The 5 Biggest Living Expenses in College

When you think about the major expenses that college entails, tuition is likely right at the top of your list. But once you’ve paid for your right to attend and you’ve purchased books and supplies, you’ll find that there are several more costs to contend with when it comes to your living expenses. Of course, these can be mitigated in some cases, but there’s no getting around the fact that you’ll have to find a way to pay for room and board while you’re securing your future through a degree program. And here are just a few of the biggest expenses you’ll face.

  1. Housing. Whether you live in the dorms on campus, you are eligible for student housing, or you rent an apartment or house off-campus, you’ll find that the lion’s share of your living expenses is slated for your lodgings. The rule of thumb is that you should never pay more than a third of your income for housing, but with most of your time devoted to schooling, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll hit this goal on a part-time, minimum-wage salary. This is probably why so many students have to take out loans in addition to any funds they get from scholarships and parents. Of course, you could always alleviate the entire issue by choosing a school that’s close to home so that you can save some money by staying with your parents while you’re in college.
  2. Utilities. Whatever you pay in the dorms will include utilities, but the minute you move off campus you’ll start getting bills for water, power, gas, trash pickup, and any extras like cable, internet, and phone service, for example. This is how most kids learn to turn down the heat and put on a sweater, as well as flipping the light switch off when they leave a room.
  3. Transportation. If you live and work on campus, a bike, a skateboard, or your own two feet will likely suffice for transportation. But if you happen to live and/or work off campus you could find yourself in need of a car, and supporting this luxury is not cheap. Aside from the price of the vehicle itself, you’ll also be on the hook for registration, insurance, maintenance, fuel, and of course, the price of a campus parking pass. A bus pass might be a better idea, especially if there is a campus discount, but only if the mass transit is reliable.
  4. Food. A campus meal plan can save you a load of cash while ensuring that you have access to three square meals a day. And while it’s not cheap, it’s bound to be less expensive than eating out all the time, and more nutritious than relying on vending machines and whatever you can fit in your dorm-room mini fridge and cook in your microwave.
  5. Travel. If you take one of the remote study options offered by rather than heading to campus for classes, you can save yourself a lot on travel by staying home while you study. Otherwise you’ll likely want to visit your family now and then, generally during the busiest and most expensive travel seasons (summer vacation, winter holidays, spring break, etc.). Luckily, you can save some scratch by convincing mom and dad to visit you instead, or traveling in off seasons. And using a credit card with travel miles can help, as well. But ultimately you’re bound to spend a pretty penny on back and forth travel when you opt to go away for school.

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