Okay, so everyone anticipates university being expensive. Tuition costs can be found online, and you can also look up how much it’ll cost to live on or near campus. Of course, you’ll still have to mortgage your iPod and maybe set up a payment plan on your liver, but there’s comfort in knowing how much you have to pay. In fact, the costs associated with university are generally set, or slightly variable under your control—your phone plan, food, rent, are all chosen by you, at least to a degree. Your tuition, gym membership etc. are set, and also invariable, so they can be planned for.
This leaves the big unknown, the real outlier, the forever elusive… textbook costs. Sometimes, a class will have a course materials pack costing $20 flat (though there are the hidden costs of the copy store potentially being swarmed by cops and “busted”). Other times there will be a textbook for $175, or a whole bunch of books (and the prof always says the specific editions matter…) for a cumulative $250.
All totaled, textbooks can cost as much as $1000 in a given semester, or as little as $250, in my experience, and their prices are completely out of your control.
EXCEPT! Oh, happy day! As in all things money-related the market has worked its magic and ways to save money (with additional costs in the form of time, travel and inconvenience, unfortunately) have appeared over the years.