It adds up really fast, you know. All the expenses incurred living as a student in the USA, especially as an international student. From tuition to accommodation, to textbooks, to utility bills. Everything can add quickly to drill a hole in your pocket, if you’re not careful. Few months back you were back at your home country, where you probably had everything going for you. Then, you decided you wanted more, which, for you meant traveling abroad and getting quality education, maybe better than the one you had previously. So, we understand if you’re wondering how to study in the USA on a limited budget.
Fortunately for you, you already know that schooling in USA is, by no means, cheap. We say “fortunately for you” because knowing the real state of things is the first step to helping yourself when you eventually get to the United States. Coupled with the fact that the cost of living in the United States is pretty high, a US student visa grants the international student very limited permission to get part-time work to help provide additional streams of income which he can keep afloat while he studies.
It’s not all grey clouds and storms though. Thankfully, there are tested and trusted ways to get around spending so much. Those tips we are here to reveal to you. Yes, it’s possible to study, have a fantastic college experience, while living on a tight budget. You do not have to live your entire college life a broke student barely able to make ends meet.
IQ test: what is your IQ score?How smart are you? →
READ: Can I Get a Student Loan to Study Abroad?
If you’re ready, then let’s quickly run down all the tips we have gathered to help you conquer the financial demands of US College life.
Have a Personal Monthly Spending Budget
This is the first thing you must do to study in the USA on a limited budget. It’s not even limited to just college life. It goes for every aspect of life, even after you have graduated from college. Budgeting is the best way to run the tightest ship when it comes to your finances. When you budget, it gives you a firmer grip on your expenses and puts the control in your hands. This way, you don’t need to wonder where all the money went at the end of the month, since every money that would have gone out would have been previously planned for, and consequently sent there deliberately.
Begin your budgeting by determining how much you have to work with per month in the first place. After doing that, then outline what your monthly expenses are. Most often that would include, but won’t be limited to rent, food, utilities, entertainment, etc etc. Oftentimes, some of the things we list as expenses are actually wants not needs. While there’s nothing wrong with splurging on yourself a little once in a while, it’s unwise to splurge on your wants to the neglect of your actual needs. Budgeting helps you avoid that. Remember that you still have to save, so please feel free to cut out any unnecessary expense.
One programme you’d most likely be using in a few of your classes is Microsoft Excel. A great way to get familiar with this programme if you’re not already familiar with it is to use it to draw your monthly budget.
You Can Get Creative with Your Transportation in the USA
The key to studying in the USA on a limited budget is learning to be creative and resourceful with your options. If there’s one thing you should know about USA before you get there, it’s the fact that public transportation is not reliable at all. So, many times, international students, upon arrival, find it rather complicated and difficult navigating their neighbourhood. And, of course, with the difficulty and complications of transportation comes the expensiveness. So, except you’re in a big city like Chicago or New York, get ready to face some hardship getting around. So, how do you get around when you need to do mundane things like, maybe get to grocery shop or run some errands?
Now, the first thing you want to do is to research so you can get familiar with all your options for public transportation in your city of residence. If your city lacks options in the public transportation department, then it’s time to think “Uber” or “Lyft”. You’re probably already familiar with them if they are operational in your country. But if they are not, here’s a simple explanation. These transportation companies share a similar principle to taxis, but are more convenient and cheaper than regular taxis. As long as you have a valid USA credit card and their app on your smartphone, you can call for a ride at anytime of the day.
Another option you could consider is biking! This option, will, however, depend on the layout of your city of residence. Purchasing a bike isn’t too expensive, especially if you consider the long term benefits. A good one usually goes for a little under $200.
Some campuses also run campus transportation to enable students shuttle between school and parts of town. Campus transportation could come in the form of buses or shuttles.
Of course let’s not forget that many of your friends might have cars and wouldn’t mind helping you out with your errands once in a while.
READ: How Much Does a US Postgraduate Degree Cost?
Apply for Scholarships in the USA
There are companies, organizations and governments out there literally falling over themselves for a chance to sponsor your education anywhere in the world, so why not cash in on them? Trust us, the hardest part of nailing a scholarship is finding the scholarships in the first place. The good thing though is that our platform also offers you free access to all scholarship opportunities currently available in the world right now. Check out our scholarship listings now!
And in case you’re worried that you might not qualify, you don’t have to. There are all kinds of scholarships; some are academic, merit-based, need-based, creative, major specific, gender specific, etc. Among the plethora of options, you should be able to find something that’s a perfect fit for you. With these scholarships, you can cover most of your bills and study in the USA on a limited budget.
You’re most likely using a foreign account if you’re studying in USA as a foreign student. But what you might not know is that for every time you withdraw money using an ATM, you actually lose money! When using an ATM owned by another bank, you are charged from between $2 and $5.
So, what’s the trick to avoiding this trap? Always withdraw in bulk. Instead of withdrawing $20, why not withdraw $200? This way, instead of racking up all these fees over little withdrawals, you make a bulk withdrawal and only pay the extra fees occasionally.
One other way to this is to get cash back when making purchases at a supermarket. Many supermarkets will offer you this option. Cash back is similar to an ATM withdrawal but this time, it’s with a cashier.
After rent, your next biggest expense is definitely feeding, and the fastest way to rack up expenses in that regard is eating out. Eating out is as bad for your wallet as it is bad for your body. The best way to save money on food is to cook your own meals. It’s healthier, more effective, and can even be a fun way to bring you and your friends together.
Another great option is to hit up events on campus with free food. It might sound uncool, but trust us, thousands of students do the same thing, including local students. In college, anything to save some extra cash and have fun while at it is highly welcome and campus events with free food are the way to go.
Flying in and out of the country for whatever reason comes with its price tag which is usually pretty hefty. Because airline companies are pretty capricious and tend to change their fares almost every other week, it’s best to be on the lookout. In fact, the best time to book for any flight, is at least a month to two weeks before your intended trip. If you delay it for too long, you not only run the risk of paying an outrageous price for the flight, you might end up not even getting a flight at all.
READ: How to Have a Debt-Free Graduate School Experience
Another pretty expensive venture you’ll encounter while schooling in the USA is getting textbooks. Those things cost a pretty penny, but as usual, there’s a way around that too. Most times, a professor will use the same textbook for a couple of academic sessions before they decide to update to the latest edition. Since this happens, then why not purchase a used one? Many used books on sale either online or in bookshops are often still in great shape, so you win on both ends! You pay only a fraction of the original price and you still get your textbook, and in great shape if we might add!
Another option is renting a textbook. If, for instance, you’re certain that you won’t be needing that textbook after the semester, then you can rent it and have it returned promptly once you’re done with it at the end of the semester. You can either rent from your student bookstore, or you can rent from Amazon. And although it might sound incredible, you might find the cost of renting on Amaon to be far less expensive than renting from your school’s bookstore.
In the end, we all know that getting a degree in the US is a big deal, but without proper education on how to find your way around living on a tight budget, especially as an international student, your college experience in the USA can quickly become very frustrating and depressing. Now, you know how to study in the USA on a limited budget. We believe these tips will be able to help you see all your options and keep your head above water every month.
You think this post is resourceful enough to share, then why not do that now? Till next time, ciao!