Hidden College Expenses

When it comes to paying for college, the expenses that come to mind are your tuition, room and board and of course, books. But there are many other expenses that we often overlook. We don’t intentionally overlook them, but because they tend to be on the smaller side, they get lost when we are looking at the big expenses. So what are these expenses and how much should you set aside for them? Keep reading to find out.

4 Hidden College Expenses


If you are taking your car to college with you and you plan to park on campus, you are going to have to register the car with campus police. Typically, an annual pass is around $300. If you are bringing your car up for part of the year, most colleges do offer a discounted parking permit. Before the wheels in your mind start turning and you think you’ll just buy a partial yearly pass and park on campus all year, I’ll save you the time and tell you this won’t work.
First off, most campuses color code the stickers you place in your window. So they know just by looking whether or not you can park on campus or not. Secondly, you will get ticketed and your car will be booted. At the college I went to, the boot was applied to your car much quicker than you would think. After 2 unpaid parking tickets, your car was booted. I had friends that walked out of class to realize they couldn’t drive anywhere. Don’t risk it. Just pay the price for a parking pass.


We all know the stereotype that college students eat a lot of pizza. Well, is it a stereotype when it is true? If you figure a pizza (plus the tip for delivery) is costing you $15, in just 20 weeks, you’ll need $300 to pay for it all. While to most, $300 doesn’t sound like much, to a college student, it is. I was so happy to go into my sophomore year of college with a nice cushion in my savings account so that I could afford to buy a pizza when I wanted it.

Greek Life

If you are looking to join a sorority or a fraternity, know that it costs money. Not only annual membership fees and dues, but other costs as well. If you are throwing a party, you need not only supplies but a costume. You might even drive to away football games or events to support your college. The money needed for travel, lodging and food adds up.
While being part of a sorority or fraternity is fun and beneficial, you will have to consider the costs. I would recommend having $1,000 just for Greek Life related expenses. It might be more than you actually need, but wouldn’t you rather have more than less?


Depending on where you go to college, the price for travel can set you back. I went to college about 5 hours away. As a result, every time I wanted to come home, my parents either had to come get me (the one year I didn’t have a car) or I had to drive home. Luckily, I went to college when gas prices were around $1.25 a gallon, so a round trip cost me around $85. But I also had tolls and food as well to add in. A typical round trip cost me around $125. If I only came home for the 3 major breaks, I was looking at close to $400 in expenses. But, I came home for long weekends too, so my real costs were more. (And I’m not adding in car maintenance or wear and tear here either.)
For those that go farther away, you are looking at more money, regardless if you travel by car or plane. Travel costs can quickly and easily add up to over $2,000 a year. Be sure to think long and hard before traveling a great distance to go to college. I’m not saying to not go far away simply because of travel cost, but if there isn’t a valid reason or better school, scholarship, etc. you might be better off looking at a school closer to home.

Final Thoughts

All totaled, these hidden expenses can easily add an additional $3,500 a year to your college costs. Over 4 years, you are looking at $14,000 in expenses that you aren’t considering. That is a serious amount of money. Be sure to do all of your homework when selecting a college: don’t just look at the obvious expenses, but take into account other expenses that you are probably overlooking. By padding your budget for more expenses, you will graduate from college with less debt and that will put you years ahead of others in terms of reaching your financial goals.

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