How Much Do College Students Spend A Month?

Managing finances is challenging for many college students. Understanding how much to budget for monthly expenses can be daunting. Let’s break down what college students spend monthly.

From tuition fees to food, housing, and entertainment, college students have a lot of expenses to cover each month. Understanding how much college students spend a month can help students better plan their budgets and manage their money effectively. 

This article will explore some factors that impact college students’ monthly expenses and provide some insights into the average costs associated with college life.

How Much Do College Students Spend A Month?

Types Of Expenses

College students face a variety of expenses each month, some of which are essential for their well-being and academic success. 

Tuition fees are the most significant expense for most college students. The cost of tuition varies depending on the college or university and the program of study.

Many college students live off-campus, and renting an apartment or sharing a house with roommates can be a significant expense. In addition to rent, students must pay for utilities such as electricity, gas, and water.

College students must purchase food and groceries to sustain themselves, which can be a significant monthly expense. Some students opt for meal plans offered by their college or university, while others prepare meals at home or eat out.

Moreover, students must purchase textbooks and supplies such as notebooks, pens, and calculators. Books can be particularly expensive, with some textbooks costing hundreds of dollars each.

Depending on the location of their college or university, some students may have to pay for transportation to get to and from class each day. This can include public transportation, ride-sharing services, or owning a car.

Lastly, they also have personal expenses such as clothing, toiletries, and entertainment. While these expenses may seem small, they can add up quickly.

Understanding these significant expenses can help college students budget effectively and plan for the future. By carefully considering each expense and finding ways to reduce costs, students can manage their finances and enjoy a successful college experience.


The cost of housing for college students can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the location, the type of housing, and whether the student lives on or off campus. 

According to College Board, the average cost of room and board for the 2020-2021 academic year was around $11,510 at public four-year institutions and $13,320 at private four-year institutions in the United States.

However, the actual cost of housing can be significantly higher or lower depending on the specific college or university, the location of the school, and the housing options available to the student. 

For example, living on-campus in a dormitory or shared apartment may be less expensive than renting a private apartment off-campus. But it may also be more restrictive in terms of space and privacy.

Furthermore, students attending college in urban areas with higher living costs may face higher housing expenses than those in rural areas. 

International and out-of-state students may also face higher housing costs due to additional travel expenses.

To manage housing costs, college students can explore alternative options, such as sharing a rental with roommates or living with family members, to reduce expenses. 

Additionally, students may be eligible for financial aid or scholarships to help cover housing costs.


The cost of textbooks can be a significant expense for college students. The amount varies depending on several factors, such as the course, the required material, and where the student purchases the books. 

According to a survey by College Board, the average cost of textbooks and supplies for college students was about $1,298 per year in the United States in the 2020-2021 academic year.

However, this cost can vary widely based on the courses the student takes. For example, some courses require expensive textbooks. Others require less expensive books or no textbooks at all. Additionally, some students may be able to find used or rental textbooks, which can significantly reduce the cost.

To save money on textbooks, college students can explore alternative options such as renting textbooks, buying used books, or using e-books. Some students may also share textbooks with classmates or look for free digital versions of the books online.

Overall, the cost of textbooks is vital for college students when budgeting for their academic expenses each semester.


The cost of tuition for college students can vary widely depending on the type of institution and the program of study. According to College Board, the average tuition and fees for the 2020-2021 academic year were around $10,560 at public four-year institutions for in-state students. And a whopping $37,650 at private nonprofit four-year institutions in the United States.

However, these are just average costs; the actual tuition cost can be higher or lower depending on the specific college or university. The state where the school is located and the student’s residency status also play a role. 

The major or area of study a college student chooses can significantly impact their monthly expenses. College students spend varying amounts on textbooks, supplies, and equipment depending on their major or program. 

For instance, science and engineering majors may need to spend more on expensive lab equipment, while fine arts majors may need to purchase costly art supplies. 

Furthermore, the demands of certain majors or programs may limit the time a student is available for part-time work, affecting their ability to supplement their income. 

Conversely, some majors or programs may offer better job prospects after graduation, which can positively impact a student’s earning potential and financial situation in the long term. 

Therefore, when planning for college expenses, students should consider the financial implications of their chosen major or area of study.

To manage tuition costs, college students can attend community college before transferring to a four-year institution. Or consider attending a less expensive college or university.

Food And Entertainment

College students spend a significant portion of their budget on food and entertainment each semester. The amount spent on food can vary depending on the student’s eating habits, meal plan, and access to cooking facilities. 

For instance, students who eat on campus with a meal plan or in-campus housing may have a set amount to spend on food. Alternatively, those who choose to cook for themselves may spend less. 

According to a survey by the College Investor, college students spend an average of $300-$500 monthly on food and groceries.

Entertainment expenses can also add up quickly for college students. These expenses include movie tickets, concerts, sporting events, and other social outings. 

Some students may also spend money on hobbies or activities like gym memberships or outdoor recreation. A survey by Student Loan Hero found that the average college student spends approximately $70-$80 per month on entertainment expenses.

Balancing Fun And Financials

College students face a delicate balancing act when balancing the cost of social activities with their monthly expenses. While social activities are essential to college life, they can also be expensive. Many students struggle to balance their desire to have fun and their financial constraints.

To manage their social expenses, college students must prioritize their spending and find ways to cut costs without sacrificing fun. For example, they may attend free or low-cost events on campus. They can take advantage of student discounts or split the cost of group activities with friends. 

College students can also look for creative ways to have fun without spending too much money, such as hosting a potluck dinner or having a game night.

It is also essential for college students to budget and track their spending carefully to ensure that they stay within their means. This includes keeping track of expenses related to social activities, such as eating out, going to movies, or attending concerts. By setting and sticking to a budget, college students can better manage their expenses and avoid overspending.

Overall, college students spend a significant amount of money on social activities each semester. Thus, finding ways to balance these expenses with their other financial responsibilities is crucial. By prioritizing their spending and using budgeting tools, college students can enjoy their social lives without breaking the bank.

How College Students Make Ends Meet

College students typically finance their living expenses through various sources, including personal savings, family contributions, part-time jobs, scholarships, grants, and loans. If you want to know some ways college students make money, check out my article@

Many students use financial aid programs offered by the government, such as federal loans, to pay for their tuition and living expenses. Part-time jobs on or off-campus can also help students cover some of their living expenses, such as rent, food, and transportation. 

Scholarships and grants can also provide students additional financial support to help cover their expenses. Some students may also rely on their personal savings or family contributions to finance their living expenses while attending college. 

Overall, the specific mix of financing sources each student uses depends on their financial situation, academic program, and personal circumstances.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, college students spend considerable money each month on various expenses, including tuition, textbooks, housing, food, entertainment, and other miscellaneous costs.

With the rising costs of education and the challenges of managing finances, while pursuing higher education, it is essential for college students to develop effective budgeting strategies and prioritize their spending.

By carefully managing their finances and being mindful of their expenses, college students can avoid financial stress and make the most of their college experience.

Understanding the costs associated with college can help students plan and make informed decisions about their education and financial future.

In short, college students spend a lot of money each month, but with careful planning and smart budgeting, they can successfully navigate the financial challenges of higher education.

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