Cost of College Beyond Tuition

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Only in college life would things like food and clothes be considered “extras.” But the truth is, even if you’re lucky enough to obtain financial aid for your own or your child’s college education, it likely will only cover tuition. And if you’re using a tax-advantaged account to pay for college, you’ll almost certainly be restricted to using it to pay for credits.

So how do you cover the cost of extras like food, books, clothes, gas, and car insurance?

For students living on campus, a college meal plan may help hold down food costs. Those living off-campus should start the school year with a food budget that includes a fixed monthly amount for groceries, some funds for occasional dining out, and money set aside for food-related items such as vitamin supplements. It will be important for students to stick to their budget. Never fund food with credit cards, because credit card debt is one of the few things that can linger much longer than a class schedule.

Often financial aid will come with an allowance for books, but these sums are rarely enough to cover the full cost of the textbooks students need. Buying used text books is a great way to curb book costs. Check with your college’s book store to see what they have available, or turn to online resources. There are even websites available to rent textbooks, which can help keep costs down even more.

Some students will be able to rely on parents to help cover other expenses like gas, clothing and car insurance. Still others will take a job to help fund those costs.

However your family chooses to deal with college costs, know that statistics show a college education is worth the investment – as long as you make it wisely. And making smart credit decisions in college will set you or your child up for success down the road. There are many tools available to help you prepare for college costs.