expenses. Ideally, try to find something that offers hands-on experience in an industry that interests you. This could even be through a paid internship, which will not only make you some extra cash and provide invaluable experience but also offer college credit. Working on campus can be another good option. Not only does it make scheduling more convenient but also some colleges offer tuition discounts to employees—a major perk!
4. Purchase used textbooks or rent them. The cost of textbooks and supplies often surprises many students and parents. It can be difficult to predict what a single semester will cost in textbooks, and no two semesters might be the same, but the College Board reports that the average student spends $1,200 each year on course materials. One way to cut down on these costs is to purchase used textbooks whenever possible. You could buy them used at your own college bookstore, other outside bookstores, or even online. Another option that is popular is to rent textbooks. If you attend class with a tablet or laptop, purchasing (or renting) eBooks may be another way to cut down on textbook costs. Downloading eBooks can offer other perks as well—for instance, with just a few clicks, you can easily search an entire textbook for a particular term or phrase. This makes studying for exams and preparing research papers faster and easier.
5. Get help from people who have been there. Before you leave for college, sit down with your parents (or anyone with financial experience that you trust) and plan a budget together. Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially if you’ve never made a budget before. For parents, if you plan on paying for your kid’s college expenses, one way to limit the money spent is by providing them with a prepaid card. These cards, which work just like debit cards, are reloadable and allow you to track purchases. You can load the exact amount that you’ve agreed on each month to ensure your kid isn’t over-spending while still giving them some responsibility in managing to the monthly budget.
One of the best ways to handle unexpected college costs is to be prepared. Sometimes, financial aid and federal student loans aren’t enough to cover the full cost of college, and private student loans like the ones at College Ave might be the right answer for you. At College Ave Student Loans, we offer a variety of options to help you cover those college expenses.
Learn more at collegeavestudentloans.com.