Creating a College Financial Plan for High School Students

A grant or scholarship from a US university only covers the tuition fees. You must buy textbooks and insurance, pay for rent, your diet, and clothing at your own expense. How many funds do you need for a year? 

We calculated how much students spend on living in the average American city of Boston. This way, you’ll have a more or less precise estimate for your expenses. In this article, you’ll learn how much an average student spends on their education outside of tuition. Also, we’ll go over the main pointers on creating a budget plan for yourself.


A set of textbooks and manuals for a year costs about $1,000. Costs can be reduced by downloading e-books, buying used textbooks from undergraduates, or renting them. There are Barnes & Nobel and Direct Textbook sites for this.

Medical Insurance

Medical insurance is compulsory for most students in the United States. Therefore, universities usually take out insurance by default, and the cost is included in the tuition bill. Sometimes scholarships for undergraduates who work as assistants in a department partially cover insurance. You need to learn about such options at your faculty.


Freshmen usually live in dorms. The cost depends on the university; for example, in Boston – $15,000 – $16,000 per year. For high academic performance, you can receive a grant that will partially cover the campus dorm, for example, the Charles River Housing Grant. Options for such support can be discovered on the website of your university or faculty.

From the second year, it is allowed to rent a room, studio, or apartment with a separate bedroom. Furnished rooms cost $700-$900 per month, depending on area and amenities. This is approximately $8,400-$10,800 per year. The hosts rarely let more than one student into a room, so living with someone and sharing the rent will not work.

Inexpensive studios are rented for $1200 – $1700, apartments with a bedroom – from $1,500 per month, taking into account utility bills. It comes out $14,400 – $20,400 per year.

Studios and apartments often lack furniture, but everything you need can be ordered on Amazon for $1,500 -$3,000 or bought at garage sales for a couple of hundred. At the start, you’ll need to leave a deposit and pay the realtor’s commission – that’s two more monthly rental payments. To save money, students rent studios and apartments for two or three people.


If you cook at home, you can save within $300 per month or $3,600 per year. Save by buying groceries on Fridays and Saturdays at a market. Vegetables and fruits there are 1.5-2 times cheaper than in supermarkets.

Universities offer comprehensive meals in on-campus canteens. For example, at Boston University, you can eat three to four times a day throughout the academic year for $5,650. Meals during the holidays are paid for separately.

An independent trip to a cafe costs $10-20, a snack in fast food – from $7. If you eat only in a cafe, a decent amount will come up in a year – $ 12,000-16,000.


A trip by underground costs $2.25, by bus – $1.70, and a single pass for a month – $84.5. Students can purchase a monthly pass at a discount of $75 – that’s $900 per year. To get a discount, you must contact your university.

If you study and live at Boston University, you can use the open shuttle bus that rides between campuses. The schedule is available at Boston University Parking and Transportation. Of course, for each university, there’ll 

Phone and Internet

A communication package with 300 minutes of conversation, 50-100 SMS, and unlimited Internet costs from $25 to $60 per month for different operators. It turns out $ 300-720 per year. You can compare tariff plans and choose the most suitable one on the WhistleOut website.


Students buy clothes from economy brands: Forever 21, Target, ASOS and H&M. Expenses depend on personal needs: someone spends $100-150 every month, someone needs $300–500 for the whole year.

There are discount programs for students. For example, if you register on the StudentBeans website. You can receive discounts of 10-50 % in online stores.


Students can work 20 hours a week during the academic year and 40 hours during vacations. Average earnings – $800-1500 per month or $9,600-18,000 per year. This is enough to pay for housing, travel, and even pocket money.

Jobs can also be found on campus: for example, in a cafeteria, library, or laboratory. Working on campus, Boston University students earn between $10 and $20 an hour. If you get a job as a waiter in a city cafe or restaurant, the payment will be the same, but you can earn extra money from tips: $200-300 per week and up to $500 – on holidays.

The Money 

If you do not save your funds, you will require $25,000-32,000 annually for living in Boston. And if you use the advice from our article, you will keep within $19,000-24,000. Simultaneously, you can earn half of the money yourself, and partly you can spare with the assistance of special programs from the university.

To not overpay, find out about additional scholarships and grants, rent an apartment with classmates or friends, cook food at home, buy electronic or used textbooks, and do not forget about discount programs for students.

According to the results of the National Student Money Survey 2018, as many as 78% of students experience constant anxiety about the lack of money, and another 70% regret their own low level of financial literacy. So, knowing where you can save some money is critical for a happy college experience.

Additional Tips on Student Budget Planning

The basic mechanism for drawing up a student budget is quite simple: you need to estimate the size of your income and the amount of expenditure and then understand how they relate.

This will let you understand how to reallocate your expenses to pay all the necessary expenses and save significant amounts easily.

1) Set Your Income

First, calculate what your total monthly income is. Typically, students’ income consists of the following amounts:

  • Money from parents.
  • Scholarship or grant payments.
  • Salary from a permanent job or part-time job.
  • Other savings.

2) Get Your Expenditure Straight

Then you need to estimate how much you lose money monthly for each expense item. Remember, expenses can be mandatory and optional:

Obligatory expenses:

  • Rent.
  • Bills.
  • Food.
  • Transportation services.
  • Textbooks and other materials necessary for study.
  • Visiting a hairdresser, beauty salon, etc.

Optional expenses:

  • Going to the cinema, clubs, parties, etc.
  • Academic editing for assignments.
  • Eating out.
  • Hobbies and leisure.
  • Visits to the fitness club.
  • Clothes and shoes.
  • Paying for digital services like Spotify or Amazon Prime.
  • Travel expenses.

3) Calculate Your Weekly Budget

After setting your income and expenses, you can calculate your weekly budget. For this, do the following:

  • Deduct the amount of mandatory monthly expenses from the total amount of income.
  • Divide the result by the number of weeks in a month.

The amount you receive is your weekly budget, which you can use to see fit without compromising mandatory expenses.

4) Set a Goal for Yourself

So, you’ve calculated your income, expenses and set a weekly budget? Excellent! But what if you have too little money left for all your expenses per week?

Whether you want to maintain your budget or cut your spending, it all comes down to setting financial goals to either cut your spending or increase your income.

For example, if you spend $100 a month on food away from home, you can learn how to cook and cut that item by at least half.

Or, if you spend a lot of money on a fitness club membership, you can find out about the free sports opportunities of your university or reconsider your approach to sports and choose another, less costly, type of physical activity.

You can probably agree that it is not very convenient to keep all these calculations in your head, so it is important to use special tools for competent budgeting.

Don’t Let the Money Slip Away

By making the most out of our tips, you’ll be ensuring that you won’t have any problems with money during college. In turn, this will eliminate any possible feelings of anxiety that could be developed from lack of money.