College Costs

5 Incidental College Costs Parents Should Start Saving for Now


If you are the parent of a teenager, chances are, you are already thinking (and stressing) about college costs. Whether your son or daughter is headed for a full-ride scholarship or thousands of dollars in college loans and financial aid, the cost of tuition is not the only expense associated with higher education.

If the young person in your life will be heading to college soon, you need to start saving up for the incidental expenses that may not be covered by financial aid, scholarships or student loans. Here are five incidental college costs many students (and their parents) often forget about.

#1. The High Cost of Getting Around

Whether your child is headed for a city-based college or a university in the suburbs, getting around can be expensive. The cost of a monthly bus pass in a major city can easily top $100 to $150, and gassing up the car can be just as expensive.


If your son or daughter will be driving around campus, you will also need to add the cost of car insurance, regular maintenance, and unexpected repairs. Since young people generally pay higher car insurance premiums, the cost of driving can really add up.


#2. Eating Out

Your own college experience probably included plenty of pizza nights, and your son or daughter will want to do the same. Eating out and sharing meals with friends are integral parts of the college experience, and you will need to budget for the expense.


#3. Toiletries and Personal Hygiene Supplies

You will probably send your son or daughter off with a care package of shampoos, conditioners, makeup supplies and personal hygiene items, but that care package will not last four years. Be sure to budget for toiletries and personal hygiene supplies — your college student will want to look good in class and around campus.


#4. School Supplies

The need for school supplies does not end with high school graduation. If your teen is going on to college, he or she will need to buy tablets, binders, pens, pencils and other essential supplies. Depending on the classes they are taking, they may also need specialty calculators, lab equipment, and other costly supplies.


#5. Utility Costs

If your teen will be living off campus, you will need to budget for utilities like electric, phone service, cable, sewer, trash and the like. Be sure to get an estimate of the cost before your teen leaves for college and monitor the expenses going forward. If the price of cable, cell service, and other non-essentials is getting out of hand, you can insist on less expensive plans or ask your son or daughter to share in the cost.


The cost of college is going nowhere but up, and the price of tuition is just the beginning. Budgeting for incidental costs now could help you avoid unpleasant surprises when your son or daughter heads to college and starts hitting the books.

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