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There are three obvious expense categories when considering college: tuition and fees, room and board, and books and supplies. You’ve got to budget for them as you consider the cost of a college degree.

Currently, more than 44 million former college students in America owe more than $1.5 trillion in educational debt. And it’s not just because of the big three areas noted above. Smaller and unexpected costs will happen – and they’ll add up over the course of four years.

The “Real” Cost of Living

Often, this is the first time that a young person moves out on their own. You’ll budget for larger and obvious expenses associated with being independent, such as rent and food. But there’s a multitude of much smaller daily expenses that will add up. We take them for granted when we live at home. But they become our responsibility when we’re away at college. These expenses range from things like paper towels and toilet paper to shampoo and soap.

It’s crucial to take a comprehensive approach to determine the actual cost of living on your own. One way is to keep a journal for a week or two that records everything you use or consume throughout the day. You’ll soon realize how these smaller expenses add up and contribute to the true cost of living away from home.

Social Activities

College is more than education. It’s a highly social experience, which is far from free.. You might have budgeted for this, but you may find it’s not enough. Now you have a choice. Do you stick to your budget or do you spend more on social activities?

The answer depends on your access to more money. Is it available or will you have to take on an after-school job?

Travel

This doesn’t mean study abroad travel. What students and parents often forget to consider is the cost associated with traveling back home during holidays and college breaks. Will you need access to a storage unit during your college years? If so, that’s another expense that can add up to a considerable amount.

Having a car isn’t always the answer, either. Finance website NerdWallet reports that expenses like insurance, parking, gas and more can drive the cost of car ownership to nearly $9,000 each year at college.

Keeping it Affordable

Some costs associated with a post-high school education can’t be avoided. That’s why a growing number of students have begun to explore the career opportunities offered in the trades as a plumber, electrician or HVAC technician. To learn more about these industries, check out Explore The Trades.