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Back To School? Back To The Piggy Bank

So if you add up all the college costs that students and parents probably didn’t plan for — the stuff that isn’t tuition and room and board — how big is that number? The National Retail Federation estimates that, this year, it will total $43 billion.

That’s a hard number to grasp, so let’s break it down to one family — mine. With our daughter now beginning her fourth and hopefully final year in college, here’s one thing I’ve learned: No matter how much you plan to spend, it won’t cover everything. Not even close.

And just to make sure I’m not way off, I checked in with Jim Chilton, a family financial adviser who helps parents plan for these costs. The obvious one, that’s often jaw-dropping: textbooks. Depending on your child’s major, they can be super expensive.