I would not consider myself your “average” college student. To start with, I live at home and go to school online. On top of that, I have a husband. Oh, and two kids. I have gone back to school so late in life that telling you my age is embarrassing. A lot of women like me, due to losing jobs during COVID, have also taken the opportunity to go back to school and further education. For this reason, I tracked one week of my expenses in my role as a stay-at-home mom and online grad student.
Year: Grad Student
College: Arizona State University (Online). I live in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Keep reading for a breakdown of my expenses as a stay-at-home mom and online graduate student:
How do you pay your tuition and fees?
I pay my tuition and fees through a mix of student loans and a trust fund. A family member of my mom’s set up a trust fund for anyone on her side of the family to use for college expenses. Anything from tuition to your kid’s karate classes. Yep. I have quite a unique budget compared to most college students. I have some extra living expenses, and life seems easier if I stay home rather than work, so we don’t have the extra expense of after-school care. For that reason, I pay tuition using student loans and request a year’s worth of what would be a full-time salary at an average job from the trust fund.
What are your monthly expenses?
First, I feel that I should note that I technically do have a two-income household. Between what I receive from my trust fund and my husband’s salary as a police officer, we bring in an average lower middle-class income compared to where we live in Indianapolis. However, we keep our finances separate, so we each have our own monthly expenses. We each take a certain amount of what is due monthly and split other things like gas, groceries and stuff for the boys. My monthly responsibilities include $600 for my Wellness Coach (I take self-care seriously as a student and stay-at-home mom), our $150 internet bill, our $120 insurance bill, Spotify, Peacock and my Amazon Prime membership.
How do you pay your expenses?
My expenses are paid primarily through my trust fund. I receive the full year’s amount every January and allot myself a set amount each month for expenses. I will admit I suffer from a problem with impulse control so sticking to this budget does not always go well for me. I also work a volunteer position every Tuesday night that pays $30 to facilitate a meeting and I work a part-time job grading papers online for a lower-level English class.
What are your budgeting plans for after graduation?
I anticipate not having a full-time job for a while, seeing that I want to write or edit as a career. I expect to do a lot of freelance work, and I hope that as long as I have my writing portfolio up, it shouldn’t be hard to start soon after graduation. With whatever I can make from doing this and the help of my husband’s steady income, I hope to start repaying my $30,000 student loans (online college is cheaper) monthly as soon as I graduate.
How did you spend your money last week?
(The timeline in this article is referring to when it was originally written in April 2023)
Bare Wax and Spa: $177
Gas Station: $63
I know that in the title, I refer to myself as a recluse, and I promise my true recluse will shine through the rest of the week. Today ended up unusually social for me. My Wellness Coach experienced an unexpected emergency and, unfortunately, had to cancel our appointment. So, I did what any tired, overworked stay-at-home mom would do and booked a spa day. Like I said, I take self-care seriously.
I admit that, yes, I have a nicotine addiction. I started smoking around 18 and switched to an e-cigarette about five years ago. I go through refills more often than I would like to admit. I used to only get one pack of four refills at a time until COVID. Of course, I wanted to avoid going out in public, so I started to get three packs at a time and continue to do that now. My most hated expense of around $60. This happens bi-weekly. While at the gas station, I felt a craving for Pepsi. I don’t usually drink pop, but I felt like I needed it today, and Polar Pops are only $1, so why not?
DoorDash Delivery: Starbucks $15
Target (Groceries) $120
Meijer (Groceries) $50
Here you can see the true recluse in me. They recently added Starbucks to DoorDash, causing a significant amount of damage to my budget. Since I pay the $10 monthly fee for free delivery from DoorDash, I obviously take advantage of it, so my price is not much higher than in the store, except for the fact that there is a $10 limit for delivery, so I do need to order breakfast with it too.
I bet not many college students can say they spend almost $200 a week on groceries, and my husband buys groceries separately, so you can only imagine what we spend on food. A majority of my groceries? Uncrustables and chicken nuggets. Why have my groceries delivered, you might ask? Oh, because paying an extra $10 to tip someone to bring my groceries to me is nothing compared to the effort it takes to get my kids through a shopping trip.
Sunday equals a lazy day. Also, I needed to catch up on some schoolwork and some grading. Needless to say, I did not leave the house. I didn’t even get to go for my walk because of thunderstorms. Normally you can anticipate my daily DoorDash Starbucks order, but I put instant coffee in my breakfast smoothie this morning. Also unusual for me, I didn’t have dinner delivered. I absolutely despise cooking dinner. Really, I just despise the whole meal in general, and I would skip it if I could.
Starbucks: Used money I previously added to my Starbucks Card.
DoorDash: Panera $50
As I mentioned before, Starbucks has earned itself a place as a daily expense. Since I already ate breakfast and had to drive home from the trail I walk on every morning anyway, I decided to pick it up rather than have it delivered. I had 100 pages read, papers to grade and articles to write on top of waking up at 6 a.m. to get two crazy kids ready for school. Caffeine is a must in my day-to-day life.
Like I said, I hate dinner. Spending $50 so someone delivers food to me that I don’t have to make will always and forever be worth it.
Doordash: Starbucks $15
Woke up late. No time for breakfast. I agreed to pet sit my mom’s dogs for the next few days (which, when you get married and have kids, staying alone in your mom’s slightly nicer house alone for two days is pretty much a vacation), so I must pack all my schoolwork and the other million things I need. I order Starbucks at 6:15 a.m., and they leave it at my door by 6:45 a.m. This gives me 15 minutes to deal with the last-minute craziness before the day begins.
Naturally, as I work through a long, drawn-out discussion post, I get hungry, only to find out that my mom apparently lives on popcorn and Greek yogurt. No thanks. They don’t even have the ingredients to make a pb&j. What? So, I decided to DoorDash Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse because the lunch special comes with soup and a salad, and I can make two meals out of it.
On Tuesday nights, I facilitate a support group through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness); caffeine was necessary to stay awake. So, I decided to order my morning coffee at the same time.
Doordash: Panera $15
Paco’s Taqueria $15
Starting with the sad news, I skipped breakfast because I already had my Starbucks, and my mom apparently doesn’t eat, so I skipped the meal altogether. And now, the most wonderful news! I woke up at 10 a.m., ALONE! I took a long peaceful walk, showered with no one yelling at me, and finished my discussion post.
I did a “double dash” for my lunch. I ordered food from Panera and my all-time favorite sweet tea from McCallister’s. To celebrate my last night alone, I ordered three (only because I have to spend a minimum of $10 for free delivery) of my favorite tacos.
Starbucks: FREE (used *200 points on card)
Although I don’t leave the house much, mostly to tote kids around, I need gas once a week and naturally, if I go out, I will likely stop at Starbucks. I have a really important quiz today that could give me enough extra credit points to almost guarantee me a 100% in the class. I shared pigs in a blanket with the boys for dinner. Thanks to the invention of an air fryer, it is one of three foods I can cook.
DoorDash: Starbucks $15
I assume you get my morning routine at this point. Today was busy. Let out my mom’s dogs, go to a meeting at my son’s school, come up with interview questions, meeting, grading, interview, grading, dogs and kids and grading and everything in the world. Rather than having food delivered, I shared dino chicken nuggets with the boys, the second of the three foods I can make using an air fryer.
Week Total: $646
Drinks: $42 (I cut the Starbuck’s DoorDash orders in half because I usually order food too).
Personal Care: $177
Household essentials: (Combined in food/groceries).
School supplies: $0
How does seeing this influence your spending habits?
I immediately noticed a significant benefit to me picking up coffee at Starbucks as opposed to having it delivered. Sometimes breakfast just won’t fit into my schedule, and the cost of coffee and breakfast delivery makes $15 seem like nothing. However, I have to admit that thanks to karate, my self-care day and my lack of eating at home caused significant problems for my bank account. Oops. So, the primary lesson I am taking away from this experience? Eat at home. I buy three boxes of Uncrustables at a time for a reason. Even I have time to eat a premade pb&j.
lol i can’t imagine. my mom said i was a nightmare to take shopping as a kid!