What students actually spend: What you can learn from the weekly budgets of 6 college students

Female student sits on steps and looks over her budget on a laptop.

We asked students around the country to give us a peek at their weekly spending. Here’s what we learned about their habits — and how they feel about their finances.

As a college student, you certainly already keep an eye on the major expenses associated with your education — tuition, fees, and the like. But are you tracking the impacts of your day-to-day expenses?

We asked a sample of students — from those in their first year of college to those in their last, and from East Coast to West — to track and report their purchases and payments for an average midsemester week. Here, we highlight six students in particular to show where their money went, how they feel about their financial situations, and what you can learn as a result.

Average weekly expenses

Illustrated infographic of student weekly budget

 

Measuring confidence: How students responded when asked, “How do you feel about your financial situation?”

Illustrated infographic that measures students' confidence about money.

Student-by-student spending*

Dollar amounts highlight top three spending categories; not all students reported spending in every category.

Illustrated infographic of student-by-student weekly spending.

The impact of a part-time job

Dollar amounts highlight top three spending categories; not all students reported spending in every category.

Illustrated infographic that shows the impact of a part-time job on a student budget.Each of the survey respondents has a job, though some students are part of work-study programs while others have part-time jobs outside of school. Among these students, those with part-time jobs seem to spend more overall.

Remember the adage: “Pay yourself first.” Once you’ve created a budget, you’ll know how much of each paycheck should go to savings. Make those savings a priority over nonessential items to set yourself up for future success.

Visual representation of student spending categories.

The impact of on-campus vs. off-campus living

Dollar amounts highlight top three spending categories.

Illustrated graphic of the impact of on-campus vs. off-campus living on a student budget.In our survey, students who live off campus spend more per week than their on-campus counterparts (even though our on-campus numbers are skewed by some heavy spending on clothing).

Keep these costs in mind when contemplating a change in your living situation.
Visual representation of student spending categories.

Spending on food

Illustrated infographic of amount of money students budget for food in a school year.Nearly two thirds of students’ food spending is on eating out—meaning, not groceries or food that’s part of a meal plan.

Remember, this might not be cost-effective. To see how much you really need to spend, track not just how much you spend on food, but how many days of food that spending provides you.

Spending and financial confidence

Dollar amounts highlight top three spending categories.

Illustrated infographic of spending and financial confidence in regards to college students.The students who are most confident in their financial situation spend less than half that of those who are least confident in their situation.

Knowing your budget, and sticking to it, can help you stay in control of your finances—especially with discretionary spending on items like clothes, eating out, and “non-essential” purchases.

Visual representation of student spending categories.

* Names have been changed to protect students’ privacy.

Where do you spend most of your money each week?

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