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What Your College Budget Is Missing

studying in the library

In some ways, college can feel like a financial wash. Depending on the cost of your tuition, the lingering promise of debt may inspire anxiety or “you only live once” abandon. Whether you’re an incoming freshman or a senior, taking the time to engage with any income you have is never a bad idea. Here’s a list of expenses that you may encounter, and some tips for proactively saving for them.

Tuition

Students are graduating with higher debt loads than ever before. The popular route for paying off tuition is to defer payment on your loans until you’ve proven that you can survive in the post-college “real world.” Once you’re on your feet and your first couple of paychecks start coming in, then you start making significant payments on your loans.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but there are some things you can do to start chipping away at your debt right away.

Any time you receive a windfall, regardless of how small, commit to taking 50% of it or more and putting it toward your student loan. Depending on the type of loan you have, you may be able to start paying off your interest while you’re still in school.

Even if you’re not able to start chipping away at your interest, tucking this money into a digital envelope and not touching it can enable you to kick off your debt repayment process with a lump-sum payment. Imagine how good that’ll feel.

Starter fund for tuition repayment
$100

Books and Supplies

Ah, books. That ol’ nemesis of the college student’s wallet. Books and supplies are likely to be the greatest expense you experience during your time in college, second only to tuition and maybe a laptop, if you don’t have one already.

Luckily, this expense is regular so it’s relatively easy to plan for. You can anticipate the spike in spending based on your school’s semester, quarter, or trimester schedule.

Prices for books and supplies vary widely by school and your chosen degree, but you should be able to make an educated guess at the next term’s expenses based on what you spent in your current term. Putting a little away each day for books for your next cycle of classes can go a long way toward feeling calm and confident when it comes time to visit the school store.

If possible, email the professor ahead of time for a syllabus. This can help you determine in advance which textbooks are must-haves and which are simply recommended reading. You can also compare the costs of purchasing a book with renting it or buying it digitally. Digital purchases can be cheaper, but you can’t recoup your money by reselling the books at the end of the course.

One academic year of books and supplies
$1300

Dining out

Even if you’re armed with a meal plan and a tower of ramen, the temptation to go out and eat is so real. Dining out is a top offender in most budgets, so don’t feel too badly if you notice restaurant receipts and bar tabs dominating your discretionary spending.

While practicing restraint can be helpful, plan on breaches in willpower. Be realistic about how much you spend dining out and budget for it. If you over-budget for restaurants and bars, you can always put that money toward a different spending category.

Restaurant budget for the academic year
$1200

Subscriptions

While music and video streaming subscriptions aren’t necessarily essentials, when you’re working tirelessly on your finals, you want your favorites at the ready. Plus, instead of making more costly one-off purchases, you can have a suite of media available to you for a flat rate.

Subscription services charge your card regularly and automatically, so they’re easy to forget. This is fine if you know you’ll regularly have the funds for a $10 charge here and a $7.99 charge there. But if you’re like many college students and are watching every cent, you don’t want to be surprised by these recurring expenses.

Fortunately, the regularity of these charges makes them easy to save for. Once you’re done coasting off the two-month free trial period, budget for this recurring expense. Having it as a line item on your budget or as a Goal in your Simple account also makes it easier to remember to cancel it if it comes to that.

Video and music subscriptions for the academic year
$150

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