An education is an investment in your future, but it can be expensive in the short term. The sooner you start working out a budget, the easier it will be along the way.

The cost of your education is the total amount it will cost you to go to school. However, this amount isn’t the same for everyone–even at the same school.

To get an idea about what your expenses will be, use Citibank’s Budget Calculator to create a budget.

The cost of your education, for purposes of federal lending programs, is determined by the Financial Aid Office at your school. Following federal guidelines, they take into account tuition and fees, on-campus room and board (or a housing and food allowance for off-campus students), books and supplies, transportation and miscellaneous expenses such as laundry, entertainment and childcare. Your actual expenses may be higher or lower depending upon actual costs.

Any aid you receive is subtracted from the estimated cost of your education, leaving you responsible for the difference.

Certain costs are not flexible (i.e., tuition and fees), while others are (i.e., supplies and laundry), and only you know how much money you’ll need for each item.

As a result, it’s a good idea to create a budget before the school year to see how much money you’ll need to cover your personal expenses, and how that number differs from the estimate provided by your Financial Aid Advisor.

When you’re determining your budget, you should keep the following college costs in mind. In addition, we have provided some cost saving tips to help you.

Tuition and Fees

This is usually a fixed cost determined by the number of credit hours you will take. Talk with the Financial Aid Office at your school to see if you are eligible for other types of financial aid.

Books and Supplies

Look for used books rather than new ones and paperbacks instead of hardcovers. Also, check with the library to see if the books you need can be borrowed.

Room or Rent, Food and Utilities

Compare. One meal plan might be more economical than another. It may be less expensive to live in a dorm than with roommates in an apartment. At some schools, first-year students are required to live in on-campus housing. Check with your school to determine what room and board options are available to you. Your Financial Aid Office will determine the types and amount of aid you will receive from various sources.


Most on-campus students can save money by walking to class. During breaks and holidays, take the bus instead of flying, or check “ride-boards” at your school and carpool with people who live near your hometown. Some schools have ride-board listings at their Web sites.

Medical/Dental/Child Care

Review any existing coverage that you or your parents may have before paying for the insurance provided by your school. If you have child-care concerns, check with your school to see if discounted day-care services are available.


Set aside a reasonable amount of money for miscellaneous expenses. Use credit cards sensibly. On-campus entertainment is usually less expensive than off-campus entertainment. 

Be sure to get an idea of your expenses with Citibank’s Budget Calculator. To save your work, you must first register in My Files. While you’re online with us, you’ll only have to enter your information once, and your budget figures will be available to other calculators.