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Inflation is hitting college student budgets hard

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If someone in your family is heading back to college this fall, it is not just the rising tuition they have to deal with this year. Just about everything they need to buy is up in price too.

Abby Hecht and Emily Badgely are looking at some major expenses.

“A new laptop for sure,” the two college freshmen said. “That cost a couple of grand!”

That’s in addition to tuition rising at many schools by 3%-5%, according to Money.com. Most colleges held off on tuition hikes for two years during the pandemic.

Apartment rent is up 10 percent or more in many college towns, just like everywhere else this year.

What parents and students can do

Mark Drozdowski writes for BestColleges.com and understands college expenses. He has three kids going to college this fall.

“I used to think that diapers were expensive,” he said. “If it was only that simple these days.”

His advice is, don’t rule out on-campus living options:

“Living on campus means cutting down on commuting costs, saving gas and you save on utilities as well compared to an apartment,” he said.

When it comes to food, Drozdowski tells his kids to:

  • Cook in their apartment as much as possible.
  • Cut down on takeout to avoid delivery fees.

His other cost-saving ideas:

  • Rent textbooks or shop for them on book exchange sites.
  • Shop secondhand stores as much as possible.
  • Wait until Black Friday to buy a laptop or phone.

And, he says, always look for scholarship opportunities, as new ones come out every year.

“Even some of these smaller scholarships can really make a difference for some students,” he said.

In addition, check for tax credits students may qualify for, according to a recent report on CNBC.com.

Financial experts say parents need to step back a bit and let their college-age children try to figure out their finances because now is the time for students to practice living on a budget.

“It gets you in the habit of keeping track of your money, making sure you know where it’s going,” Drozdowski said, “and most importantly avoiding building up too much credit card debt.”

So do your financial homework — along with your actual homework — so you don’t waste your money.

About the Author

John Matarese

John's goal is to help as many TV viewers as possible save money, avoid bad deals, know a rip-off when one comes their way, and be educated consumers. His informative weekly consumer segment "Don't Waste Your Money" now airs on 45 TV stations from San Diego to Tampa to Houston and Cincinnati. More.

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