The cost of college life
It’s been a few months since high school graduation, and now that August is here, many young adults’ thoughts are turning to their freshman year of college – and what it is actually going to cost. Everyone knows about the cost of tuition. But how much will you need to make it through the first semester? The first year?
Typical start-up costs include a lot of different things, but a good place to start is school supplies, such as a laptop or tablet, textbooks, and general supplies. If you're moving into a dorm or an apartment for the first time, you will need bedding and towels, furniture, dishes, pots and pans, and small appliances.
It’s always good to avoid buying something that you’ll only need for a year or two. To help make the initial cost a little easier, it's wise to focus on the essentials first and then build up to the "nice to have" items as you go. That way you'll have enough to get started but won't be stuck with the bill for everything at once.
You might be amazed at how fast cash can disappear if you’ve never lived on your own before. The sheer amount of things that you're suddenly responsible to pay for can be overwhelming. Making a budget will help you spend your money mindfully. Consider starting your budget by splitting your income into three sections: needs, wants, and savings.
A need includes the everyday or vital things that you need to survive like food, utilities, toiletries, and laundry. Your wants are the other things that can make your college life fun but can be cut in a pinch – things like event tickets, eating out, and other entertainment options. Finally, it's wise to dedicate part of your budget to an emergency fund and long-term savings every month.
Some costs are fixed by the contracts you sign – like your phone agreement or rent. It works in your favor that these costs are the same amount every month because you can plan for them. But if you don’t pay them in full, you’ll eventually find yourself without a phone, or much worse, with no place to stay.
There are often ways to reduce fixed costs. For example, staying on your family’s phone plan might be cheaper than having your own account, provided the service is good in both locations. Adding another roommate will reduce your rent (though it might be a little crowded).
Other costs are variable and change from month to month. You’ve got a little more flexibility with these costs – like food and clothing – since you can always cut back if you’re running short of cash.
Being a college student often requires working on a tight budget, but thoughtful budgeting choices can make it much easier to cover your expenses and enjoy this unforgettable experience.
Joel Huffer is Corporate Communications Officer at F&M Trust.
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