Student Budget Calculator

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How much money should a college student spend? Use this student budget calculator to understand your expenses and income for the school year.

Student Budget Calculator

Being a college student isn't easy.

Balancing academics, social life, and sleep is tough enough already. But worrying about finances can make college even harder.

The best way to financially prepare yourself for the school year is to have a plan for your money. This calculator will help you set a realistic budget so you can live within your means (and still have fun).

Plus, learn 5 smart strategies to save money on your college expenses below.

How to Create Your Student Budget

A budget tells whether the amount you make is enough to cover the amount you spend. It helps you understand where your money goes.

Follow these steps to plan your budget for the school year.

  1. Calculate your income. Determine how much money you'll receive during the school year. This could be from jobs, financial aid, help from your family, or any other source of income.

  2. Determine your expenses. Figure out how much you'll spend on tuition, books, housing, entertainment—everything. This part takes some time, but it's so worth it to know you won't have to skip meals by the end of the semester.

  3. Adjust your budget. If you spend more than you earn, it's time to make some changes. Figure out if there are any expenses you can cut out or reduce. Your situation will change over time, so be sure to give your budget a checkup once in a while to stay on track.

Plug in your numbers into the calculator to see how much money you'll have left at the end of the school year. You can keep adjusting the numbers to see how they'll affect your overall budget.

The start of college is a great time to open your own checking account. It makes managing your money a lot easier. Plus, student checking accounts often have no monthly fees or balance requirements.

How Much Does College Really Cost?

How much do students need to save for college? It really depends on a variety of factors, like whether your school is public or private, and if you're in-state or out of state.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics[1], the average cost for tuition, fees, room and board across all institutions is $24,623 per year. Here's how much you could expect on average at different institutions:

Public School (2-Year)Public School (4-year)Private School (2-year)Private School (4-year)
Annual Cost$20,598$10,950$44,662$28,627

These amounts only include tuition, fees, and room and board. Other expenses you might have to account for include books, transportation, and personal spending.

College is expensive, but staying within budget is completely doable. Learn how to lower your expenses down below.

Smart Ways to Save Money in College

Become an RA
Residential advisors are student staff members who are assigned to a floor in a dorm. As an RA, you'll help other students on your floor with any residence life issues. The position has a lot of responsibilities. But many colleges offer free or discounted room and board in return.

Plan for Fun Nights
Depriving yourself of fun can quickly lead to burnout. Plan for a concert or night out with friends when you set up your budget. The key is to account for your fun money beforehand so you don't spend impulsively. Plus, it gives you something nice to look forward to.

Rent Your Textbooks
Textbooks are expensive. If you don't anticipate needing your books after a course is over, it's much better to rent them. You can also save a lot of money by buying used books. Just make sure you check that you have the right edition of your textbook.

Bring Your Student ID Everywhere
Many stores offer student discounts if you show your school ID, but not every store advertises it. It never hurts to ask and see if you can save a little on your purchase.

Explore Campus Amenities
Many colleges offer free printing, gym access, discounts, and other perks. Ask around to find out what your school has to offer. You might be paying for stuff you could get for free as a student.

Bottom Line

Figuring out how much you can spend in college is tricky. But it gets easier with a bit of patience, planning, and practice.

You might find that you need to switch up your spending habits to get your budget to work.

That's completely normal. As long as you continue to spend wisely and plan ahead, you'll be able to take control of your money.


  1. ^ U.S. Department of Education. Tuition costs of colleges and universities. Accessed 6 August 2021.

Donna Tang is a content associate at CreditDonkey, a personal finance comparison and reviews website. Write to Donna Tang at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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