The 5 Top Things College Students Waste Money On

college students waste money

As a student, you are faced with some of the most important life-impacting financial decisions as you head off to college. Credit cards, student loans, car payment, insurance, rent, etc., can become tremendously overwhelming and hard to navigate when you are first starting out. Life is so new and busy it’s easy to waste money on unnecessary expenses.

The financial choices you make while you are in college can follow you for years after you graduate. Every little thing that you buy, even if it’s only occasionally can add up to a lot every month. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much you are spending until it catches up with you.

If you need a few budgeting tips to get you started on your way to saving read, Save Money: Budgeting Tips For College Students.

Below are 5 things that college students typically waste money on.

1. Eating Out

For many college students eating out isn’t always about being hungry. Eating out is a huge part of socializing as college students like to hang out around a meal. Grabbing a quick bowl of ramen at lunch, pizza for dinner or a midnight snack with friends and classmates may not seem like a lot of money at the time. However, while those get-togethers with friends are fun, they are not good for your student budget.  

Watch out for food deliveries because they really add up too. When you order through a delivery app, you pay multiple parties. This can include the driver, the delivery service, tips, and in many cases, you pay extra fees to the restaurants. They are notorious for marking prices up for meal delivery services.

You can save a lot of money by fixing your own meals and eating at home. If you want to hang out and socialize you can organize a dinner at your house. Put together a taco or potato bar where everyone brings a fixing. It can be fun to see what your friends bring. As a college student, a home-cooked meal is hard to come by so it will be appreciated by all. Save eating out for special occasions, not daily eating. 

2. Entertainment And Subscriptions

College students typically spend a lot of money and waste a lot of money on entertainment. Entertainment covers such a big category it can be hard to rein in spending. Entertainment can be movies, concerts, hobbies, mini golfing, going to museums, and subscription services such as Netflix, Hulu, music, gaming, etc. Look at entertainment expenses as anything that is “extra” because they are not necessities. Once you identified your entertainment expenses, it will be easier to budget them.

Try and find forms of entertainment that are inexpensive or free. Find deals. Find ways to save. Fortunately, many businesses offer student discounts. I’ve compiled a huge guide on, The Best College Student Discounts. Invite your friends to bring their favorite board game and host game night at your house or dorm. Host a movie night. Go for a walk or a hike. If the weather permits go swimming or tubing.  

If you go to every movie, dinner, drink, outing, party, or spring break, that you’re invited to you will go broke. You don’t have to say yes every time someone invites you somewhere. It’s okay to say no. Be deliberate about what you choose to do, and save that money for something you will really enjoy and that’s worthwhile.

3. Housing Can Be A Big Waste Of Money

College students have many options for housing. They can live on or off campus. Near or far from campus. Have a dorm, stuido, apartment, or house. They can live alone or have a roommate or many roommates. There are many options, choose wisely.

Recently the average cost of room and board has increased dramatically. According to, for the year 2022, the average cost of a public 4-year university for a student living on campus in a dorm pays an average of $11,303 annually. Your housing cost is your highest cost when going to college. It is higher than tuition. Don’t waste money on your housing cost. Find a way to keep this as low as possible.

I recommend living at home while you are going to college. It’s the best way to save money. In the first year of school, you can easily save approximately $11,000 by living at home and commuting to school. Instead of spending tens of thousands, the money you save you put away for next semester’s tuition or your future.

It may sound like fun to live in the dorms or with a bunch of roommates, but now is the time to pinch your pennies. You will be so thankful when you graduate debt free because you decided to live at home instead of paying rent for four years.

There are so many benefits of living at home while you are in college that I wrote an entire article on it, The Perks Of Living At Home While In College.

4. New Car

I know the thought of owning a new car can be extremely exciting. You’ll have something cool to cruise around in. It will give you a lot of freedom and convenience. Trust me, the last thing you want in college is a monthly car payment. Wasting your hard-earned money on a new car is just foolish.

Car ownership costs a lot. You have to factor in gas, insurance, parking fees, tires, and maintenance. You don’t want a car payment on top of those expenses.

If you live close to campus you may not even need a car. Most campuses have good public transportation systems. But if you are a student that was like me and you need to commute, look for a car that is an older model, dependable, and known for safety. If you can pay cash for it.

I drove a 2010 Ford Edge all through college. It was my aunt’s car. My mom bought it from her and drove it for years. And when I turned 16 and got my driver’s license my parents handed it down to me. It was far from cool or fancy, but it was free and reliable. I was responsible for gas, insurance, and maintenance. It never broke down once. I saved a lot of money driving that car. If I can do it, you can do it.

College students waste money on car

5. Taking Extra Semesters

You know my mantra here at, Your College Sensei, is, Through In Two, Finish In Four. That is always the goal. The biggest thing that college students can do to not waste money is to graduate on time or even early. With good planning, I was able to graduate a semester early with both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I saved over $10,000 in tuition alone.  

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2020-21, only 41% of American college students graduate from college in four years. That means more than half of all college students will have to pay for extra semesters of tuition. This is not only tragic and not necessary, but it is also a huge waste of money.

Students should avoid wasting money on extra years of college. The best way to avoid extra years in college is to create a good academic plan and follow it. An academic plan is a schedule that outlines every course required each semester to graduate in two or four years. An academic plan should be flexible and customizable. The main goal is for a student to visualize the semesters and years to come and understand what courses they need to get to graduation. It also helps to visually see when and where classes like electives, general education, and major can fit in.

Planning can also identify when it may be necessary to take Summer or Winter, classes. With all three of my degrees (AS, BS, MBA), I created an academic plan of study. I studied it and revised it constantly. I wanted to be sure that it was as tight and efficient as possible. The task of mapping out my courses was enjoyable as I could see my progress as I checked off classes already taken and see those that were left.

Staying on track can save you thousands of dollars. Be sure to read, Making Your Academic Plan For College To Keep On Track.