Think college is expensive? Try high school Senior year

Don't Waste Your Money

Now that the kids are starting to head back to school, you may think a couple of hundred dollars will pay for their school needs this year.

Not so fast. High school is more expensive than ever, especially if your little baby is now a senior.

If you have a son or daughter in high school, you're probably saving up for college -- and getting nervous about those big bills on the way. You may not realize those big bills start the year before college, when your child is a high school senior.

The $5,000 senior year

College bound high school student?

You could shell out $5,000 to $10,000 during senior year, according to a study by the Newark New Jersey Star Ledger:

  • Yearbooks: For starters, the traditional high school yearbook now costs $30 to $150.
  • Photos: Senior pictures for that yearbook and mom's bookshelf cost from $40 to as much as $500.
  • Test prep: SAT and ACT test prep classes or online courses can cost between $300 to $1,000.
  • Standard tests: Testing fees range from $35 to $400. Just the SAT? You're lucky. If your child takes AP tests, it will be closer to the $400 mark.
  • Applications: Then expect to pay $200 to $600 for college applications at $75 per school, since the average senior applies to four colleges. Some private schools cost well over $100 just for applying.
  • Road trips: Visits to those colleges? As much $1,500. This does not include fun road trips (see spring break below).

Doesn't that stink?

From the "doesn't that stink" file comes the rising costs of all those senior year social activities:

  • Senior events: $50 to $100. This is for just the little get-togethers, not prom.
  • School ring: $150 to $500. Sorry mom and dad, rings are no longer $50 as they were when you were in school.
  • Prom: We can't forget prom. Essential to many students, costs range from $500 to $3,000. It depends how much that dress is, along with the shoes, hair appointments, mani/pedi and more. It depends how much you're willing to spend. Your costs could probably be a bit lower.

But we haven't even touched on spring break! If your little baby insists on a spring break trip to Cancun, all bets are off. Add another $1,000 or more.

Parents with kids in sports know the cost of all the travel to games. That factor, at least, is not a surprise by senior year.

  • Car: Finally, if you buying them a used car, plan on at least $8,000 to $10,000 to get anything with 2017's expected safety features, such as stability control and side air bags. (Sure, you can go buy them a 1995 Saturn for $1,500, but do you really want them driving that?)

One way to avoid senior year surprises is to talk with your child about costs in advance. Let them know that if they want certain things, like class rings, they may have to contribute.

That way you don't waste your money, and you -- and your child -- can enjoy senior year.

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