The hidden costs of college – before they even leave

hidden costs of collegeThe price of college is high enough, but all those extras that have to be bought before your child finally moves out are kind of devastating our budget. I knew we’d have to buy him towels, sheets and other necessities. It’s all those other things – like the doctor’s physical plus two vaccines, the used bike and the laptop.

I’m learning through my first son that you have to buy things gradually – throughout the summer. One corner of his room is the gathering spot for sacks and boxes filled with pens, microwave popcorn, dishtowels and new socks.

I want my son to go off to college with all the necessary items for him to succeed. I promised him a laptop for his high school graduation present. We found a great one online with all the power he’ll ever need to hopefully write some great research papers. But I’m sure that power will go to use playing some shoot ‘em-up video game.

The computer was originally marked $629. I bought it for $500 with no extras such as a printer. The college has printers in all their dorms and in the library. Scott wouldn’t be able to afford the ink through the year on his own.

We had searched through weeks of Sunday newspaper advertisements and many websites. I finally found this one on the website of a big name electronics’ store website. They offered free shipping, plus a $30 rebate. We ordered it. Five days later, I went back on the website to print off the rebate form. Miracle upon miracle, the company added another $150 rebate for the same computer. I had bought my computer just a few days earlier than the rebate offer stated. The guy at the rebate center approved my request, and I should be getting another $150 check in two weeks. It never hurts to ask.

To help offset the pain of buying so much stuff at one time, I’ve been heading to stores like Target and Dollar General to pick up a new comforter, pens and notebooks, laundry detergent and other dorm life needs from time to time. It’s still adding up — $60 here, $30 here. My husband thinks he should just take everything old, but that’s his cheap personality coming through. Sure. We can’t afford everything new. But who wants to run around in your dorm with tattered shoes and a book bag that’s falling apart. Scott doesn’t ask for much – never has. He knows we don’t have a lot of discretionary money just floating around, so he appreciates when I find it some cool shirts and shorts from the Salvation Army thrift store.

I do have advice for those whose sons and daughters will be seniors in high school this fall. Go to the big stores in September and buy your college dorm merchandise on clearance. You can find everything from those extra long twin sheets that are required to pillows to storage units at more than half price. I wish I would have done that last year.

Once his freshmen year is over, I figure the price of getting him to his sophomore year won’t be so expensive – unless the tuition goes up, which is pretty much a standard in most colleges and universities.

Just beware that the price they quote you when you get your bill isn’t half of what you’ll be purchasing. It takes a lot of stuff to move your child onto bigger and better things.


Tuition and Bills