The USA is one of the top destinations for international students from all over the world. With globally renowned universities, a culture of opportunity and fantastic advantages for post-study employment it’s at the top of many people’s lists when it comes to choosing a country in which to study.
Perhaps one of the biggest mental adjustments to be made when opting for the USA as a study destination is understanding the cost of living – this can make all the difference to enjoying a successful period of study that is also affordable.
Getting to grips with the cost of living in the USA is slightly complex as this will vary depending on where in the country you’re planning to study. Urban, rural and suburban areas will all generate different types of costs and the geographical region of the country you will be based in also has an influence. In this article we’re going to briefly look at the average spend for a number of different, basic costs.
However, bear in mind that these are averages and so they will be much lower than the likely costs in some of the more expensive areas of the country (for example, New England) and higher than the average costs in others (such as Midwest states of Illinois, Ohio and Indiana).
Accommodation, utilities, and communications estimate: $1000 – $1500 per month.
This is one cost that is difficult to quantify, as there is an enormous amount of variation across the country with respect to housing and living accommodation. Apartment prices could be anything from $500 (which might rent you a one bedroom flat in a rural area), to $1,500 (which could secure a three bedroom flat in the same area). If you’re hunting for accommodation in a city then expect higher prices for smaller floor space and remember that some universities may be able to offer you accommodation on campus, which could work out as being cheaper.
You will rarely find that utilities – such as electricity – are all included in your monthly rent and these often have to be covered as a separate expense. However, some of the utilities costs might be included in the rental price so make sure this is something you check before signing any rental agreements. You can either check with the organisation through which you’re arranging the accommodation or look in the contract – either way make sure that you understand how this cost is being covered so that it doesn’t take you by surprise. On average, utilities costs might look something like this:
Gas – not all apartments have gas in America but if yours does then it will either be only supplied for cooking purposes or perhaps also for heating. Obviously, the cost will depend on how much you cook but if that’s all you’re using it for expect a cost of $10 to $15 a month, rising to $50-$100/month for heating too.
Electricity – factors to bear in mind here are how energy efficient the apartment is and whether you’re using electricity for heating. Expect $50 to $100 per month as a basic cost, rising to up to $150 per month to include heating.
Water, trash, sewer – this is one utility that is often covered by the landlord but if it falls to you then expect to pay around $50-$75 every quarter (three months).
When you’re living overseas it will be important to stay in touch with friends and family back home so communications are important to factor in to your living expenses.
Internet – the average cost is likely to be $45-$50 per month but if you opt for packages with unlimited access or TV channels added on then it could be higher.
Mobile phone – expect to pay roughly $50 a month and up to $100 a month if you choose a plan with data.
On top of your basic costs you also need to factor in the other expenses of every day life.
Food – grocery bills in the USA can come in at anywhere between $20 and $40 but obviously this will depend what you eat. Fresh produce is often more expensive, especially if you’re eating a lot of meat and vegetables that aren’t in season. Some common grocery costs include:
Eggs: $2.00 for 12
Rice: $1 per pound
Bread: $2.50 per loaf
Milk: $3.50 per gallon
Transport – if you’re driving a vehicle then petrol/gas will cost you around $3.50 per gallon and remember to include the cost of insurance too. If you have access to a public transport network then you’ll pay around $50-$60 for a monthly pass – look out for student discounts to cut costs.
Clothing – again, it depends where you shop but there are plenty of low cost options in America (TJ Maxx, Forever 21, Target, Wal-Mart) where you can buy jeans for around $40.