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What are the Characteristics of Student Spending?

By Lily Ruha
Updated May 16, 2024
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The characteristics of student spending generally include greater money spent on food, entertainment, electronic devices, and personal care products. Teenage spending often involves cash spent on clothing, music, movies, and video games. While many college students spend money on these same items, their expenses are often larger for this category of students.

Teenagers usually have access to food at home, so the bulk of their spending tends to revolve around entertainment and clothing. The teenage years present social pressures related to fitting in with peers and preserving a specific image. Wearing the right brand-name clothing and shoes as well as keeping up with the latest fashion trends is a large part of creating and preserving this image. Teenage spending also often includes purchases of video games and music. These items are common components of social activities and interaction among teenagers.

Student spending among college students is slightly different. Clothing and entertainment are large expenses for this group. Food, however, is one of the largest expenses for college students. Even in situations where meals are provided in dorms, many college students spend money on snacks, alcohol, and other drinks. Meeting with friends in coffee shops, bars, and restaurants on a regular basis tends to increase food and beverage spending for college students.

College student spending patterns also include purchases of technological equipment and electronic gadgets. These items are sometimes needed for completing college coursework. A college student might buy a computer and a printer, for example, to write papers for his classes. Other popular items among college students, such as expensive cell phones and e-book readers, may be more of a luxury than a need.

Student spending among college students typically also includes monthly charges for services. Paying for an Internet connection is one example. A cell phone service with text messaging and Internet access is a common expense for college students. Some college students also pay for cable television and online subscriptions for movies.

Advice for responsible student spending typically includes creating and adhering to a monthly budget and focusing on saving money, which are not common practices among students. Teenagers usually spend money given to them by parents or income earned through part-time jobs. College students sometimes work in addition to attending classes, but they may also have access to student loans and grants. The absence of budgeting practices among college students often leads to credit card usage for expenses such as food and clothing.

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Discussion Comments
By uzumba2 — On Jun 26, 2011

My oldest son was in college and his expenses were all paid for except gas and books. Those were his expenses we expected him to cover. He had a part time job all the way through college (which is amazing and we appreciated his work ethic), working in the IT Department of his university.

So, I never expected to find that our student's spending habits had gone awry. He told us after graduation that he was $4,000 in debt. We were shocked. Silly us!

Now, a year post graduation, he's paid off his credit card debt and is currently investing, saving, and being smart with his money. Not every student will rebound this quickly or react this way. I'm proud of the fact that he suddenly awoke to the reality and importance of budgeting and saving. Parents need to keep an eye on their student's spending habits.

By FirstBase — On Jun 25, 2011

The spending habits of college students can be overlooked by the students, themselves, until they've graduated and they're on their own. Sometimes they're shocked to find themselves in a bit of debt, unnecessarily.

The main culprit is usually the dreaded plastic charge card. If you allow your college student to own one, be prepared to check on their spending habits. Even the most conservative, mature student can find themselves going overboard when they think they have free rein.

Learning to manage your money is critical. Learning it earlier rather than later makes for a better decade after the college years.

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