Costs of Living On Your Own

Costs of Living On Your Own
Mixed race woman moving into college dorm room

Students need to add tuition, fees, books, and supplies. (Use this student budget worksheet to get started). And if you move to a different city, you may need to add the cost of travel to get there and return trips home.

many new college students are supporting themselves for the first time and it’s important to be financially prepared for this big step. Read on to explore some of the common costs of living on your own.

Costs of College Life

Tuition and fees are, of course, a major part of your college expenses. But while these are typically covered by grants, scholarships, loans and, in some cases, family, there are many other expenses that you should be prepared to shoulder on your own.


Fixed Expenses

There are certain costs that you’ll have to cover every month known as ‘fixed expenses.’ Some, like rent, will be the same every month. Others, like utilities, may vary somewhat, and it’s a good idea to budget a little extra for these bills.

Common fixed expenses include:

  • Rent
  • Utilities, including Internet
  • Car insurance (if you own a car)
  • Bus pass (if you use public transportation)

Students who live on campus can cut out transportation costs and will typically pay their rent and utilities as one lump sum at the beginning of every term. However, it is possible to find much lower rent living off-campus. Off-campus students can also save money on utility bills by using less water and electricity.


Variable Expenses

Variable expenses are those that are difficult to eliminate entirely but can be kept down by consuming less and making smart choices. These typically include:

  • Groceries
  • Textbooks
  • School supplies
  • Gas (if you own a car)
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment

You can keep food bills low by avoiding packaged foods and focusing on fresh and bulk items. Cooking at home as much as possible will also keep restaurant costs lower.

Although textbooks are an unavoidable cost, you can save money by buying them used or renting them. It’s also important to budget for unexpected school supplies in addition to notebooks and pencils, such as paints for the art class or a calculator for math class.

Save on gas expenses by walking or biking wherever possible and consider switching to public transportation to commute to school. Many colleges and universities offer discount bus passes and charge high fees for campus parking in order to discourage car congestion.

While you can save money on clothing by not buying a new wardrobe every season, it’s important for new students to consider unexpected clothing needs. If you’re moving from southern California to a college in the Northeast, you’ll suddenly find yourself needing winter boots and a heavy jacket.

Finally, entertainment costs can be kept down by looking for student discounts (always carry your student ID!) and free events. Many colleges sponsor concerts, performances, and other free campus entertainment.