Advertisement
Smart Buying

Surprise! More College Costs

Tuition, room and board aren't the only bills a student will rack up at school. Here are six unexpected costs to anticipate, and tips to ease the financial pinch.

Last week I laid out a crash course in managing money for financially clueless college freshmen. If your student is already a good money manager, consider yourself fortunate. But don't breathe too deep a sigh of relief just yet.

Sending a child off to college often raises unexpected financial issues that it's best to settle in advance. You don't want your fond farewell on the dorm steps to turn into an argument about who's going to pay for books (as happened with my son's college roommate and his parents).

Advertisement - Article continues below

Parents say the cost of textbooks -- which averages close to $1,000 a year -- is their most shocking expense. So be clear about whether you or your child (or perhaps a generous grandparent?) is picking up the tab. Whoever pays the book bill can save a bundle if your child taps campus book exchanges, or compares prices on new and used texts at BigWords.com, CampusBookSwap.com or Half.com.

After textbooks, parents say their biggest miscellaneous campus expense is car upkeep -- which includes not only insurance and a parking permit, but the tickets that are sure to add up when your child can't find a parking space. My advice: Leave the car at home. If it stays in your driveway, your insurance premiums could actually fall.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Anticipate surprise outlays. Suppose your daughter announces that she wants to joint a sorority, which could cost thousands of dollars in fees and dues. Does that fit into your budget -- or your child's?

Advertisement - Article continues below

And then there's "that (bleep) cell-phone bill," in the words of one father. Sure, you want to stay in touch. But are you willing to bankroll hours of conversation between your son and his girlfriend at another school?

Set up an account with a bank that has low or no fees and plenty of ATMs near your child's dorm. College students are notorious for going to the closest ATM, even if they're charged a fee, rather than walk a block to a free machine.

For managing money, a checking account with a debit card will do just fine. Discourage your child from signing up for a credit card until he or she has had experience managing cash, and you're confident he won't run up a balance he can't pay off.

And chances are your child won't need one of your cards for an emergency. A student once confessed to me that he and his roommate regularly used his "emergency" gasoline card to chow down on food at the service-station convenience store.

Another student got a phone call from her father wanting to know "who's this Steve Madden guy whose name is all over your credit card bill?" No emergency, Dad. Just a shoe store.

Last week: Crash Financial Course for College Frosh

Advertisement

Most Popular

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020
Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year
tax law

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year

Americans are facing a long list of tax changes for the 2020 tax year...and it's never too early to start thinking about next year's return.
June 22, 2020
10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class
tax deductions

10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class

Tax breaks aren't just for the rich. There are plenty of them that are only available to middle- and low-income Americans.
June 30, 2020

Recommended

7 Ways the Pandemic Will Change College Forever
college

7 Ways the Pandemic Will Change College Forever

Colleges and universities face steep budget cuts, enrollment challenges and new types of competition as a result of COVID-19. We cover the changes you…
June 19, 2020
How to Fund a Memorial Scholarship to Honor a Veteran
college

How to Fund a Memorial Scholarship to Honor a Veteran

With the help of a college or community foundation, you can establish a scholarship in the name of a loved one to help students in perpetuity.
May 24, 2020
How to Endow a Scholarship to Honor a Veteran
college

How to Endow a Scholarship to Honor a Veteran

You may be able to set up a scholarship fund through a college or community foundation, or support educational programs through a charity that special…
May 24, 2020
Gifts for Grads to Build Good Money Habits
college

Gifts for Grads to Build Good Money Habits

Today’s graduates aren’t destined to share the same fate as past generations, so it’s important for them to ramp up their money skills.
May 13, 2020