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Saving Money for College: How Much Cash Do You Need?

Dec 12, 2007
Time to stash the cash! For right now, let's say you have just been accepted to the college of your choice or soon will be, or you have just completed a year and need to save money for your next year of school.

Time for basic budgeting and semi-serious choices, like pasta or steak.

First, College tuition and fees
Not a surprise, right? You have to cover these first to even go to college. The school you attend will dictate here - and you may want to choose again. Unless you have huge aspirations or nearly unlimited cash, you don't really need to go to an Ivy League, top tier school. The next level can cost much less and provide the same great education. Total up what you need in savings money to meet this one.

Next, your apartment and the basics, like cable and internet
Big expense, of course. During college one of my friends would always pay all of here rent at one time for the whole school year. Then, she didn't have to worry about rent problems. She had an individual lease - no one else to rely on or split rent with. It's a good idea, if you can do it.

Also in this category of basics you should have an estimate of your utilities, like gas, light, phone, water if necessary, cable, internet, and cell phone. Many students just go with a family cell phone plan with tons of minutes, and skip the house phone. And you could use the free internet at school.

Ask a few people in the area of your school about the other expenses and you'll have a good idea what you need. Add it to the previous category and keep going.

Third, Grant money and Loans:
Will you qualify for grants? Will you take out a student loan? If so, this can offset tons of the money you need to save for college. I used some of these, and it worked great for me. Be careful not to overborrow - debt can be a killer later on. Also, if you plan to work, try to limit it to 20 hours a week if you are taking a full load. Subtract these items from your savings list and keep reading.

Fourth: Wheels
Two suggestions: public transportation and good shoes, or a bike. Next: a sugardaddy with a car. Okay, maybe that's a bad suggestion. But having a car at college can actually be a liability because of parking, gas, maintenance, and did I mention parking? Many colleges don't have much parking. Avoid this one if you can by buying a bus pass regularly. Add the price of enough bus passes to get you through the year and we're nearly done.

Fifth: Sustenance
Not just food. Clothes, concerts, movies, plays, you know, all that stuff. This one can be a tough one. Try to avoid expensive food, and expensive concerts! To estimate this, look at what you eat now, and what entertainment you want. Total it up for a week or two and multiply accordingly to get a month, semester and school year of what money to save. Add it on to the total. Just one to go!

Sixth: Textbooks
Can't leave these out! You can spend hundreds on new books, but you don't need to. You can get used books online and from friends. You can sell books back, and you can even skip the book in some cases. It takes some work, but you can reduce this expense if you don't have the money saved for it. Buying new, you can expect to spend $350 to $600 per semester if attending full time. Add it on for your final total.

You're done! Is it a big number? You might not like it, but at least you know. And once you know what you need, you can work toward it. You still have possible donations from your parents, or any money you can save from a job while at school.

Keep trying. Saving money for college shouldn't keep you from your goal.
About the Author
Need more info saving money for college? Come to The Money For College Now Blog and download a free ebook on financial aid.
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