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College: How much money do you think you need for your first year?

Most likely, being that you are headed off to school in a week or so, your tuition, room and board, possibly a new computer, books, and transportation have all been paid for. So how much additional money do you think is needed to survive your first semester, or furthermore, your first year?

As it turns out, you might need a significant amount extra for things like toiletries, printer cartridges, furnishings for your dorm room, school supplies, entertainment, and food outside of your dining hall. Whether your parents are helping you out with your finances, or you have a part-time job, this is a great opportunity to learn how to budget your money.

You may want to begin by discussing with your parents, or deciding for yourself, how much is needed on a weekly and monthly basis. Your first month or so of school is an ideal time to experiment with this. That way, once you realistically decide how much you need to comfortably get by, you can budget accordingly. Using AIE's in-school budget worksheet (www.aie.org/College/Calculators/budgetworksheetinschool.cfm), you can get a realistic look at your semester and monthly financial picture.

On average, schools estimate that you can expect, and figure into your budget, an estimated cost of $500 per semester for books alone, and an additional $1,000 to $2,000 for other personal expenses¬Ě on average, for the year. You will most likely need to open a checking account for your basic needs if you don't already have one, as well. If you do decide to get a credit card, it's best to get in the habit of using it responsibly, and only for emergencies, so that you don't let your spending get out of control and incur any debt.

Source: WSJ.com | The Wall Street Journal & www.aie.org