June 16, 2011 | | Leave a comment With summer vacation in full swing it’s never too early to think about next fall’s college budget. Whether you go to school online or on-campus, college always seems to cost more than you bargained for. According to the Huffington Post there are over $23,000 in hidden college-related costs (outside of tuition) per year, per student. That amount varies depending on where you go to school and is slightly less for online education students (because they don’t live in dorms or have to rent housing near their schools). So what are these hidden costs? Turns out they’re not really hidden at all, they’re just so mundane you forget they can nickel and dime you to death. So before you finalize your upcoming college budget consider these little money suckers first. Utilities If you rent an apartment or house and your utilities are not included, then the cost of electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash removal, cable TV, and Internet can be up to 50 percent of your monthly rent. Even if you opt for online education, your electricity bill will probably go up by at least 10 percent, due to the fact that you’ll be on your computer more and keeping later hours doing homework. The solution? If you rent, try to get a place that includes as many utilities as possible rolled into your monthly rent. Free cable TV and WiFi alone, for example, can save you about $1,200 a year. Food No matter how much you budget for food, you’ll probably spend at least 25 percent more than you planned. Not because you’ll eat more, but because you’ll eat food that costs more. When you go to school you suddenly don’t have time to do things like grocery shop or cook. As a result, you’ll eat out often, and as we all know, even fast food adds up. The solution? Shop for as many “easy foods” as possible. Eating fresh fruits and veggies as snacks, frozen meals that can be heated up, and leftovers from a weekend big meal are all good ways to keep your food bill under control. Car expenses Even if you own your car outright, you still have to pay for gas, parking, insurance, registration, and maintenance, all of which comes to about $3,000 to $4,000 a year for a used car owned by a person age 25 or older, with little or no commute. The solution? Dump your car, if possible. Even though it’s not as convenient, rely on public transportation, join a carpool, bike to school, or simply walk. These options also increase your exercise frequency, which is good since you’ll be sitting around a lot doing homework. Entertainment You can’t tell yourself that you won’t go out while in school. Believe me, you’ll need the break, especially if you’re an online student who doesn’t have the luxury of socializing with other students. The solution? Opt for the simple things; a hike, camping, free concerts in the park, picnics, school sporting events, tennis on free courts, farmer’s markets, etc. If you do want to go to the movies try to catch a matinee when it’s cheaper, and stop at the store first to buy your treats. This would also be a good time to cut down on your alcohol consumption, as cocktails are not cheap. Travel Expenses If you live away from home to go to school, you’ll have to budget for airfare at least twice a year for winter and spring breaks. The solution? If you can’t afford to relocate, online education is an option. Otherwise, think about other forms of travel to get home; the train, ride sharing, and even the bus if it’s not too far. If you live across country, however, you’re at the mercy of the airlines. Figure out how much it costs to fly between school and home and factor that into your college budget. Fees No matter what you major in you’ll undoubtedly have hidden equipment costs for some of the classes you take. For example, science lab fees, music practice room fees, art class supply fees, etc. Plus, if you join professional groups or the Greek system you’ll have membership dues. The solution? There isn’t one. You need these classes and organizations to graduate so you’ll just have to suck it up. Just be sure to include a line item in your college budget for class fees and professional dues. Check your course catalogue ahead of time to get an idea of how much you should budget for it. Handling on your college finances is a great way to prepare for the real world. It’s a misconception that the big bucks start rolling in as soon as you graduate. But if you do land a lucrative job right out of college just think how fast your nest egg will grow with all those years of smart college money management under your belt. Do you know of a college budget line item that is often overlooked? Share it with our readers by leaving a comment. We’d love to hear about it.