How to Manage Your Money in College | Back to School Budgeting
Invested In U / Managing Your Money / Back-to-School Budgeting for College Students

Back-to-School Budgeting for College Students

For many young people, college is the first time they need to think about financial responsibilities. Expenses can add up in the beginning of the semester when there’s a lot to pay and plan for. The best way to stay on track financially is to factor in all the potential costs you’ll need to cover as school begins, so you’ll know how much to save throughout the rest of the year.


How are you getting yourself and all your stuff to school? Are you taking a bus, plane, car, or commuting? No matter what mode of transportation you use, there will be costs associated with traveling to school. Also, take the time to figure out what you will spend throughout the year for going home during breaks. If you have your vehicle on campus, there are usually fees associated with parking passes.

If you don’t keep a vehicle on campus, you will still need to consider how you will get around while at school. Think about if you want to invest in a bike or use public transportation during the semester. Ride sharing services is another option, but comes with a cost. You will need to determine how much can you afford to spend each month. These costs can easily add up. One way you can manage costs is to share the cost with other passengers, both while at school and commuting to and from home.


  • Budget for gas or public transport
  • Factor in parking fees
  • Consider transportation needs throughout the semester

Books and Materials

This is always a big expense and part of any student’s  budget. Read the syllabus before classes start to see what materials are required. Ordering used textbooks online is often much cheaper than shopping at the school bookstore, but it does require some planning ahead to account for shipping time.

In today’s technology-driven learning environments, you may also need a laptop to take notes and do homework. It’s a good idea to set aside a contingency fund specifically for computer maintenance and upgrades. Keeping technology in mind when you are budgeting is important for not only your academic, but financial success. You can then maintain and track budgets, as well as manage finances with online banking options.


  • Read the syllabus ahead of time
  • Consider the cost of technology
  • Utilize available online banking options and budgeting programs

Food and Beverage

Eating out in college is great way to socialize and avoid the cafeteria or cooking, but be sure to set a budget or limits for how much you spend on dining out. According to Forbes, the cost of dining out is, on average, five times more than cooking at home.

Another expense that adds up over time is coffee and snacks, essentials to any college-student pulling all-nighters. Whether it is at your favorite coffee shop in town or just the school’s café, coffee can get pricey. Invest in an at-home coffee maker to save money. While college vending machines are handy, they are filled with over-priced snacks. Save money by making a weekly or bi-weekly trip to the grocery store to buy snacks in bulk, even if you are on a meal-plan. A side benefit is you can usually make healthier choices this way too.


  • Set a limited amount for eating out
  • Watch coffee expenses
  • Keep snacks on hand

Home Supplies

If you were used to having your parents buy all the household supplies, it can be shocking when you discover that you need to spend money on things like shampoo and ibuprofen. A way to save on these items (and other dorm essentials) is to buy them during the back to school season. This is when many stores run promotions. You should also take advantage of any student discounts that stores offer. Don’t know if they offer one? Ask – they probably do!

Decorating a new room can be exciting, but don’t lose track of how much you are spending on décor. The cost of throw pillows and posters can add up quickly. A way to save is also to buy these items during sales or second hand.


  • Remember that you will have to buy toiletries and medications etc.
  • Save by using back-to-school promotions
  • Don’t go overboard on décor


College is an exciting time for many reasons. It’s your first taste of independence, but with that independence comes responsibility. Careful budgeting is an important part of adulthood. And the earlier you figure out how to manage your money responsibly, the better off you’ll be in the future.

Leave A Comment