How Much Does a College Student Need Per Month

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If you’re heading off to college, you might be wondering how much does a college student need per month, money-wise, to meet their typical expenses.

It depends on a few factors such as where you are living, on-campus or off, if you have a meal plan, and even what your major is.

(You can read how I got myself drowning in debt here and how I got out of it here and here.)

Students Living On Campus with a Meal Plan

If you’re a student living on campus with a meal plan then all of your major expenses are already covered including food and a roof over your head.

You will still need additional money to cover expenses such as:

  • Entertainment
  • Meals out
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Misc expenses
  • School supplies

These expenses assume that your textbooks have already been paid for. The additional school supplies shouldn’t be too much per month, but that will depend on your major.

For students living on campus with a meal plan, a budget between $100 and $300 is the norm. The higher-end might be necessary depending on where you’re going to school. 

Some cities are just a lot more expensive even for everyday items.

Your Major Plays a Big Factor

If you’re an accounting major, like I was when I got my first degree, I didn’t need many supplies after the first few days of the term.

Paper and pencils got me by for the most part.

But what if you are in a creative major such as painting? Art supplies aren’t cheap and you use them pretty quickly so you need to buy more all year long.

This is true of majors such as theater, drafting, architecture, and any art degree. 

You will need to determine how much your beginning supplies cost and how long they will last and then take that times eight months of school.

In general, you should expect anywhere from an additional $50 to $100 per month needed to cover the cost.

Students Living Off-Campus

If you’re living off-campus as a student then you will have all of the normal expenses of anyone living in their own apartment or home.

This will dramatically increase your monthly budget needs.

You will need to add in expenses such as:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Cable
  • Internet
  • Transportation to campus
  • Entertainment / eating out

The good news is that you can offset some of these expenses by having roommates. It’s not uncommon for off-campus apartments to be set up for four roommates or even more.

If you can find three other people to share expenses with you will greatly reduce your overhead. Let’s go through all the expenses one at a time assuming you have three roommates.

Rent-this will depend greatly on what area of the country you are going to school in, but plan for at least $300 per month and up to $600 a month.

Utilities – this will also depend on where you are going to school. If you’re at a college up north, your heat bills can be very high in the winter. You can expect an average of $50 per month.

Food – you have a lot more control over your food bill. There are many ways to save money on groceries. You can find some here. So, you should be able to get your food bill down to $35 to $40 per week.

Cleaning Supplies and Misc Expenses – About $20 a month should be more than enough to handle cleaning supplies and any small miscellaneous expenses you might have.

Cable and Internet – Most cable and internet services run anywhere from $150 to $200 dollars per month. A fourth of that would be $37 to $50 dollars per month.

Transportation – If you live close enough to campus walking or riding a bike are both good and free options. If you live further away, and there are buses available, that’s the way to go.

Some colleges will give you a free bus pass to encourage you not to drive a car to campus. I know that’s how it was at Arizona State University. So, your expense could be as little as zero per month to $30 per month.

If you have your own car, then you would need to add in all of the expenses that come with owning a car into your budget.

Entertainment and Eating Out – College shouldn’t be just learning, you need time to relax, decompress, and have a little fun too. The nice thing about entertainment and eating out expenses is that you have complete control over them.

A good dollar amount to start with is $50 a month and then go from there.

The Totals:

Adding all this up, if you’re living off-campus in an apartment with three other roommates, you can expect your monthly expenses to average between $492 to $840 per month on the high side.

Here’s a good, free college monthly expense calculator that you can input your information in and get a good idea of what it will cost you monthly to go to college.

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Related questions:

How Much Spending Money Does a College Student Need Per Week?

A student living on campus is going to need an average of $25 to $50 per week to cover their expenses not related to housing and their meal plan.

A student living off-campus is going to need an average of $125 to $210 per week to cover their living expenses and all personal expenses not including tuition or textbooks.

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How Much Money Does a College Student Need Per Month for Food?

The typical college student will need between $140 and $200 dollars per month for food if you’re living off-campus. On-campus students can get buy with $15 to have a meal out once a week.

How Much Pocket Money Does a College Student Need?

$20 to $30 dollars a month should be plenty of pocket money for a student living on campus. If you happen to live in a very expensive city you might want to bump that up to $40 or even $50 dollars a week.

How Much Does the Average College Student Spend on Gas?

Most college students living on campus aren’t going to have a car, so they won’t be spending any money on gas.

For those that do have a car, you can expect to spend about $20 per week as long as you are only driving around town and not driving home every weekend.

When it comes to money, how much does a college student need per month really depends on if they are living on campus or off, what their major is, and whether or not they have roommates to share expenses with.

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