How Much Spending Money Does My College Student Need?

As teens get ready to leave for college, it’s hard to know how much spending money they will need once on campus. Many freshmen live in dorms and rely on meal plans that have been paid for in advance.

But they may have other out-of-pocket expenses like an early morning coffee or late night pizza, items at the drugstore, school supplies or even some entertainment that are not covered by room and board. 

College students need spending money over and above tuition, room and board. (Twenty20 @MargJohnsonVA)

If I am paying for tuition, room and board, what else does my teen need cash for?

Even a student who has tuition and room and board covered by some combination of parents, financial aid, and loans will find themselves in need of funds sometimes. For students with cars on campus, gas becomes a major expense. For others Uber and Lyft can be an extra charge. Students also spend money on school supplies, club or team expenses, items at the pharmacy, eating out with friends, online entertainment like Netflix and gaming, clothing, and more. 

How much money do college students living on campus need?

The amount a student needs varies widely depending on their spending patterns, geography and the nature of their meal plan. Parents tell us that some students spend almost nothing, taking full advantage of what the cafeteria has to offer but students in large cities often find eating out and off-campus entertainment tempting. 

How much money do parents give their college students weekly?

The answer varies, but some clear trends emerge. A large percentage of parents told us they don’t give their student any extra funds. These teens who are living on campus are expected to fund their own extra expenses. 

Many families expect their students to fund their own entertainment and non-necessary expenses during the semester with money they earned during the summer or with an on campus job. Any extras beyond housing and campus meal plan are up to the student to pay. As one parent noted, “Fun money is on them.”

Some parents said that although they expected their teens to pay for extras like eating out with friends out of their own money, they gave their student a small amount of cash for necessities like shampoo, laundry and school supplies.

Some students were given money when expenses arose, rather than as a proscribed regular weekly amount.  

The consensus among the hundreds of parents who did send their college students spending money was that the range should be between $25-$75 a week for a student living on campus. The most common answer was $50 a week or $200 a month. Students who had cars on campus needed more than those who didn’t. 

A smaller group of parents didn’t give their teens cash on a regular basis but instead offered them access to their Amazon and Uber accounts to use as needed. Parents can monitor this spending in real time and note any excessive usage. 

How do parents send money to college students living far from home?

Parents loaded funds weekly or monthly onto their teens debit card to make the funds available. Others sent funds through apps like Venmo or Zelle. Other parents said they transferred funds into their students bank account at the beginning of each semester and it was up to their teen to budget their funds until vacation. 

More to Read:

22 Jobs Teens Can Do to Earn Money During the Summer, and School Year

About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

Read more posts by Lisa

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