As an aspiring student to study in US, many think about the total Tuition fee and cost of MS in USA , but some tend to overlook the cost of living. Many of the questions around cost of living are like below.
- What is the cost of living in that region if I stay off campus ?
- Why does the cost of living vary from one place to other ?
- How could I minimize the cost of living ?
I will try to add few of my thoughts based on my experience of living with as low as $250 and then going up…
Typical Cost of Living for MS or MBA student in USA
The below breakdown is for a student living in a decent size town ( small town, NOT metro cities) having four roommates in a double bedroom apartment. Except Apartment RENT, the break down will be same for most of the cities too.
Student Expense Item
|Apartment Rent||$175||Assuming you live in a small decent house with 4 roommates and apartment rent is $700. This is NOT applicable in metro cities like in California or New York. I suggest you check rental prices in the area you plan to study to get this idea.|
|Electricity||$15||It does not change much with place. But may vary in north states if there is no heat included.|
(Cooked Food at Home)
|$125||Groceries (vegetables, rice, etc) are typically almost same priced if you buy in Walmart or a chain. The tax and some stuff may vary. But should not be much different|
|Calling cards (Home)||$10||This is good enough to call home more than 3 times a week. The calling card rates are cheap now.|
|Home Phone||$15||You just have a landline just in case someone may not have cell phone. But you just share bill as a roomies.|
|Internet Home||$15||High Speed internet at home.|
|Cell phone||$50||Normal Plan will be $50 with taxes.|
|Eating Outside||$75||Ideally, you should eat at home. But on weekends you may get a nice dinner.|
|Movies, Shopping and other expenses||$100||This is like your pocket money for all the stuff.|
|Total||$580||(Health insurance is assumed to be part of tuition, Not listed here. If you take from outside, add another $80)|
All the above listed are very common and what students expect to spend. But, some students buy car and also spend more on few things and have fun, so may have some extra expenses. These are discretionary spending.
Student Expense Item
|Car Insurance||$100||Car insurance varies by lot of things, but average per month if you just take basic insurance plan should be around $100 or even less.|
|Car Gas (Petrol)||$75||This depends on how much you use. But, assuming you use it less only to school and few trips.|
|$100||This can vary a lot, but very basic if you get into a decent club paying $10 cover charge and spend $10 for a drink and supposedly go out once every weekend, it goes to $100 for 5 weeks.|
|Shopping, extra food, movies, & Misc spending||$100||I know people who spend on variety of things like clothes, some electronics, eat out more, go to movies a lot, etc.|
|Total||$375||This total is discretionary spending.|
So, if we add these two, it can go up to $580 + $375 = $955. It can be around $1000 if you spend more.
My Very first Cost of Living itemized – Only $250 Dollars
This may not be very practical, but it was the case for a very short time. I lived in a very small town and I was just like any typical international student who lands in US for the first time. I was spending very less by NOT eating outside, NOT spending anything for clothes, No trips, etc. Was very thrifty.
Student Expense Item
|Rent||$100||We were four people and it was a double bed. Rent was $400. You cannot get any cheaper anywhere in US. It was NOT a great place to stay. It just worked.|
|Electricity||$10||Per head it was only $10. We would get around $40 in total|
(Cooked Food at Home)
|$100||We used to buy groceries at Walmart or similar store and we would get around $400. We would not buy any expensive stuff. We would only COOK at house and come to home to eat. NO eating outside.|
|Calling cards (Home)||$10||I used to call once a week. It was expensive back then to call.|
|Home Phone||$15||We had long distance on our phone and it would come to $60, as we were four, it was $15. No one had cell phone.|
|Misc Expenses||$15||Some expenses.|
|Total||$250||Travel was free, We had shuttle from campus to house and for getting groceries too. NO cell phone, NO Laptop.|
You can the lifestyle is very poor and probably very bad without having a Cell phone or not going out for eating food or watching movies, etc. This was only for a very short period. But, what I am trying to say is it can be done. I know few people who live with even less money.
Why such a huge variation in Cost of Living as International Student ?
Well, this answer depends on variety of things like below.
- Rent : Rent is subject to be very different at different locations. In California, you cannot get a decent apartment for less than $2000 dollars. The rent is around $500 per person here. Whereas, in above example it is under $200, the rent dictates most of the cost of living.
- How many people live with you : The number of people you live with decides the rent split up. So, more people you live, less expenses per person. May sound absurd, but I had 7 roommates at one point of time. Our expense were so less and were less than $250 too some times.
- Eating out : Eating out could be a big one too. Imagine, you spend $5 for food say three times a week, it adds up to $75 per month. Because we are hungry and we only look at $5, we do not think much and spend, by end of month, we may have spent quite a bit.
- Car : Car is a huge factor. You may expect unnecessary expenses some times. You may spend more on gas some times. Be careful here ! Car can be a real sucker of money !
- Lifestyle and Habits : Lifestyle and personal habits are very critical. Some smoke and some drink alcohol. This can significantly change the monthly expenditure. Some like to buy good clothes, some like to go out for dancing, etc. The point is your lifestyle and habits can change your expenses a lot.
The above listed are some major factors for the variation.
The reality is, you can live with very little amount of money if you have to.…you just need to be more disciplined and eat at home and lead a very thrifty life. The point is not to advise you to live cheap and spend very less, but to tell you that based on your situation you have to adjust and spend to have less debt after you graduate.
Do you have anything to add ?
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