Studying abroad in the United States is an exciting opportunity for many students from around the world. Budgeting while in college, on the other hand, is not so exciting. For those who need to get by using their own finances, and even for those who have help, paying for college is a struggle. Covering additional day-to-day expenses make it even more challenging. Here are some tips for successfully budgeting while in college.
Calculate all your expenses
Creating a budget starts with knowing how much everything will cost altogether. Calculate tuition, textbook fees, rent/dorm room costs, food and transportation. Next, figure out how much money you must spend each month or during the whole semester. Next calculate all the funds you have coming to you, including money from scholarships, from your parents and from any jobs you worked during the summer. Comparing these will give you an idea of how much money you’ll have left over for an emergency fund and, if there’s enough left, entertainment.
Calculating how much you’ll need to spend on everything is probably daunting, but being smart about saving money wherever you can will help you keep your finances in check.
Room and board
Not sure whether it costs less to live in a dorm or an apartment? There are pros and cons to each option. Dorm room expenses are calculated per semester and include utilities such as Internet, water, electricity and meal plans. These expenses can be covered by loans or financial aid. Another plus side to dorm rooms is that they usually come mostly furnished, so you won’t have to worry about buying furniture.
Apartment fees are paid monthly, and utilities need to be set up by the student and are paid separately from rent. Apartments aren’t usually furnished, so the student will need to provide furnishings such as couches and beds. However, apartment costs can be lowered with the addition of a few roommates. Check local listings on the web to see if other college students are looking for roommates.
Food expenses can be tricky. On one hand, a meal plan is easier to deal with – you pay for it each semester and it provides you with three meals a day. It also eliminates the need to shop for groceries, prepare meals and clean dishes. But buying your own groceries can be inexpensive. Eating less meat and using coupons and discount codes are a few ways to save on groceries.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have fun. College towns are usually filled with places that offer student discounts, for anything from food and movies to bowling. You also can have fun without spending any money. Hosting movie nights in your dorm room can be a fun, inexpensive way to hang out with your new friends. Playing games like football or Frisbee at a local park is another way of having fun without hurting your budget.
Staying healthy is one aspect of budgeting most international students might not consider. Most schools offer free gym services to students, so take advantage of this to stay in shape and improve your health. Eat a balanced diet (easier said than done) to boost your immune system during flu and cold seasons. Additionally, obtaining health insurance for international students in the U.S. is important for regular checkups and to avoid hefty medical bills in case an emergency occurs.
Budgeting for college in the United States is difficult, but not impossible. The most important part of creating a budget is sticking to it. By making good financial decisions during college, you’ll be able to enjoy studying abroad without worrying about going broke.