College Budget: The Must-Have Items

College Budget: The Must-Have Items

Mother saying goodbye to her daughter as she goes off to college

When your teen is getting ready to go off to college, it's an exciting time. There’s a graduation ceremony and a graduation party. Your extended family comes to visit and brings gifts. As the summer passes, your teen starts packing for college. However, there's one thing you're forgetting. You and your teen need to create a college budget. Here are some major things to consider and add to that college budget.

Housing

If your teen is going away for college, they're going to need a place to stay. Most colleges offer dorm rooms to students. Another option is to rent an apartment or home in the area. Your teen might also consider roommates if they aren't going to live in the dorms.

One advantage of living in the dorms is that you pay for the entire semester at one time. Also, you don't have to pay for the dorms during the summer months.

Renting an apartment with or without roommates offers your child more freedom than living on campus. They also get the advantage of a full kitchen to prepare meals at home and save money.

However, they'll need to pay rent each month, including through the summer. If you plan for them to return home during the summer, this can be an extra expense. Also, there's a lot less security living off-campus compared to on campus.

Food

Most colleges that offer dorms also provide dining halls and meal plans. If your kid plans to live in the dorms, they'll probably benefit most from purchasing a meal plan. Without a kitchen, it would be very difficult for them to make their meals.

Meal plans come with several options and cover different things. You might have your choice between a meal plan that feeds your child three meals a day Monday to Friday. Another plan might include unlimited visits to the dining hall every day.

Meal plans are usually paid for once a semester and run until the end of it. This makes it easy to budget for a specific dollar amount.

It's a good idea to budget for your child to eat out occasionally. While the dining halls might offer a large selection, it's still cafeteria food. Your teen is going to want a pizza delivered or a burger from a fast-food joint once in a while.

If your kid rents an apartment, they have the opportunity to cook their own meals. This can save you money. However, they'll need to grocery shop at least once a week. You need to include that in your college budget.

Tuition and Books

It's fairly easy to budget for tuition since it stays constant each year. However, you may see a slight increase from one year to the next.

It's beneficial to apply to your child's college's financial aid department even if you don't plan to take out loans. This department has access to a variety of scholarships, grants, and fellowships that might help you save some money.

The cost of books will vary by semester. You can buy new or used books. Some schools offer the chance to rent books. Usually, renting books is the least expensive option.

However, your student needs to return all books and workbooks undamaged at the end of the semester. If you buy the books, your student can sell them back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.

Create Your College Budget

College is an exciting time in your child's life, but it can be a large expense for your family. You need to work with your teen to create a college budget that includes all the essentials. This college budget can serve as a goal for saving money. It can also work as a spending constraint for your college student.

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