How to Have a Frugal Summer During College

Parents and students need to have these conversations to ensure they agree on summer finances.

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Even college students who have mastered the art of money management during the school year often find that the summer brings new challenges. Here are some suggestions for keeping your finances under control during the carefree summer months.


Summer brings lots of transitions for college students and their parents, and money can certainly be a part of those. As a parent, there are things you will want to discuss with your college student regarding summer finances, including:

1. Job expectations: Parents and students may find that they're on different pages when it comes to summer employment. If you have the expectation that your student will work full time or a certain number of hours, be sure to have that conversation well in advance of him or her arriving home with a full laundry bag but an empty work schedule.

[Explore six ways college students can land summer jobs.]

2. Spending expectations: Hopefully, your student became accustomed to budgeting for food, entertainment, and transportation costs while at school. When your child is back under your roof, however, he or she may feel that budgeting is no longer a concern.

If you expect your students to foot the bill for their own costs, be sure to make that known. Even if you plan to pick up some of the slack, it's probably worth considering an allowance arrangement instead of an open wallet. 


Summer vacation can be a great opportunity to save money. By living at home, working part-time jobs, and limiting spending, you can go into the fall semester with savings that will last you through the school year.

On the other hand, summer vacation can also be a huge money drain. Eating out, concerts, games, and road trips are just some of the activities that can become even more attractive once summer kicks off. Here's how you can avoid dropping major cash while still having a great summer:

1. Live at home: It can be difficult to return to the nest once you've been on your own for the first time. You may have worries about curfews, fights with parents, or boredom in your hometown.

Living at home can be a huge money-saver, however, especially if you're able to return to a part-time job that you've worked in the past.

[Find out how to adjust to being home for break.]

There will be plenty of time to live on your own or in your college town down the road when you have a steadier source of income. Don't blow any of your funds for the school year on summer housing if you can avoid it.

2. Be smart about social events: One of the best parts about summertime is the opportunity to hang out with old friends. It's always tempting to spend the warmer months dining out, going downtown, shopping, and attending concerts. These are all high-dollar activities, however, and can eat up your summer salary as fast as you earn it.

Summer is one of the best times to find fun pastimes that are free or cheap. Look for free outdoor events in your city, join a coed softball league, and attend some downtown festivals or parades. This way, you can ensure you'll save some cash, as well as experience different types of activities.

3. Maximize your summer employment: If you have a set amount of hours you want to work in the summertime, make sure you're maxing out that opportunity. If one summer job doesn't fill your needs, look for another job to supplement that time. If another job isn't an option, fill that extra time with job shadowing or community service, instead of sleep or television.

It's important not to just have a summer job, but to have the right summer job. Start your search early and cast the net wide, but make sure to use your time and money well even if you don't find that ideal summer job.

[Find out how to make a jobless summer productive.]