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How much allowance needed for college students?

BayAreaCAMomBayAreaCAMom Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
edited August 2009 in Parents Forum
How much money is needed for college students? For Food, groceries, staples, books, supplies and social?

I am at a loss as to how much money to give our daughter for food and groceries and household incidentals, who is moving off campus for the first time this year. I want to be supportive and give her enough to live on reasonably, and not have to struggle and stress out about her monthly budget, but don't want her living "high on the hog" and wasting our hard earned money!

How much money is needed PER MONTH for groceries and staples, and misc house supplies when living off campus?

How much money do college kids generally need PER MONTH for social, clothes, etc.?

How much money do they need per semester for Books and school supplies?

What allowance do you give your student, and what does it need to cover? What expenses does your student pay for out of their own earnings?

Any feedback is much appreciated.
Post edited by BayAreaCAMom on

Replies to: How much allowance needed for college students?

  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,483 Senior Member
    How much money is needed for college students? For Food, groceries, staples, books, supplies and social?

    There are a number of threads on this topic already. I'm not able to link them to you here, but I'm sure someone else will.

    Here is my short answer...and it's OUR family decision and may differ from what you want to do.

    We pay NOTHING to our kids for books, social and other discretionary spending...nada. They work and earn money for this themselves.

    Both of our kids lived in EXPENSIVE urban areas in college. We gave them $200 a month for food. Neither of them ever asked us for a nickel more. Folks here will tell you it's impossible to get food for that amount of money, but my two kids never asked for more money. Maybe they used some of their earnings and maybe not. I have no idea.

    We also paid the rent and all utilities. Total cost could not exceed the cost of room/board on campus.
  • BayAreaCAMomBayAreaCAMom Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    thanks for the feedback, it helps. I have heard $200 a month for food a lot, but with rising food costs, I am wondering if it is still realistic. D is also in an expensive urban area.

    Our kids also have to pay for all their own social, discretionary spending. I buy basic clothes, tolietries and meds, and have a small annual allowance for this stuff. the rest of the clothes and "stuff" they want is from their summer earnings (which is not that much, despite working a lot)

    We will give D money for books each semester, and will pay rent and utilities, and like you, will use room and board for her school as our benchmark.

    But, now it just seems like she needs a lot of money for a bunch of little things and am worried about how it will all add up.

    I have been on here for 2 days looking for threads in this topic, but have not found any. Any suggestions as to where to look? I looked under "Parents".
  • ebeeeeeebeeeee Registered User Posts: 5,199 Senior Member
    DS is moving into a studio apt in Boston this fall. We just went over a budget. Basically I took the cost of a single in his dorm per month and multiplied it by 12. Then added in something for electric, cable, internet. Food , etc. I figured out that room and board in the medium level food plan would have been $1800. per month. His apt. is 965 per month plus everything. I told him he needs to make it on 1800 per month. Food is a tough one. He is a weight lifter who eats about 4K calories per day. He doesn't have a car so schlepping groceries is tough. The groceries have peapod delivery service but it's expensive and you can't pick your own stuff. I budget him at 500 per month for food. It's a lot but it is probably realistic for him.
    To me variables are: is she with roomies where they will share some food costs, toilet paper, etc?
    does she have access to a car so she can comparison/bargain shop?
    Is she involved in a sport where her food consumption is more than normal?
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,483 Senior Member
    I sent you a PM, BayAreaCAMom.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,483 Senior Member
    Wow..ebeeeee....he DOES need more food than the average kiddo!! My son lived in Boston but he had to walk PAST Shaws everyday to get to his apartment. Getting food was NOT an issue. And my kid didn't need 1/2 the calories of yours....so $200 a month was fine for him.
  • ebeeeeeebeeeee Registered User Posts: 5,199 Senior Member
    Yup. You can't imagine the grocery bills and because it is a studio he will need to buy everything..no sharing. It sounds like a lot but I figure that is everything. Toiletries, haircuts, food, etc.
  • BayAreaCAMomBayAreaCAMom Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    fortunately, my D will have 2 other roomates to split some costs with. she does not have a car, so is much more limited as to her shopping trips.

    How much does your student spend on books and some basic school supplies per semester?
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    This can vary a lot depending on the student, habits/desires, what the parents are willing to fund, and what the student is willing to take. It can also vary depending on whether they're a vegetarian, big meat eater, or frozen dinner type of person.

    We made it relatively simple in that we'd pay for rent, internet access, groceries and household incidentals such as soap, etc. but they use their own money for things like restaurants, movies, cable TV if they wanted that (they didn't) and other non-school related 'extras'. They can easily afford these items since they've each had on-campus jobs.

    For the groceries, etc. we've found it convenient to sometimes use a 'grocery card' that we can load up with money on this end and they can use it on their end - kind of like how some of the campus debit cards work. Other than that we just trust them to tell us what they spent and we reimburse. We've never had a problem.
  • BayAreaCAMomBayAreaCAMom Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    we will cover the same things as you ucsd_ucla_dad...so about how much in grocery and incidentals did your kids spend per month? D is at USD. Does not have a car, so is dependent on going to store with others, so not sure where she will shop. So, we will put money in her account each month, but not sure how much??

    how much do you spend on books?
  • springisintheairspringisintheair Registered User Posts: 451 Member
    Books, tuition and food are viewed as a parental support reponsibility; if living off campus food and rent allowance are at or near the cost of living on campus, books and necessary wardrobe still provided by parents; any other discretionary spending - entertainment, concerts, expensive non essential clothing, fast food exceeding allowed amount etc. come out of student's hard earned money...they seem to learn the value much better when they are spending their own money - perhaps it is not doing them a favor to provide everything, and they learn more when they have to budget their own earned income for things they really want...most students can work at least over the summer and save for the following school year...
  • ModadunnModadunn Registered User Posts: 6,263 Senior Member
    It's conversations like this that remind me of two separate cases where the kids were given big checks to pay tuition, buy books and cover rent, etc for the semester only to have the kid not enroll and spend the money. Personally, I would probably kill my kid if he did that.

    Still.. we have bought the kids books and they use their money for all social life. I had to buy my books in college and quite honestly, I would be short or whatever and not get the books or put off buying them until I was already so far behind. I got a monthly allowance but my dad would always forget to make the deposit and in those days there were no computers on which to check the balance. It was a real pain and so instead of the allowance, they spend their money on a social life so that when you run out of money you merely run out of a social life or other incidentals, not "the school" part like books. He will have a credit card to use at the bookstore for books and supplies, but that's it.
  • sunnyfloridasunnyflorida Registered User Posts: 4,790 Senior Member
    We cover the cost of a dorm room and the cost of a meal plan. D would work summers to make up the difference for off campus expenses. We cover books, but we buy used and on half.com or amazon. If D is in school over the summer we would cover the cost of dorm/meal plan. If the lease covered summer months but D is not in school then she would also cover those months for rent. We provide gas money over the summer when she is home working. We pay for all meals she eats home over the summer. This summer, she really worked hard, with one regular job and another that allowed her to work on her own time evenings and weekends, so I paid for back to school clothes and shoes. She used her earned money for clothes she needed for sorority rush and for all sorority dues for the coming year.

    This was a real learning summer for her. She really learned about working 40 hours, and how far that money will or won't go. She often joined us more for family dinners with BF rather than eating out. She learned about having to wait on paychecks before planning on spending for certain things, about budgeting for current summer expenses vs saving for needs during the year.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,020 Senior Member
    We paid for school books, cell phones (except overage charges), and an unlimited transit card separately. In addition to that, we gave each of our kids a monthly amount that was a little bit higher than their rent. We also put up the security deposits, and paid for some furniture, kitchen equipment, etc. Some of their clothes, too, on occasion. Each of them had jobs, in the summer and during term time, and they paid for the rest of their expenses (including food) out of that (one of them made quite a bit of money; the other much less, and he was living in a much cheaper apartment, so I think we gave him a bigger spread over his rent). We had each of them do a detailed budget. As I remember, last time I looked, they each had budgeted about $50/week for normal food, and maybe $20/week for entertainment food (eating out). It was perhaps relevant that one of them, together with her friends, essentially ran a coffee shop where she (and sometimes her brother) could get free coffee and pastries.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,020 Senior Member
    Note: I would caution against getting too set in stone before there is experience. It took each of our kids several months to come up with a realistic budget, notwithstanding a lot of help.

    Book costs and the like vary A LOT from term to term -- often by several hundred dollars. That's part of why we didn't include books in the budget.

    We also paid for transportation to and from home, by the way.
  • TwistedxKissTwistedxKiss Registered User Posts: 2,535 Senior Member
    My boyfriend and I have been living off of about $70 every two weeks total-- for food, paper towel, toilet paper, etc (not including rent or utilities). But we usually only cook a meal two or three times a week and have leftovers the other days, we don't have time to cook every night-- spaghetti and stir frys heat up great, so does homemade pizza. I think it would be easier if we had closer to 100, we'd be able to have more snacks or go out sometimes, we only go out to places that charge once a month or so-- lots of free entertainment on campus. My family of four lives off of $200 a week on groceries, I can't IMAGINE spending that much money on one person but I guess it depends on the area. Our neighborhood is split down the middle between pretty affluent areas and solid middle class.

    My parents buy my books and school supplies for me. At the beginning of the semester they are very generous, but that's the end of the line. I think that's important-- you don't want somebody forgoing food in order to buy printer paper. I know kids that have been in a situation where they've had to pick between textbooks and dinner for the whole week, and nobody wants that to be their kid.

    We really don't spend much money on anything else, so it depends on how nice you want to be and whether or not your kids work. I have class five days a week from 11 to 6,which isn't enough availability to impress most employers. I only go out for new clothes once a year before school starts-- a couple new tops, a pair or two of jeans, some work clothes, and maybe a new pair of shoes if its needed. I get lots of winter clothes for Christmas, last years last me until then. When you take care of your clothes they last, there shouldn't need to be a monthly clothing allowance-- seasonal would be VERY nice, though. I'd love that. More than that is NOT necessary, just fun. It's nice to have $20 or $30 a week to go to the movies or out to dinner on the weekends, but we manage without that. If my parents would give me that I'd do backflips, they did my first two years of college but now I'm not sure if they'll continue.

    I mean I guess some people would say my lifestyle is barbaric, but one of my favorite sayings is, "live like a student while you're a student, so you don't have to live like a student later." You can shell out money to her whenever you want to but she should be learning how to live frugally, because chances are at some point in her life she'll need those skills.
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