Are you the parent of a first-year college student? One of the many mysteries of college, especially freshman year, is what being there is actually going to cost. In addition to tuition, you may be wondering what expenses your freshmen will face in the first semester or the first full year of college. In this blog, we’ll cover some of the questions you have been thinking about and get you and your student thinking about what to expect during the first year of college.

Starting Out

Typical start-up costs include a lot of different things, but a good place to start is school supplies—consider the following:

Consider these purchases if you’re moving into a dorm or apartment for the first time:


Your student may have some things already, like a laptop or bedding. Items you already own can reduce the cost of pre-school shopping. It’s always great to avoid buying something that you’ll only need for a year or two. To help make the initial cost a little easier, it’s wise to focus on the essentials first and then build up to the “nice to have” items as you go. That way, you’ll have enough to get started but won’t be stuck with the bill for everything at once.

Calculate the price tag and create an expense list for a year at college.
Everyday Costs

Heads up: You might be amazed at how fast cash can disappear when college students have never lived on their own before. The sheer amount of things that one is suddenly responsible to pay for can be overwhelming. Making a budget will help your student spend their money mindfully. Consider working on a budget together by splitting income into three sections: needs, wants, and savings.

A need includes the everyday or vital things that are needed to survive like food, utilities, toiletries, and laundry. Wants are the other things that can make college life fun but can be cut in a pinch. Things like event tickets, eating out, and other entertainment options often fall in this category. Finally, it’s wise to dedicate part of the budget to an emergency fund and long-term savings every month.

Being aware of how money is being spent can raise awareness to save and ensure money is available when needed.

Let’s create a budget!
Coordinating with Roommates

Colleges often give new roommates each other’s contact information before school starts. If you and your student have the chance, get in touch and figure out how you can share expenses—and avoid duplicating efforts. That can help you avoid having two mini-fridges and no coffee maker.

Messy Money Moments

A note to college students: You splurged and bought a new microwave for your dorm room. But when you show up with your things on the first day, turns out you’re actually not allowed to have a microwave in your room. And, you didn’t keep the receipt, so there’s no way to return it and get your money back.

Receipts may seem like a waste of time—another scrap of paper in your pocket or another email clogging up your inbox. But it’s important to keep all your receipts for new stuff until you’re fully moved in and know what you’ll really need. Otherwise, you’ve spent part of your precious budget on things you can’t use.

Unavoidable Costs

Some costs are fixed by the contracts your student will sign—like phone agreement or rent. It works in your student’s favor that these costs are the same amount every month because they can be included in the budget. But if they are not paid in full, your student can eventually find themselves without a phone, or much worse, with no place to stay.

There are often ways to reduce fixed costs. For example, staying on the family’s phone plan may be cheaper than having a separate account, provided the service is good in both locations. Adding another roommate will reduce rent (though it might be a little crowded).

Other costs are variable and change from month to month. There’s a little more flexibility with these costs—like food and clothing—since students can always cut back if running short of cash. One solid way to reduce costs is to get serious about sustainability. Refilling a water bottle is cheaper than buying bottled water and way better for the environment.

Being a college student often requires working on a tight budget, but thoughtful budgeting choices can make it much easier to cover expenses and enjoy this unforgettable experience.

Setting up a savings account

Are you new to Movement Bank and looking for a low-cost savings account with premium advantages your college student can enjoy with no hassle? Our savings plans are excellent for students to save money they receive from their on-campus income, part-time jobs, and refund checks. 

Not only can you open a Movement Bank Savings Account with as little as $10, but your student can also use their savings account to make up to six monthly withdrawals if emergencies arise and incur no ATM fees anywhere in the US.

Learn about all the extras that come with our savings accounts on our site.