How do college students spend their money?

College life is said to be one of the best times of a student’s life. However, college comes when a student is somehow dependent on their parents while being a financially independent adult. Although college means more freedom for students, most of them are still getting allowances from their parents. Research also shows that most undergraduate college students’ primary income is their parents, with part-time jobs coming in a close second.

On a national scale, college students have an average spending power of $417 billion. This clearly shows that college students have money to spend. A study also shows that college students spend at least $60 billion a year on basic requirements. This includes everything from dorm essentials and school supplies to alcohol and other entertainment.

Where are college students spending their money?

The following is a breakdown on how college students spend their money:

‚óŹ     Hostels and Board

According to college data, the average cost for living in a dorm is $10,440 for a public college and $11,890 for a private college. This also depends on whether it is a 2-year or 4-year college. The former tends to be cheaper. Off-campus hostels can be convenient but they’re more expensive.

‚óŹ     Essential Books and course materials

College textbooks and course materials vary in price but can be costly, depending on the degree. During the 2019-2020 academic school year, college stores reported that students spent an average of $415 each on required course material. This includes both used and new books.

‚óŹ     Non-essentials

According to a study done by, college kids spend $27 billion on non-essential items. This includes anything other than tuition, school supplies, and course materials. These non essentials include: restaurants. fashion, electronics, live music, media, gym and fitness. The following are the most frequent ways college students spend their money:

‚óŹ     Clothes

Whether college students are looking to buy a new date-night outfit or a trendy pair of shoes, new clothing is a popular way to spend money. Students pay $5 billion a year on clothes and shoes.

‚óŹ     Alcohol

Well, college students and partying are like two peas in a pod. This ideally applies to college students who are old enough to drink legally. But even so, students have no shortage of cash to spend on liquor stores and bartenders. College students spend $5.5 billion a year only on alcohol.

‚óŹ     Snacks and drinks

Those late-night midnight snacks, daily pick-me-up sodas and morning coffees add up to $1 billion a year that college students spend on snacks and drinks.

‚óŹ     Entertainment

This is another significant expense for college students. It involves both going out and relaxing at home. Students spend nearly $3 billion on movies, DVDs, music and  video games.They also pay $474 million on music sales, $658 million on theatre tickets, and $341 million on video games each year.

‚óŹ     Personal care

College students spend at least $4 billion a year on personal care products. This includes makeup, toiletries, and more.

Other types of spending include buying college essays, subscriptions and car rentals.

In conclusion, being a college student is quite expensive. To survive college, students should learn smart money-saving and spending habits as early as possible.

Author information

Andrew Locke is a writer and blogger who focuses on helping students have an easy time during their college days. His writing is mostly from his own experiences and hopes to inspire college students through this. He is an avid contributor of the Bright Writers blog.

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