From registering for classes to taking out student loans to covering your tuition, preparing for college is quite a process. Unfortunately, many college students overlook the importance of planning for day-to-day living expenses, which can put them in a tricky financial situation when the academic year kicks off.
While tuition, room, and board will likely be your biggest expenses throughout college, smaller living expenses add up. With this in mind, it’s best to budget for these costs and have a plan for covering them while you’re in school.
By preparing for your college living expenses now, you can better enjoy the remainder of your summer and enter the school year with greater confidence.
Don’t Overlook These Common Living Expenses
So, what kinds of living expenses should you be thinking about? While these expenses can vary from one person to the next, there are some common living costs to consider beyond what you’ll be paying for tuition and a place to stay. These include:
- A storage unit (if you’re in a small room and have more stuff than space)
- .Electronics (laptops, tablets, etc.) that may be required for your program of study.
- Books and supplies, such as notebooks and pens.
- Transportation, including car insurance and gas (if you’ll have a car on campus) or a bus pass.
Food/groceries beyond what’s included with your meal plan.
Paying for Living Expenses While in College
Now that you’re aware of the kinds of living expenses to expect, what are your options for covering them?
Dip Into Savings
If you have saved some money, consider taking out a chunk to fund your college living expenses. Just be careful not to drain your savings completely, as this could set you up for financial issues later on.
Get a Part-Time Job
Many college students choose to get a part-time job to cover some or all of their living expenses. Some colleges and universities even hold hiring events. These typically occur at the beginning of the school year to help students find jobs on- and off-campus.
Become an Independent Contractor
There are plenty of platforms that make it easy to make money in your spare time. Ride-share services, as well as food-delivery platforms, for example, can help you finance your living expenses while in school, as well as task sites such as those listed here.
Look Into Work-Study or a Paid Internship
Some schools offer work-study programs, which allow students to work part-time in a position relevant to their field of study. Work-study positions are available on a limited basis, and competition can be high. A paid internship can also be a great way to earn money while learning new skills.
Charge Expenses to a Credit Card
If you have a credit card with a decently high spending limit, you can pay for some or all of your living expenses this way. In general, this is not the best option—especially when you consider current student credit card interest rates range between 17% and 25%.
Take Out Additional Loans
Last but not least, there may be the option of borrowing additional money to cover living expenses while in school. Like a credit card, you would be responsible for paying interest that will accrue on the amount that you borrower, so it’s very important to review all of your options before determining that this would be the best option for you. Some students choose to finance all of their living expenses, whereas others supplement earnings from a part-time job or work-study. For example, if 50% of your living expenses are covered but you still need assistance paying the remaining 50%, a loan can potentially be a viable solution.
How Should You Cover Your Living Expenses?
Your best option for covering living expenses will depend on a number of factors. Start by calculating a rough estimate of your living expenses. This way, you have an idea of how much you’ll need each month. You can do this by making a list of your monthly living expenses that won’t be covered by the student loans you were already planning on receiving, such as:
- groceries and eating out
- phone bill and data plan
- auto insurance, fuel, and parking (if you’ll have a car on campus)
- bus passes and other transportation fees (if you won’t have a car on campus)
- books and supplies for school
- miscellaneous spending (clothes, accessories, entertainment, etc.)
Once you have a better idea of how much your living expenses will be each month, you’ll also want to consider your class schedule, your program of study, and course load. If you’re in a rigorous program of study, picking up a part-time job in addition to your course load/homework may simply not be feasible, and you may have to consider other options to cover your living expenses.
Taking Out Loans to Cover College Living Expenses
If you take out loans to cover some or all of your living expenses, here are some things to consider.
How Much Will You Need to Borrow?
Start by estimating how much you’ll need to borrow. Student loans are typically approved per academic year and disbursed each semester. Therefore, you’ll need to repeat this process each year. There are some helpful online tools, such as college “net price calculators” and cost-of-living calculators for specific cities. These tools can give you a better idea of what your annual expenses may look like and thus how much you may need to borrow.
In addition to using these tools, it’s recommended that you calculate your own estimated monthly living expenses that include spending for groceries, entertainment, books/supplies, and more.
How to Take Out a Loan for Living Expenses
When it comes to borrowing money for living expenses, you have a few options available to you, including:
- Federal subsidized loans
- Federal unsubsidized loans
- Private loans
Many students opt for Federal loans due to the more flexible repayment terms. However, it is worth noting that if you’ve already reached your federal borrowing limit with tuition/board alone, you may need to explore other options. Many private student loans can cover your living expenses. When you are shopping for a loan, check with your school financial aid officer and the loan company to make sure the loan can cover your various expenses.
Managing Your Loans Responsibly
Whether you decide to finance all or a portion of your living expenses through loans, borrowing responsibly is a must. Be sure that you fully understand the type of loan you’re taking out, as well as your interest and repayment terms. While it can be difficult to figure out your exact living expenses, try not to borrow more than you’ll realistically need.
A little planning can go a long way when covering your college living costs responsibly. If you’ll need to borrow money for college, get started with the loan application process as soon as you can. This way, you’ll be able to better enjoy the remainder of your summer and not have to stress on having enough money at school. LendKey can help you explore and compare loans so you can confidently choose the right borrowing option for your needs!