Spending money for college students, how much?

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My 18 year old is finishing up her premier year of college. I simply cannot believe it is finals week and she is moving out of her dorm and into her first summer as a bonafide college student. She has travel plans and, thankfully, she intends to earn a little dough during her time off. What am I saying?!? My little princess always earns her dough through pageants, fitness modeling and the big bang – academic scholarships. Can we say, whoot whoot! All those years of study are at least paying for the mass majority of her $65,000 a year tuition and board bill. That number still slaps me in the face straight silly.

spending money for college students
college skeeze / Pixabay

Even with her academic prowess, I still get a hefty bill to round out the balance, but I am not complaining. She set her mark on ivy league or 1st tier private university and she accomplished that goal. However, you soon start thinking as a parent, perhaps from your own days in college, what it actually cost to attend a university. It goes far beyond the tuition, fees, room and board. You still gotta live, right?

I was watching an old rerun of the Cosby Show, when Claire was uber upset with Sandra for dropping out of school. I remember her demanding that Sandra pay her back for the 4-years of undergrad she and Cliff had paid for… and get this, the grand total was like $79+ grand. Oh, I am truly laughing out loud. That was a lot of dough for the 80s and now my daughter’s school cost about that much for one… single… year. I shutter to think how much it will cost when my little guy heads off to school, but I digress.

Watching that episode got me to thinking about how much other people pay for school. Not only that, but how much, if any, money do you give your college student for other expenses and fun? And how often do you give it? Is it a cash deposit into their bank accounts? Do they have access to your credit cards? I mean what limits are we dealing with these days?

I remember thinking how thrilled I was to get my $400 bi-monthly allowance from my parents back in the early 90s when all of my friends were getting like $100-$125 monthly for allowance. Fast forward nearly 25 years til today and do we do typical inflation calculations to determine our kids monthly allowance to give them something similar or better than what we received in college? According to Dollar Times, that means my daughter should receive roughly $662 bi-monthly. Not too shabby.

However, I take it a step further. One thing I notice about this generation of college students is the fact they all believe they are Warren Buffet. I mean, seriously, my first roommate in college was the daughter of an uber important person for an entire country, no name dropping here, and she had limits. She had no car our first year, but, really, who had a car on campus? Her monthly allowance was $125 month… less than my $200, if broken down monthly. She did not buy clothes or eat outside of the dorm. Neither did I. One of my besties, I remember her father being listed as one of the Top CEOs at the time in various magazines. Same situation for her as described for my roomie and I.

Photo Credit: Dolores Radasch
SMU cheerleaders. NCAA Tournament 2015

Then I take a look at my daughter (that’s her front and center, photo left) and her school mates. Many drive Maserati’s, Tesla’s, Porsche, BMW 7-series and the like. These kids shop… and not thrift shop, but high end shopping. Even though they have on-campus meal plans, I’ve noticed they eat off campus frequently. And no, no, not Micky D’s, but places that you must drop a few hundred bucks to sit down. And they Uber everywhere. It boggles my mind. Truly. I mean how much money are we giving these kids! Am I a guilty parent of over-indulging my child?

I did not think I was giving my daughter that kind of money to spend like a Rockefeller, but somehow these kids are living “that life”. Then I caught the episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when Kyle’s daughter went off to college this year too. She and Mauricio were sitting down discussing how much their daughter would need each month. Granted she lives off campus and needs to grocery shop, but if I recall, his grand total was somewhere around $1,800 per month she would need to survive on campus. Seriously! Some parents do not even make that much money per month, but I listen to my daughter tell me how so and so spent $500 this month on food and they thought that was a good month. Hmmm.

So I ask… how much spending money does a college student need per month? Let’s say the college student lives in a dorm on campus with a full meal plan and does not have a car with them. What say you? Inquiry minds want to know.

P.S. – Let’s be friendly. This is a no judgment or “higher than Thou” zone.

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Maria writes as well as handle guest post articles for Abundant Journeys blog. Abundant Journeys, an independent travel agency affiliated with MTravel CST# California: 1018299-10, blogs about wellness travel for the discerning travelier in three different life stages: Couples, Travel with Kids and Girlfriend Getaways focusing on Moms. We also enjoy blogging about fine foods and great gifts. Live Life. Must Travel. Start your journey today. Find our stories on JustLuxe.com in the travel section.

22 Comments
    1. Money disappears so fast it’s crazy. My parents always told me, “we have money, you don’t”. Lol. I understood what they were saying and it meant a lot to me. And I appreciated everything that was done for me. However, when I see these kids whipping out AMEX Platinum cards it gets a little scary because you know it’s an extension of their parents credit. No limits. Makes me scared for them and their future on their own.

  1. Wow! That kind of money spent on food seems a little excessive. I had to pay for my own clothes & most extra food (outside of the food I had at home) because unless it was an absolute need, my parents usually did not pay for it. I think it’s so great you’re being supportive of her and her education, though! :)

    1. Kal, glad I am not going crazy here. I did not think I was out of touch with the times. It is excessive especially when you have meal plan. Your food expense should be near zero… or so I think.

  2. I struggled all through college. My dad said I had to go but he wasn’t paying for it – I took out student loans and worked very hard! I managed to graduate with my undergrad in 4 and half years …. I was very proud!!! She needs to count her blessings as not many of us are that lucky.
    Jessica recently posted…Weekend Fun: Anchors // Michael KorsMy Profile

    1. Jessica, it is wonderful to hear how hard you worked. Maybe you can send some tidbits to get through to these kids who have so much handed to them. I will have a few staying with us for a few days. Maybe I can share some real life situations with them to bring them down to Earth.

  3. I am a college student and have been married for a year (I’m 20). My parents didn’t have the money to support m e at the time, so I moved in with my fiance (at the time, now my hubby) before I started school. We live about a mile from my parents, so we eat dinner with them. My parents do help out by paying our cellphones and occasionally paying if we go out to eat together. My husband and I both work (I work 4 jobs in addition to running my blog), but we are well-off. I still manage to get amazing grades in addition to my home life and work. I honestly hate how everyone assumes people my age are not adults, are not married, and are dependent on their parents.
    Marissa recently posted…Support Our TroopsMy Profile

  4. I’m not American, and we have student loans provided by the government. The onus was not on my parents to pay for my university, which is good. However now I have a huge student loan to pay off before ever being able to consider buying a house, travelling, or living less than frugally. Your daughter is lucky you are so supportive!
    Louisa Vickers recently posted…Happy Mail April 2015My Profile

    1. Thank you, Louisa. Other countries seem to provide far more support for college education than we do here in America. The maximum loan amount allowed in the states would not cover state school anymore. The loan amounts have not increased since the early 1990s. It’s pretty tough out there.

  5. I didn’t get a whole lot of spending money in college. I worked in the summers to have money for the next year and had a super part time job at the college’s bookstore, and then like once a month my mom would send me some money and care package. I went to a super tiny college though and pretty much everything was included in tuition and housing. If I would have gotten over $1200 a month I don’t think I’d have any student loans now haha.
    Lisa recently posted…Currently Vol. 13My Profile

  6. Wow! I definitely was not living like that in college. I worked hard for every dime I had in college, both through my scholarships and my on campus jobs. I have no idea how much money is the right amount (because everybody has a different idea of the “right amount”), but being able to afford a hundred dollar meal as a college student seems like a little too much :-)
    Embrolic recently posted…Drink Your Veggies! A Simple, Tasty Green Smoothie RecipeMy Profile

  7. She’s very lucky to have you and your support! In my experience through college I saw many of my classmates struggle financially and have to drop out because they didn’t have any support (emotionally or financially). I think it’s great that you are choosing to support her because that’s the best way you can ensure she’ll get through.
    Brittany recently posted…Summer Wedding Guest Style with Rent the RunwayMy Profile

  8. This seems like a mind-boggling amount of money to give an adult child. Many students work part time in England just to pay their own fees. If they start off having money handed to them, how will they continue when they ahve to support themselves?

  9. I graduated from my undergrad in 2005 and then went on to complete two master degrees. Total of 12-13 years in school. IF I had $100 bucks to my name every month after paying for university, the rent and buying groceries I was lucky. Eating out was not never an option. Hell at times I had no money to even eat at home. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches many times were my meals for months. So how these kids “make ends meet” now on a days on $1,500 a month beats me. Like seriously, if you living on campus why do you even need that much money?! I agree these kids now a days are pretending to be the Rockerfellers. I have four kids of my own and when the time comes to go off to school; I hope they like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as much as I did!!

  10. Sending children to University is expensive now even in UK. My children got student loans to pay for their tuition and accommodation and we gave them an allowance to buy food, pay bills like internet, electric, phone etc. Thankfully my son managed with the allowance we gave him. He asked for the odd top ups when he wanted to go and see a football match or needed to buy some sports gear etc. But generally he managed well and passed with honours. I would say we are talking about £25,000 a year for university costs.
    Mina Joshi recently posted…Indian Cookery and Basic SpicesMy Profile

    1. Mina, it just amazes me how much school cost. It is astronomical to say the least. Yet the funding for students has not increased since the 90s. For the US, the student loan maximum has not changed since the early 90s yet the cost to attend school has increased exponentially. back then, kids could take loans to pay for school. Now if you take loans, even for a state school, it will only cover a mere portion of the balance due.

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