How Much Money Does the Average College Student Have? (Trustworthy Insights into College Spending Habits)

How much money does the average college student have? And is it enough to cover all of the expenses during those four years? With college costs rising in the past year, it’s becoming more and more difficult to save money for college and predict any of the potential expenses during that time. That’s why we’re bringing you all the estimates on typical earnings, costs, and savings of college students to make planning a bit easier!

How Much Money Does a College Student Need per Month?

College costs have risen by 28% for public universities and 19% for private institutions. Thus, numbers from research conducted several years ago won’t help you understand your potential costs. Still, with proper calculation, it’s not impossible to estimate your expenses during those four college years.

1. How Much Money Do You Need for College?

The amount of money a student needs for college varies tremendously in different states and colleges. According to the latest available data, a typical student spends about $200 each month on non-essential expenses during a school year. This amount does not include tuition, books and supplies, transportation, and room and board. 

The rising expenses of studying come with one question: How much money should a student have for a carefree college experience? That question is extremely difficult to answer, due to ever-changing costs and the difference in prices in each city. Thus, the smartest thing to do is to research college costs for the state you’ll be studying in and for your particular university. Then, you should try to save at least six months’ worth of expenses before trying to find a job or a method that would help you generate a passive income during your studies.

2. What Do College Students Spend Money On?

College student spending varies depending on a student’s budget and lifestyle. Still, every student spends money on school fees and books. In addition, room and board are typical expenses of an average college student. Those living on campus and eating in the cafeteria usually have lower costs of living than students living in an apartment and finding food on their own. 

For the average college student budget, one should also take into account back-to-school items needed each year, especially after the first two years of studying. You might have to buy a new backpack or electronic equipment by the time you reach your junior year. All of these are costs most people would call essential.

When it comes to non-essential expenses, the average personal expenses for college students are the highest for eating out. Buying beauty products and visiting a salon are a regular expense for two-thirds of college students. Furthermore, clothes are a common expense for 70% of students. Live events, parties, and music present frequent non-essential costs, alongside fitness and gym activities. Alcohol is another thing students spend money on, with a typical student spending from $600 to $900 a year on liquor.

3. How Much Does a College Student Spend on Food?

A typical campus meal plan sits at $563 a month. This figure varies in different colleges and is not the same in each state. Therefore, it’s wise to get informed about meal plans for the college you’ll be going to. What’s more, on average, students spend $341 every month on off-campus meals. Once typical college-student eating habits are taken into account, an average student spends $206 a month for at-home eating.

A typical college student budget for vegan students is a bit lower. The average spending amounts to $200 monthly when a person eats only at home. A more liberal vegan meal plan typically sits at $257.

Groceries are another common expense. An average monthly grocery bill varies from state to state. It can go from $87, which is an average for New Hampshire, to $461, which is a typical bill for Hawaii. Other expensive states are New York, West Virginia, Alaska, and Mississippi.

4. How Much Does a College Student Spend a Month?

As we mentioned, a typical college student spends around $200 a month on general expenses. For the academic year of 2021–2022, an average student would have spent a total of $27,330 for a public four-year university. 

On the other hand, typical expenses for a private four-year student sat at $55,800. These expenses include tuition, room and board, transportation, books and supplies, and additional expenses.

5. How Much Money Should I Save for College Spending?

We’ve already provided you with some advice on how much to save for college spending. You also have a better picture of your potential spending that will allow you to calculate how much to save. Most experts recommend having a six-month worth of expenses in your savings to allow you to get used to your studies before you start working during college.

Before you decide on an ideal sum, you should do thorough research on typical student costs in the state you’ll live in, as well as fees and tuition required for your university of choice. You should deduct any scholarships or reductions you were offered.

In addition, when calculating the average spending money for college students, you should consider the option of paying for tuition and other higher fees in installments. The majority of larger expenses are often divided into installments. Thus, you won’t have to come up with one big lump sum. In general, these costs can be paid from your past income, which is usually in the form of savings, as well as your current income and your future earnings, which also include loans.

6. How Much Does the Average High School Student Make a Year?

It’s difficult to get the exact amount of money an average high school student makes a year. That’s because the majority of students are not official employees and usually opt for part-time and freelance positions.

Still, the official data for the United States shows that the median annual earnings of someone who doesn’t have a high school diploma sit at $30,784. The median weekly salary for those without a high school diploma is $592. Those who still need time away from work for finishing high school and are not able to commit to a full-time position earn even less.

The median annual earnings for a person with some college experience but without a degree sit at $43,316. The median weekly salary for people with these qualifications amounts to $833. On average, a high school graduate earns 48% of a typical college graduate’s wage.

It’s important to note that the above statistics refer to employees who don’t possess the particular diploma, and not necessarily teens. According to ZipRecruiter, US teens can earn an average of $734 a week, or $38,196 a year. The highest-paying teen jobs are offered in the cities of Barnstable Town, Massachusetts, and Sunnyvale, California, where teens earn around 20% above the national average. Students looking to save for college quickly can seek employment as a Teen Data Engineer or a Teen Data Scientist, positions that bring more than $100,000 per year.

And how much does a college student make a month? A 2015–2016 study conducted by College Affordability showed that full-time college students who receive some support from guardians earn around $3,900 per year from part-time employment, or $325 per month. In comparison, fully independent students were shown to earn $13,880 annually.


While college graduates have much better starting salaries than those without a degree, students have a really hard time financing their college experience while studying. College student salaries are usually minimum wage, and it’s almost impossible for them to sustain themselves on their own while studying full-time.

Luckily, there are ways to make this process a bit easier. With the help of scholarships, loans, savings, and earning extra money on the side, a typical student can survive college. That, however, requires a lot of planning. Hopefully, you now have all the info on potential expenses to take into account when saving for a care-free college experience!


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