Budgeting for College Students

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Whether you’re an incoming or current college student, being on your own for the first time can be both exciting and rewarding. It can also be expensive if you’re managing your own expenses.

“I’m a broke college student,” when asking relatives for additional funds or support can wear out over time. Plus, it might be a personal goal to manage some of your own finances, so you can begin to experience your own means of financial freedom.

Budgeting during your college years can be tricky, especially with the current price of tuition and room and board. You also must consider whether you’re going to live at home, on-campus, or off-campus. With so many factors, we have a college living arrangement calculator to help you decide which option will be best for you, as well as tips for renting an apartment for the first time.

If you’re living off-campus, you’ll want to create a budget to help manage your daily spending and monthly expenses. If you’re living on-campus, room and board are typically paid at the same time you pay tuition, so you may not have to worry about that as a monthly expense. If you’re living with your parents and not paying living expenses, your college budget may focus more on student life, but if your parents expect you to pay a monthly payment include that in your budget.

College Expenses to Expect

As you’re preparing to live on your own, it can be helpful to know what expenses to expect. To help cut down on surprise expenses, contact your school’s financial aid office and ask what the average costs of attendance (COA) may be or you can begin with a simple search on the school’s website.

Some might think that college expenses begin and end with tuition, but that’s not true. The COA typically includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies, and that doesn’t always include everything. You’ll also want to factor in expenses like:

  • Clothing
  • Healthcare
  • Technology (laptop, phone plan, etc.)
  • Food (not including on-campus dining)
  • Transportation costs (gas, maintenance, parking pass, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous fees (i.e. using a printer, vending machines, activity fees, etc.)

Also, there may be other expenses you may want to consider as you think more about your college aspirations, such as joining a fraternity or sorority, which can add up. For additional support, try contacting an existing student or your resident advisor (if you’re living on-campus), to find out what kind of fees are typical throughout the school year.

Make a list of expected expenses as well as their frequency (i.e. paid by the year, semester, quarter, monthly, one-time, etc.). Organize and total the final list and you’ll start seeing the real numbers for your expenses.

College Student Budget Example

Below is an example budget for a four-year in-state institution for someone living on-campus.

Expense Amount Cadence
1 of 4
Room and Board
2 of 4
Books and supplies
$1,240 (two semesters $2,480)
3 of 4
4 of 4

Student loans, grants, scholarships, and college savings (529) accounts can be used for the expenses listed above, but also consider that some books and supplies may only be covered if they’re purchased at the campus bookstore.

If you’re financing your higher education with student loans, the amount you get in loans may be more than the costs of tuition, room and board, and books. If that happens, you can either have the full amount paid out to you, which then you may be issued, what’s popularly known as, a refund check, or you can return that money to the lender. But keep in mind if you decide to get the full payout, the surplus borrowed money you keep will still have interest applied to it, so if you’re not using it to cover necessary expenses, it might be best to return it.

It might be helpful to ask your financial aid advisor or friends and family with experience receiving financial aid support what they would recommend.

Working in College

When you create a monthly budget, start with your income. Do you plan on working part-time or full-time while attending classes? Or, will you be working during the summers and not working during the school year? These are all important factors to consider as you build out a budget that will work for you.

After you’ve calculated your college expenses (tuition, room and board, etc.) and your anticipated income during the school year, you will need to figure out your regular living expenses. We mentioned this earlier, but our college budget calculator for living expenses can be a huge help for this step.

This is a lot of work, but after you’ve listed your income and expenses, you must subtract your expenses from your income and that’s how much money you have leftover. If you get a negative number, then that means you’re spending more than you make and your budget needs to be adjusted.

At this point, budgeting gets easier because Huntington offers online tools to help you track your spending.

Apply for a Student Checking Account

Student checking accounts are financial accounts, where you can manage, deposit, or withdraw your money as needed. By sharing the account with your parents or someone else you trust, it can make it easier to have funds quickly transferred or easily accessible to you. With a Huntington checking account, you can deposit a check through an ATM or your mobile device and make purchases from your account with a debit card.

Learn More

Track Your Spending

Huntington has a variety of digital banking tools to help track your spending and savings goals and help you stay on budget. As you start to manage and use your new budget for college living expenses, Spend Analysis will track your spending and help you see if you’re staying on target. It uses real-time data, so it provides a solid picture of your spending habits.

Spend Setter is another tool you can use to help you during the school year. With Spend Setter, you set your budget, and it compares your spending to your actual budget to let you know if you’re over budget, getting close to your limit, or underbudget.

We also have a savings tool, Savings Goal Getter, that allows you to create up to 10 savings goals, plus an emergency fund. This way, you can set a savings goal based upon your expected expenses and try to save up for it.

You can combine Savings Goal Getter with Money Scout®, which can find money you’re not using to transfer from your student checking account into your savings – automatically, or you can set-up a specific amount for automatic reoccurring transfers.

Having a student bank account with your parents gives them easy access to deposit money into your checking or savings account. This way, if you’re ever in need of immediate cash, such as underestimating how much was really in your account – you can call on your parents for help who can easily transfer funds into your shared account.

College is supposed to be a time full of promise and opportunity. Having a budget in place when you start the school year can take some of the financial worry off your shoulders, so you can focus on your studies and enjoy your college experience.

Related Content

College Board, “Trends in College Pricing 2019,” Accessed September 2020.

Money Scout automatically schedules transfers from your selected checking account and credits your selected savings account. A money market account (MMA) cannot be a selected savings account for use with Money Scout. A scheduled transfer may be canceled before midnight ET on the day it is scheduled. Transfer amounts and frequency may vary and will reduce the money available in your account to cover other transactions. You are responsible for ensuring your account has sufficient funds. You may be charged overdraft fees if your account falls below $0. Subject to eligibility, terms and conditions, and other account agreements.

Savings Goal Getter is a service mark of Huntington Bancshares Incorporated.

The information provided in this document is intended solely for general informational purposes and is provided with the understanding that neither Huntington, its affiliates nor any other party is engaging in rendering financial, legal, technical or other professional advice or services, or endorsing any third-party product or service. Any use of this information should be done only in consultation with a qualified and licensed professional who can take into account all relevant factors and desired outcomes in the context of the facts surrounding your particular circumstances. The information in this document was developed with reasonable care and attention. However, it is possible that some of the information is incomplete, incorrect, or inapplicable to particular circumstances or conditions. NEITHER HUNTINGTON NOR ITS AFFILIATES SHALL HAVE LIABILITY FOR ANY DAMAGES, LOSSES, COSTS OR EXPENSES (DIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, INDIRECT OR OTHERWISE) RESULTING FROM USING, RELYING ON OR ACTING UPON INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT EVEN IF HUNTINGTON AND/OR ITS AFFILIATES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF OR FORESEEN THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES, LOSSES, COSTS OR EXPENSES.

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