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Living Expenses in the USA for International Students

ACAlpina ChariOct 23, 2023

Living Expenses in the USA

Studying in the USA is a dream for many international students. The country offers world-renowned universities and a diverse range of academic programs. However, the living expenses in the USA can be a significant factor for international students to consider. The annual cost of living in the country can add up to $25,000 per year. This amount fluctuates based on the cost of housing, which makes up 60% of total costs, as well as the student’s spending habits. 

Thus, students are advised to budget their living expenses by applying for funding or scholarships, working part-time, etc. They must budget as per their circumstances and be disciplined in managing their finances to ensure a successful and financially stress-free experience as an international student in the USA. In this blog, we will explore in detail the expenses that international students may encounter while pursuing their education in the USA. 

Overview: Living Expenses in the USA for International Students

Particulars  Monthly expenses ($) Yearly expenses ($)
Housing and accommodation  500 to 2,000 6,000 to 24,000
Groceries and food  200 to 400 2,400 to 4,800
Utilities (if not included in rent) 100 to 300 1,200 to 3,600
Transportation  45 to 50 540 to 600
Health insurance  100 to 200 1,000 to 2,000
Books and stationery  50 to 100 600 to 1,200
Personal expenses  100 to 200 1,200 to 2,400

Types of Living Expenses in the USA for International Students

Housing and Accommodation 

Housing expenses make up a significant portion of a student’s budget. The cost of housing can vary greatly depending on the city and type of accommodation. As per Times Higher Education, the average monthly rent for an apartment ranges from $500 to $2,000, depending on the size and location. The housing rent is low in the Midwest region of the USA as compared to the East and North East regions. Utilities might or might not be included in the rent ($100 to $3,00 per month). Some students opt for on-campus housing, which can be more affordable in certain cases. On-campus housing is dormitories, with two or three people per room. Residents share bathrooms, toilets, and showers. It mostly includes utilities such as water, power, gas, internet, and trash services. The rent for on-campus dormitories averages at  $1,000 per month. Students are asked to pay a security deposit when they sign a housing lease. The security deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent. 

Groceries and Food 

The cost of food and groceries in the USA can vary by location. On average, a student might spend around $200 to $400 per month on groceries. Dining out or purchasing prepared meals can significantly increase this expense. International students are encouraged to cook their meals to save money. To budget your groceries you can also shop for groceries during discounts and clearance sales. 

Transportation 

Transportation costs can also vary depending on the city and how far the university is from your residence. If public transportation is readily available, it can be an economical choice. The cost of a monthly bus pass is around $45 to $50. If you live on campus then you can walk to your classes and save substantially on transportation costs. Some universities also provide free bus lines to get around campus. Bike and electric scooter rentals are available. 

Health Insurance 

Health insurance is mostly mandatory for international students in the USA. The cost can vary based on the university’s policies and location. It is recommended to budget around $1,000 to $2,000 per year for health insurance. Students who do not opt for a university health insurance plan have to buy a private insurance policy. 

Books and Stationery 

The cost of textbooks and academic supplies can be substantial. Depending on the program of study, students might need to allocate between $600 to $1,200 per year for books and supplies.

Personal Expenses 

Students must also consider other expenses such as phone bills, internet, and personal items. Budgeting an additional $100 to $200 per month for miscellaneous expenses is advisable. Fun activities, such as going to movies or paying for a streaming service must be considered personal expenses. With careful planning, entertainment costs can be kept to a minimum. Any leftover funds should go into this category for personal or miscellaneous expenses.

Tips on Planning Your Living Expenses in the USA

Plan ahead: Research housing, and other living expenses in the city where you plan to study. Various websites and resources, such as university websites, government websites, and student forums, can provide insights into living costs in specific areas. 

Make a budget: Creating a detailed budget is crucial to managing living expenses in the USA. International students must create a monthly budget to monitor their income and expenses. This will help avoid overspending and ensure they can cover their costs throughout the academic year.

Apply for financial aid and scholarships: International students should explore scholarships and financial aid opportunities to help reduce some of the financial burden. There are external scholarship programs available as well; many universities offer scholarships specifically for international students. 

Work part-time: 

Choose an affordable location and university: Students on a tight study budget can opt for cheaper cities and universities in the USA. Houston, Dallas, San Diego, St Louis, etc., are some of the affordable options available for students. Similarly, studying at a public university like the University of Florida, California State University, and Dakota State University is cheaper in comparison to private universities in the USA. 

Prioritize expenses: Essentials like housing, food, and transportation should come first. Allocate your funds accordingly, and limit unwanted spending. 

Search for affordable accommodation: Consider on-campus housing or shared apartments, which are often more budget-friendly than living alone. 

Prepare your food: Eating out can be expensive in the USA, especially for students. Cooking your meals at home is cost-effective. Plan your meals, make a shopping list, and buy groceries in bulk when possible to save money.

Use public transportation: Wherever possible, use public transportation to travel to and from college. It will save you money on fuel, maintenance, and parking. 

Shop smartly: Look for discounts, use student ID cards to access student discounts, and take advantage of sales and promotions. 

Work part-time: Most international students are allowed to work part-time while studying. Your visa regulations and university policies will mention if you are eligible for employment while studying in the state. 

Conclusion

Studying in the USA as an international student can be a costly endeavor, careful financial planning and seeking out scholarships or financial aid opportunities can help mitigate the expenses. Students must learn to prioritize their expenses and budget carefully to avoid overspending resources. It is essential for international students to understand the cost of living in their chosen location, plan their budget accordingly, and be prepared to manage their finances throughout their academic journey in the USA. If you are unsure about budgeting or managing your finances, do not hesitate to seek advice from your university or an educational consultant. OneApply by Gyanberry is one such platform that offers admission assistance to students around the world. Give us a call to learn more about our diverse services.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The cost of housing takes up 60% of the living expenses for students studying in the USA.

On average students require $25,000 per year to spend on their living expenses in the USA. This cost excludes tuition fees and other college expenses.

Careful budgeting, prioritizing expenditures, applying for scholarships, working part-time, etc., are some of the ways to reduce your expenses in the USA. 

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