Personal Expenses and Money Tips: Undergraduate Students

This page is a resource to help undergraduate students understand their estimated out-of-pocket expenses, best practices for buying books for less, how earning Work-Study can help you pay for your expenses, and learn other money-saving tips from current Jumbos. Please select from the menu to learn more about each category.

Another great resource for students is the FIRST Resource Center. They can provide financial resources to help with a variety of additional costs beyond what Financial Aid may be able to assist with. Please visit their website to learn more about the things they can help with and their criteria for offering assistance.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Out-of-pocket expenses are listed in the Total College Budget on your award letter. These expenses are known as indirect costs because they are not charged on the bill, but we estimate they will be incurred by each student over the course of the year.

The standard out-of-pocket expenses in the budget are books, supplies, travel costs for getting to campus and returning home for breaks (for students who live in states farther away from Massachusetts, or abroad), and personal expenses including but not limited to: toiletries, local travel, winter coats for those from warmer climates, bedding for dorms, furniture and kitchen supplies for people who live off campus, etc.

While these estimated expenses are accounted for in the cost of attendance when your financial aid award is calculated, cash is not given to students to pay them, hence they must be paid for out of pocket. Your actual costs may vary from our estimate based on your personal needs and habits.

If your aid and other resources credited to your bill happen to exceed your total charges, you can request a refund when classes begin, and use the funds to help cover your personal expenses over the course of the semester. Otherwise, you should plan to use money from summer earnings or savings or earn money during the semester to help pay for your out-of-pocket expenses.

Buying Books

The most important out of pocket cost to consider when you reach campus is buying books. It is critical to have funds on hand to purchase books at start of semester, and the recommended amount is about $500. If you have questions or concerns about buying books at the beginning of the year, be sure to reach out to your financial aid counselor as soon as possible to learn what options are available to you.

Most importantly, if you are having an issue with paying for books it’s important you talk to someone as soon as possible. There are resources to help cut costs and get books for less on our Money Saving Tips for Students page. These tips were provided by current Jumbos who have been through the process before. Your Orientation peer leaders or other current students you know can also direct you to the most up-to-date tips and resources. The FIRST Resource Center has resources to help students obtain books as well.

Earning Work Study

One way to help pay for personal expenses is to earn money by working on campus during the academic year. If you were awarded work study as part of your aid package, you can find a job at the start of the semester and receive a weekly paycheck you can use to purchase personal items. You will be paid based on the hours you work. You should be mindful to make sure work fits into your schedule, so you have enough time to focus on academics and your other activities. For more information on finding a job, visit our Student Employment page.

Money Saving Tips

Living on your own for the first time with a fixed budget and limited income is a challenge for most college students. At Tufts, there are many ways students can utilize campus resources and cost-saving measures to minimize spending and maximize their college experience. What better way to learn these tips than from current Jumbos? Please take a look at the following cost-saving tips from your fellow students.


Take advantage of your meal plan

Buying coffee and snacks can be very expensive. All first year undergraduate students have the Premium Meal Plan, which gives you access to the dining halls multiple times per day. The dining halls are open from early morning to 9 PM. If you have time, always take advantage of your meal plan before buying a snack at places like the Commons, Hotung or Tower. But, if you do end up at those spots frequently, check for a punch card to get a free coffee. Hodgdon also takes meal swipes and generally has the same food and pastries as the other cafes, so use your swipe there if you don't have time to go to a dining hall.

Buy snacks in bulk

You can buy snacks in bulk from grocery stores like bfresh in Davis Square, Star Market in Porter Square, or Stop & Shop on Alewife Brook Parkway. You'll pay a lot more for granola bars if you buy them individually instead of buying a box of them. You can also save by ordering snacks from Amazon. Or, if a family member is visiting, ask them to bring you snacks!

For Your Room

Ignore the big store lists

You'll need sheets and towels for sure. Don't buy every little thing recommended to college students by big-name stores. Depending on your living situation, there are many things on their lists that you may not need. Be aware that you can buy things you need after arriving at school. You can visit the Target in Porter Square, and you can always buy stuff online later and have it shipped to campus.

Buy stuff from other students

Check out Buy/Sell/Trade pages on Facebook page for Tufts students buying and selling items. You can get almost anything you want from a fellow student.

Skip renting the Microfridge

If you really need a fridge, it's much cheaper to buy it yourself and keep it for four years. Plus, you will be able to use it after college as well. A separate microwave is not allowed in your room, but you can just go to the kitchen down the hall. Check out Res Life room policies.

Getting Around

Get a Charlie Card to ride the T

If you will be riding the T (the Boston area's subway and bus service) more than once, instead of buying a one-trip CharlieTicket, you should get a CharlieCard, a hard, reusable pass.

A subway ride is $2.40. The Charlie Card stores value, so you can add $5 or $10 and use it for multiple trips without having to stop at the fare machine.

You can get a CharlieCard at many T stations, including Harvard and Park Street, and at the 7-Eleven right by the T station in Davis Square. Bus routes 80, 94, and 96 have stops on campus, and you can access the Red Line subway to Boston at Davis Square.

Ride the Tufts Shuttle

The Tufts Shuttle runs between the Campus Center and Davis Square, and it is always free. The schedule is online. Try to avoid cabs, and apps like Lyft and Uber as the T and Tufts Shuttle are easily accessible and more affordable.

Free Fun

Catch a movie or show

You can go to free movie screenings hosted by TUSC's Film Series or scope out the movie selection at the Tisch Library to save on movie tickets. Or check out the free dance or drama performances, acapella shows, and musical ensemble performances on campus. You can buy tickets online for some events. Keep in mind some ticket prices increase closer to the date of the show.

Visit museums and monuments

Your Tufts ID gets you free admission into the Museum of Fine Arts. You can walk the Freedom Trail that begins at Boston Common and ends at the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Google "free things to do in Boston" for more ideas.

Other Tips

Fight the flu for free

You can get a free flu shot at Health Service. This will cut down on the cost of cold medicine and cough drops when flue season arrives.

Save on printing and copying

You'll have $10 of JumboCash each year for copies, but after that you'll have to pay to print. Consider sharing a printer with a roommate or friend. Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Engineering students, or those who have an EECS account form taking an Engineering course can print in Halligan Hall for free.

Seek out the FIRST Resource Center

The FIRST Resource Center has a number of resources to help first and second year students.

Ask an upperclass student

Of course, there are many more ways to save money at Tufts, and these are just a few suggestions. Don't be afraid to ask upperclass student where you can find good deals, or about other little tricks to save money on or around campus.