12 hidden college expenses

students at sporting event

Beyond tuition, learn what costs to expect as you start preparing for your first semester on campus.

Some of the costs of college are pretty obvious, like tuition, room, and board. But others are not as apparent when you’re choosing a school. For example, did you budget for a plane ticket home over Thanksgiving?

Whether you’re working to pay your own way through school or getting help from your family, tuition is not the only expense to keep in mind. If you don’t have a checking account and debit card, now may be the time to get one, so you can plan and pay for the below 12 expenditures:

  1. Books and supplies: At most high schools, you receive your books from the school and return them when you’re through. In college, students are generally responsible for buying their own textbooks — and they can be quite pricey. According to the College Board, in 2018-2019, college students at four-year schools spend $1,240 on books and supplies for the year. You may be able to reduce this cost significantly if you’re organized and rent or buy your books used or online. The one option you can’t choose is going without books, so you should make sure to plan for this expense.
  1. Printing: Many professors are aware of the high cost of academic materials and do students the courtesy of posting PDFs of course readings online. Even so, the cost of printing a dozen PDFs per week can be staggering. Find out the cost of printing at your college library. It may be more cost efficient to purchase an e-reader or tablet for reading PDFs in class.
In 2018-2019, college students at four-year schools spend $1,240 on books and supplies annually.

— The College Board

  1. Travel: Unless you are going to college in your hometown, you’re likely to have some expenses associated with getting to and from school during winter and spring breaks, or when you want a dose of family time. Whether you’re driving, flying, or taking the train or bus, be sure to budget for these costs well ahead of time, and avoid booking travel plans last minute to get the best prices.
  2. Coffee: There are few things college students love more than coffee. You can purchase fancy coffee around every corner on most campuses, but don’t be fooled by this convenience. Coffee from a coffee shop is many times more expensivethan making coffee at home or getting it as part of your meal plan. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee now and then, but buying a coffee maker and a good travel mug will help you save cash in the long run.
  3. Food: Even if you have a meal plan, it is important to budget extra money for food. When you’re busy and not able to get to the dining hall or during the hours the dining hall is closed, you might need to buy a quick sandwich or snack. These little expenditures can add up quickly.
  4. Socializing: Social expenses can drain your wallet. Many campus clubs and activities charge a cover fee at the door, so account for these expenditures in your monthly budget. If you need to spot a friend — or if a friend spots you — you can easily pay them back using Zelle®, which is already part of the Wells Fargo Mobile®app and Wells Fargo Online®.1
  5. Laundry: Students are generally expected to pay for their own laundry, and many campus washers and dryers still only accept quarters. Be sure to stock up on a few rolls of quarters — or make sure you have enough of a balance on your student card — before the semester starts, so you can still have clean clothes when your schedule gets hectic. Don’t forget the detergent and fabric softener, too.
  6. Tickets to games: Cheering on your school sports teams is memorable and fun — and maybe even a big reason you picked your school. Students usually get discounted tickets, but you’ll still need to allot some money for this expense. If you go to a school with a top program, the cost can run a few hundred dollars for season tickets.
  7. Transportation: College in the big city? Having money to take the bus or train can make your social life and entertainment calendar a lot more fun — not to mention adding cool internship opportunities. Some colleges offer free or discounted transit passes to their students, but if yours does not, set aside some cash in your budget to cover getting around town (and inquire about student discounts or multi-use discount passes).
    If your college is in a more rural or suburban area, you may need a car to get around. For a car, you will need to factor in campus parking fees, gas, insurance, and other costs. If you don’t have a car, make sure to factor in rideshare costs, if you plan on using that service.
  8. Spring break: More than half of college students plan to get away during speak break. If traveling is something you dream of doing, it’s important to start saving now. Begin saving a little bit at a time at the start of the school year to be sure you have enough money when spring rolls around and you need to book your travel costs.
More than half of college students plan to get away during speak break.

— Chicago Tribune

  1. Graduation fees: While you don’t need to worry about this until the end of your time in college, many schools expect students to pay graduation fees toward the end of their senior year. The money covers things like diplomas, diploma covers, your cap and gown rental, ceremony set-up, and other costs tied to graduation. The fee can run from $50 to a couple hundred, so it’s important to budget for it. If you want to know the costs in advance of graduation, contact the office of the bursar.
  2. Surprises: College is full of new prospects, and you never know what kind of unique opportunities may appear on the horizon. Whether the opportunity is a job interview in another state or a fun concert with your friends, it never hurts to have a little extra cash stashed away. Make sure that you have a safe and convenient way to access your money, such as a checking account and debit card, so you can access your cash at ATMs, pay friends with Zelle, and set up account alerts to let you know if your balance is running low.

College may certainly be one of the most exciting times of your life, so make sure you keep some of these expenses in mind and build out your own college budgeting plan. If you’re looking for more help in the realm of budgeting, check out Wells Fargo’s College Cost Calculator to stay on top of your finances in school.

Do you know how to pay for college? We break it down in five steps.

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