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How much does the average college student spend on living expenses?

December 09, 2018

It’s straightforward to find information about college tuition and room and board. But, what about the other expenses that you need to consider?

Average Fixed Expenses for College Student

First let’s begin by making sense of fixed expenses, which include things like tuition, fees, and room and board as well as other bills you may have. Fixed expenses are those that are mandatory and not likely to change on a month-to-month basis.


Tuition Varies by school
Fees Varies by school
On-campus Housing Varies by school


Read about the average tuition, fees, room and board for different types of schools here.

If you will be living off-campus, you will need to budget for rent and utilities of your off-campus dwelling. The average costs of these will vary greatly by area, so we have listed some sites with information below. An average price for a cable and internet package is $65 per month. We multiplied that by 9 months to figure out your school-year cable and internet budget.


Off-Campus Housing Varies by area; averages can be found here: Fair Market Rental Data
Utilities Varies by area; averages can be found here: Utility Companies & Rates
Cable & Internet Bundle $585


When it comes to other mandatory fixed expenses associated with moving out and attending school, here are a few expenses that are sometimes forgotten. Regardless of whether you are living on-campus or off-campus, these are very important additional college expenses to consider. Keep in mind that many cell phone carriers may offer college-related or student discounts. In addition, remember that health insurance (if you do not already have it) will sometimes be itemized on your tuition bill. (Read more about college student health insurance here.)


Cell Phone $495
Health Insurance $1500-$2500
Credit Card Debt Varies
Other Debt Varies


Average Variable Expenses for College Student

Now let’s move onto the variable expenses. These variable expense costs are not necessarily mandatory, but you should expect to budget for them if you choose to maintain a certain lifestyle or participate in particular activities such as sports, hobbies, or visiting home.

It is important to remember that variable expenses may change from month-to-month, so based on our research, we’ve taken average monthly costs multiplied by 9 calendar months (or a regular school year). You may have additional line-items or omit some of these from your budget if they don’t pertain to you or your situation. This is why this portion of the budget is called “variable”, and should stay fluid and flexible, based on your personal circumstances.   


Meal Plan


(Be sure to budget for additional food as well)

Travel This cost will vary based on the distance traveled. The average first-time college student takes 2 trips home per year.
Clothes/Weather-related expenses $550



Food Varies
Textbooks and Supplies $1200
Transportation $1170
Laundry $360


If you choose to have a car while at school, don’t forget to budget for the following line-items. Depending upon where you go to school, there may be parking fees, parking passes, or public parking. Figuring all of this out in advance will help to navigate this budgeting expense.


Car Payments Varies
Car Expenses (Oil Changes/Repairs, Maintenance) Varies
Parking Varies
Gas/Car Insurance




Your social life will depend solely on your personality, plans and recreational preferences. The final expenses you will have to consider carefully and may have to adjust depending upon your budget and personal circumstances. Think about and allocate what you think you will spend in one school year.


Clubs/Sports/Greek Life $800+
Entertainment/Social Activities



Gifts $225 average ($25x9 months)
Personal products/ salon services



($30x9 months)

Miscellaneous /Emergency   $900 average


If you’ve come this far in your research, you’re doing your homework - and that’s the first step towards making a financial plan and achieving your financial goals. Get a budget template from Edmit, pre-filled with these averages, here!