College is expensive. Tuition, text books, your dorm room, and food are enough to make you take out a super high interest student loan, and that doesn’t even cover everything you’ll be spending your money on. Student discounts or not, you’re still going to be spending money outside of what you originally accounted for, dipping into your savings for day to day expenses, and finally evolving into your truest form of Broke College Student. It happens to everybody. The good thing is you may never be this poor again! The bad news is that this is a key learning experience, so buckle in, because you’re going to learn to stretch $20 like it’s never been stretched before.
Welcome to the wonderful world of overdrawing your checking account! Welcome to college life, where you’ll need to use some of your precious spare time to make extra income to pay for, you know, life. I don’t mean to sound patronizing or negative, I’m just stating the truth, guys. I’m trying to prepare you! You might only expect to drop cash on some school supplies and a food plan, and not worrying about the rest of it until you graduate, but it just doesn’t work that way. I want to warn you before you feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending debt spiral: here are a few things you have to pay for that you never expected to buy. I know, I feel the stress coming on too… but don’t worry. We’ll get through this!
1) Emergency fans or space warmers.
You might think you can stick out the unbearably hot weather or the freezing cold temps, but… you can’t. You would think that a pricey dorm room would come with, you know, sufficient heat and/or air conditioning, but most don’t. A fan and/or a space heater will become a necessity.
You probably have a meal plan, but there’s only so many times you can eat Yankee pot roast without wanting to gouge your eyes out with a spork. Whether it’s trips to the grocery store or take out, you will be spending money on food outside of your meal plan. Your school cafeterias might close at odd hours and you might need to feed yourself. Cereal, milk, granola bars, pints of ice cream, and Chinese take out… it all adds up.
3) Going out to restaurants.
It doesn’t have to be a fancy restaurant! Guaranteed, though, you’re going to wind up at at least one restaurant per month during your college career. Even if you order soup, you’re going to factor in tip and those fries you split with your friends and suddenly you’re out fifteen dollars really fast. They’re treats, not necessities, so choose your restaurant outings wisely.
4) Laundry money.
Quarters are gold. Maybe some colleges offer free laundry services, but a lot of them don’t. If you’re not able to save all of your dirty clothes until you go home, you need money to wash ’em. And it adds up faster than you think.
5) Movie tickets.
Being on campus can get boring and suffocating. Going to the movies is a fun and popular activity… that costs a lot of money.
6) Toilet paper.
Your university doesn’t stock toilet paper, and you would be surprised at how quickly you guys will go through it.
Toothpaste, dental floss, and deodorant don’t last forever. Stock up all you want, but these are running out before the end of the semester.
You said goodbye to your mom’s Costco membership, so now you have to restock EVERY MONTH. Tampons, pads, and whatever else you use will never feel more expensive than they do right now.
9) Uber rides.
In the name of safety, this is the best idea when you don’t feel safe getting in to a car with someone who’s been partying or don’t want to walk home alone at night. The problem is, these cost money, especially over distances and for a long period of time.
These aren’t just for Halloween! I was surprised by how many times I needed to dress for a theme party in college. Even DIY costumes usually require at least one shopping trip. If you’re repurposing an old sheet, you might need a new sheet to replace it, you know?
11) New clothes.
You don’t need new clothes, technically, but you’re going to live in close proximity to a store and well… shit happens. You might need a hoodie while you’re out because you forgot your jacket at home. If you’re prone to impulse shopping, watch out.
12) Beauty appointments.
Waxing, threading, haircuts, and dye jobs are the most expensive when your parents aren’t paying for it. They might feel okay spending this money when you’re living in their house in high school, but part of being on your own is making your own appointments and spending money on routine maintenance. Hearing how expensive haircuts and waxes are might make you faint, especially if you’re going to school in or near a large city.
13) Over the counter meds.
Want an Advil? Go buy a bottle. Use Advil? They run out. Anything to make you feel better when you’re sick and away from your doctor is going to cost money.
14) Computer repairs.
The basic rule of technology in college is that your laptop will always crash during a very important paper you haven’t saved yet. External hard drives for back up, warrantees, etc., might end up costing money. You might need to borrow from your parents, in this case, because computer repairs are almost always costly.
15) Car maintenance.
Gas, oil changes, and car washes: if you have your car on campus, be prepared for this extra expense.
16) Replacements for everything you bought getting to college.
Stuff breaks! Hate to break it to you…
Once you are of age, you usually figure out your budget – which feels great, but then wind up feeling poor anyway. Why? Alcohol costs money and if you want to go out and drink or even stay in, it’s going to cost money either way.
What do you spend your money on in college so far? Were you expecting or surprised by these expenses? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve spent money on? Let us know in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.