Unexpected College Costs and How to Budget for Them

We all know that college comes with expenses, but some of them arrive more unexpectedly than others. Here is a list of costs that may come your way at some time or another, and a few ways to be ready for them.

Class Fees

Many specialized classes that use special technology, space, or gear require a fee. This is done to cover the necessary resources students will use for completion of the course. If a class includes this fee, it will be listed under the Class Notes section of the course overview on iGPS. This information can be easily overlooked if you aren’t expecting it, and you’ll be left guessing why there was a $70 charge to your student account. To make sure this doesn’t happen, read the course descriptions closely. Classes with extra costs will provide the name of the fee (seen in the above photo). Go to the Student Central fees page and change the fee type to “Course Related Fee” to see the amounts.

Extra Supplies

Besides these fees, purchasing additional supplies may be required. I was in an art class offered through the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design and needed to buy personal supplies to use. This added up to around $40 that I wasn’t expecting to spend. In a different class, my friend was required to purchase a uniform as her class material. These added expenses can catch you off guard, so preparing for them is important. In addition, some textbooks can be majorly expensive, especially if they come with added features, such as an online access code. Sometimes these fees are unavoidable if your professor requires the latest version of textbook. If this isn’t the case, try to find cheaper, used options on Amazon or other websites (Chegg, T.I.S., etc.), or split the cost and share the book with a friend in class. Renting textbooks is also a cheap option if you know you won’t need the book after your class. Budget a little extra for textbooks and supplies (more than you think you need) for this reason.

Field Trips or Transportation

Off-campus field trips have been rare for me; if my class isn’t meeting in the normal room, we’re usually going to the Lilly Library or Mathers Museum. However, some people may have to go off campus for their class, such as rock climbing or ice skating. Perhaps you have to attend an exhibition downtown or venture towards Lake Monroe. In these situations, professors seem to give a clear explanation of the dynamic of the class in the course description on iGPS. This should give you the information needed to plan in advance for gas and transportation. If you don’t have a car or want to save on gas and parking, use the bus system. Bloomington Transit has many different lines that connect the campus with the rest of Bloomington.

Register Drop/Add

There is a grace period of two business days after class registration to change anything without charge. After this, adding, dropping, or swapping a class automatically charges $8.50 to your student account. This really got me last semester. I was indecisive about which classes I wanted to take, and ended up adjusting my schedule three different times on separate days.

Don’t be me: Have backup plans for scheduling in case something doesn’t work. Once you’re scheduled and you’re satisfied with the classes you’re going to take, stick to that. If you must readjust, do it all at the same time so you’re only billed for one day.

Parking Tickets

Parking enforcement, both on and off campus, are on top of their game. Campus parking can get confusing, so read up on the guidelines beforehand. The general rule of thumb is that without a permit, it is prohibited to park on campus during weekdays. Being aware of where you are or aren’t allowed to park will alleviate the possibility of getting a ticket. If you’re running late to class, need to drop off something at a school building, or just find yourself in a situation where you’re parking illegally, be prepared to see that little, yellow envelope on your windshield when you return.

Spikes in Bills

If you live off campus and are responsible for paying individual utilities, this applies to you. The change of season can really impact how much money you’ll be spending on each bill. Electric tends to spike in the hotter months when the A/C is constantly running, and gas usually goes up the colder it becomes. In my experience, the fluctuation in utilities seems to balance out, but planning ahead for these bills can come in handy. It’s also never a bad idea to be conservative with your resources! Taking shorter showers, turning the lights off when you leave the room, and running your appliances less frequently all make a positive difference with your monthly bills and the environment.

Budgeting Is Your Friend

What is my personal advice for anticipating surprise costs? Keep track of your money! All of these expenses can seem less daunting when they’re funneled through a budget. If the thought of combining numbers representing your savings in a spreadsheet overwhelms you, remember that budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated. First, list all of the expenses you may have: groceries, gas, entertainment, rent, etc. Then, decide how you want to split up your expenses: by week, by month, etc. After you have these figured out, bring in the amount of money you have to spend in total. You’ll want to split this sum according to which expenses are more costly. Make sure to include a miscellaneous section for those unexpected expenses, and set aside a sum of money as a precautionary. Creating an organized way to see where your money is going and a place to track any surprise costs will make your life so much easier.

All in all, unexpected things happen all the time. Your car won’t start, you forgot to pack lunch, your professor assigned another book for class; these all lead to pulling out your wallet. However, they don’t have to take you by surprise. By taking a few simple steps to plan your expenses, you’ll be able to take on anything that comes your way.

media major, class of 2020

Hi! My name is Christina, and I'm a seniorat IU. I am majoring in Media with a concentration in Film Production and a minor in Spanish. My goal is to create engaging content by sharing my knowledge and parts of my college experience here on We Are IU. Whether you are reading a post about applying for scholarships, or just looking for ideas on how to decorate your dorm, I hope you find my work and the blogs of other writers very helpful in your search!

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