Sample Average Monthly Budget For a Single Person Or College Student

Posted September 20th, 2011 in Budgeting by Jeremy Waller

Sample Average Monthly Budget For a Single Person Or College Student

Not long ago I wrote on how to make a budget plan. If you really want a detailed look at how to set up a reasonable budget for yourself then take a look there. If you are learning to budget or just want some easy to follow numbers though then I’ll try to break it down in this post.

Since I don’t know your specific situation I’m going to use some very broad assumptions.

I’m going to base this sample budget on someone working full time at $10/hr. That’s probably a pretty safe number for someone who is just getting out on their own.

If you make less than that then you’ll have to cut some of the numbers below. If you make more then follow the budget below and save the rest!

Here’s a sample average monthly budget for a single person:

  • $135 – Savings
  • $135 – Charity
  • $375 – Rent
  • $100 – Utilities
  • $50 – Cell Phone
  • $100 – Car Payment
  • $75 – Gas
  • $80 – Car Insurance
  • $140 – Food
  • $200 – Healthcare

That totals $1,390 per month which should be close to what your take-home pay is at $10/hour and 40 hours/week.

Breaking Down The Numbers

Giving and Saving

I put these first on the list because I believe they’re the two most important things.

You might be thinking that there’s no way you can afford to put $270 per month towards saving and charity. I highly highly discourage you from cutting those out of your budget. The earlier you can establish those disciplines in your life the easier it will be.


Out of all the numbers in the sample budget above the amount for housing seems really slim. $375 for rent won’t get you much more than a shack in most places. But if you can snag a roommate you should be able to find a decent apartment for $750.

Other Bills

Depending on where you live utilities may be included with your rent. If so that gives you an extra $100 you can put towards another category.

I also included $50 for a cell phone. Even though you could live fine without a cell phone very few people are going to give their phone up. $50 per month should be plenty to cover this expense.


Unless you live in a city where you can walk everywhere you are going to have transportation expense.

$100 per month for a car payment is enough to get you a car in the $4,000 – $5,000 range. You shouldn’t have any problem finding a reliable car in this price range. It may not be the sweetest ride, but it’s in your budget.

With a car come the necessary expenses of gas and insurance. Most insurance companies like for you to pay every 6 months, but you can usually get them to break it out into monthly payments.

If you shop around you can probably find an average monthly car insurance payment of $80 or less.


This is one of the easiest categories to blow. The average cost of food per month for one person isn’t much if you eat at home.

But, if you eat out a lot $140 isn’t going to cut it. Eating at home is so much cheaper.

That doesn’t meat you can’t ever go grab a burger, but limit it to a couple of times per month.

When I was in college my food budget was $25 per week. I ate a lot of ramen noodles and hot dogs.


This will always be a big part of your budget throughout your entire life. Healthcare is expensive.

If you’re under 26 you may be able to get coverage under your parents’ insurance at a reasonable rate.

If you can’t get coverage that way then see if you can get coverage at a discount through your school.

Otherwise do a lot of shopping around. Insurance rates vary wildly from company to company.

A Note on Frugality

When you’re single and have a limited income frugality is your friend. Always be looking for ways to save money.

  • Don’t be afraid to use coupons.
  • Share a house or apartment with more than 1 roommate
  • Learn to love cheap meals like pasta
  • Don’t have a pet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Buy as many things second hand as you can (furniture, clothes, etc.)
  • Use free WiFi instead of paying for internet
  • Subscribe to Netflix and get movies for a month for the same price as going to 1 movie in the theater.

Living on a budget when you’re young (or not young) may not be the most appealing thing. But it’s a great discipline that will keep you out of debt and give you a jump start to a better financial future as you move forward in life.

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10 Responses so far.

  1. Judith Singer says:

    You seem to have forgotten clothing. Once you count winter coats, boots, shoes, running shoes, as well as everyday apparel, that’s easily $100 per month. You also forgot household goods such as laundry detergent, paper towels, and toilet paper; personal items such as soap, shampoo and makeup; and any form of entertainment. Do you really expect someone on this level budget, especially a young person, to save, much less give to charity, rather than go out at least one night a week? Get real.

    • Jeremy says:

      Hey Judith –

      I probably should make an adjustment for clothing, but $100 per month is way too high.

      I didn’t just pull these numbers out of thin air – this is pretty stinkin’ close to my own budget when I was in college.

      I could also clarify where household goods fit it. In our budget, all of that is lumped in with our food – it’s just easier to track since we usually buy groceries and food in the same trip.

      Regarding savings and charity, you must have missed this paragraph:

      “You might be thinking that there’s no way you can afford to put $270 per month towards saving and charity. I highly highly discourage you from cutting those out of your budget. The earlier you can establish those disciplines in your life the easier it will be.”

      I didn’t have any problem including that in my budget when I was in college.

      This budget isn’t all roses and candy. It’s a real world budget – one that I lived on not very long ago.

      If you want to go out and spend money you don’t have. Fine. Do it. Just don’t be surprised when you wake up and find yourself thousands of dollars in debt.

  2. Laurel says:

    Thanks for this post! Really helpful as I’m trying to set up my own budget. It’s great to see someone actually include charity and savings in a budget – they’re overlooked far too often. 10% of every paycheck I get is cut to charity – it’s the first thing to go. I made a few tweeks of my own, but this is pretty much my new budget! Thanks!

  3. Kim says:

    *Sigh* This obviously wasn’t written by a girl.

    Tampons, makeup, shampoo, face wash, toothbrush, contact lens solution, school supplies…. come on.. these everyday necessities aren’t optional. They add up quickly.

    You also forgot “entertainment”. I guarantee you that you had fun while you’re in college. Whether it was video games, going to the movies, going out… I think $10 a week for entertainment is completely reasonable to include in one’s budget.

    I’d also encourage young people to start an emergency fund. Separate from savings, this emergency fund would be used if you need a new battery for your car, a speeding ticket, or anything other unforeseen expense etc. etc.

    • Guilty as charged. I didn’t have to buy makeup, etc – but all of my personal care items were included in my grocery budget.

      I really just tried to cover the essentials in this budget. Setting aside money for entertainment is important, but not at the expense of something like utilities.

      I waited tables when I was in college, most of the money I spent on entertainment was when I had a good week and brought in more than my budgeted income.

      Obviously, the example I set out above isn’t perfect. It won’t work for everyone in every situation, but I think it’s a good outline that you can modify to fit your own particular situation.

  4. Keri says:

    This is a good budget but for an apartment in my city in a decent neighborhood it’s about $781 for a one bedroom.

    • Yea – rent in some areas of the country will be significantly higher than what I have budgeted here. Though, in theory you should be able to earn a bit more in those types of cities as well. If not, then you may have to move a little farther away from the city or find a room mate.

  5. Nina says:

    This was really helpful. I definintley understand that it’s a model that fit well with you uand won’t work with everyone. Budgeting takes discipline and just being a freshmen in college, I’m glad I learned pretty quickly. Thanks!

  6. jade says:

    thanks a lot, this was a great way for me to lay out realistic “frame work,” for my own budget.

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