It can be difficult to figure out exactly how much college will cost. Tuition can change from semester to semester, and beyond that, there’s also the cost of housing, meal cards, textbooks, student fees, and more. For most students, money is tight – so when unexpected college costs arise, your whole financial plan can fall apart.

Check out these tips for how to prepare for unexpected expenses in college:

Create a Realistic Budget

When you’re off to college for the first time, it can be hard to determine exactly how much everything will cost. Beyond the basic college costs, like tuition and housing, you also have expenses that can change from month to month, such as food, utility bills, and transportation. Sit down with family or friends to get a baseline for how much these expenses can cost, and add them to your budget. To keep from going overboard, set a budget for how much you can spend each month on fun things, like eating out or shopping – and most importantly, make sure you stick to it!

Do Your Research Before Declaring a Major

You might think that because you’re already paying tuition, all courses will cost the same – but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some college courses cost more than others, which means some majors can end up costing you a lot more by the time you graduate. If you’re not sure what you want to major in, comparing costs could help you decide.

Consider a Part-Time Job

Part-time jobs are a great way to earn extra money in college. As long as it won’t interfere with school, take a look around to see if anywhere around campus is hiring! If you can find a job in an industry you’re interested in, it could be a great opportunity to get some experience, too.

Rent or Buy Used Textbooks

The cost of college textbooks can be overwhelming, and because each class requires different ones, the cost can vary each semester. Before you buy new ones, make sure to see if you can rent or buy a used version of the textbook you need. Downloading a book online may be another option to cut costs. If textbook versions vary between new and used, ask your professor if you need a specific version. If you can get away with using a slightly older version for a better price, take advantage!

Ask for Advice

During the college planning process, make time to talk with your parents and have them help you put together a budget. Whether or not your family is helping to pay for college, they can guide you in the right direction on how to build a budget, restrict spending, and set aside money for unexpected costs.

Staying prepared is one of the best ways to handle unexpected expenses. Sometimes, financial aid and federal student loans aren’t enough to cover the full cost of college, and private student loans might be the best option for you.