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How to Study in the USA on a Limited Budget

Posted on February 20th, 2018 by Connor Smith

Leaving your home country to study in the United States is a massive adventure! However, this adventure also comes with a massive price tag. Tuition, housing, textbooks… it all adds up really fast!  Fortunately, there are ways to avoid breaking the bank when studying in the US. You can still study in the US and have a wonderful college experience while on a budget. Here are a few ideas on how to study in the USA on a limited budget:

1.) Create a Monthly Budget  – Breaking down your spending and saving habits by creating a budget is the foundation for saving money. Start by identifying how much money you have per month to work with. Determine what your monthly expenses are: rent, food, entertainment, travel, etc. Decide what is a want and a need to see if you can cut out any unnecessary expenses.

A common program used in college is Microsoft Excel, you will probably use it in a few of your classes. A great way to get familiar with this program is to use it to create your budget.

2.) Get Creative With Transportation – Depending on where you’re studying, navigating your new home can be quite difficult and expensive. The US is not known for having reliable public transportation unless you’re in a big city like New York or Chicago. So how can you get around when you need to do things like grocery shop or run errands?

First, you can research to see what are your options are for public transportation. Lacking public transit options and need a ride somewhere? Uber or Lyft, which are similar in principle to a taxi but cheaper, are convenient options. You can call one at any time as long as you have a US credit card and their app set up on your smartphone.

Depending on the layout of your city or town, biking can also be a great option! Bikes can be purchased for usually under $200 and are a solid investment for you to get from point A to Point B. Your campus may also have on campus transportation such as buses or shuttles to other parts of town.

When you’re studying in the US you will make all kinds of new friends and some of these friends may even have their own cars. Your new friends will probably be happy to help you out with going grocery shopping or any errands you may need to run occasionally.

3.) Apply for Scholarships – Scholarships are out there but the hardest part is finding them. Our Scholarship Search Engine is a free resource for you to browse through over a thousand scholarship options. These scholarships are listed by country, field of study or university name.

Unsure if you qualify for scholarships? There are all kinds of scholarship options and one is bound to be the right fit for you! Academic, merit based, creative, major specific are all types of scholarships you can apply for. What do you have to lose by applying for some scholarships?

4.) ATM Fee Tricks – Chances are if you’re studying in the U.S. then you are using a foreign bank account. Each time you withdraw money from an ATM you’re also losing money! ATMs owned by other banks have transaction fees usually ranging from $2.00 upwards of $5.00.

Luckily for you there is a trick to avoiding these extra fees. Whenever you withdraw cash take out a higher quantity. If the fee is always $3.00 per transaction then take out $200.00 instead of $20.00. This way you aren’t constantly racking up these small fees and slowly losing your hard earned money!

Another option to avoid ATM fees is by getting cash back when completing a transaction at a supermarket. Many supermarkets will offer cash back, this is similar to an ATM withdrawal but with a cashier instead.

5.) Meal Options – One of the largest expenses you can accumulate is eating out. Eating out for every meal isn’t good for your body or your wallet! Making your own meals is a fun and effective way to save money. Ask your friends if they’d like to make dinner together so you can enjoy a delicious meal while hanging out with your pals. Cooking isn’t just affordable, it also brings people closer together by sharing an experience.

To take a break from cooking or eating out try hitting up campus events with free food! More than likely your campus will have monthly events with free food. This is a good opportunity to socialize with your peers and enjoy some free food while you’re at it!

6.) Cheap Flights – Coming to the US, visiting home and traveling for vacations all come with a hefty price tag. We’ve partnered with StudentUniverse to help out international students like you find the best deals on airfare!

Every week airlines constantly change their prices. If you keep on the lookout, you may end up finding a great deal on your next trip. Typically you can get the best deal on airline tickets by booking 2 months to two weeks before your trip. If you wait too long you run the risk of not getting any flights to your destination!

7.) Textbook Exchange – One of the most expensive items in college is purchasing books every semester. Most professors will use the same book for at least a couple of years before updating it to the latest edition. If this is the case you can purchase that book online used. Many used books are often in great shape and can be purchased for a fraction of the cost if you bought them new!

Another option is renting your textbook for the semester. If you don’t think you’ll need your book after the semester is over then you can rent it and promptly return it at the end of your semester. is also an easy place to search for and purchase or rent textbooks from. When comparing Amazon’s price to your student bookstore price you may find the price difference to be astronomically cheaper!

Studying in the USA on a limited budget can be tricky. These suggestions can be powerful tools to make your money go a little further each month while you’re in school. Budgeting is not just a skill you can use in college, it’s a skill that will always be helpful throughout your whole life!

Written by Connor Smith

Connor joined the Marketing and Advertising team in late 2016 as our Marketing Intern. He is originally from Jupiter, Florida and a recent graduate of the University of North Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Communication and Advertising. He has also had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe, China, Australia and New Zealand which prompted him to get involved with marketing here at Envisage.

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4 Responses to “How to Study in the USA on a Limited Budget”

  1. Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa Says:

    Another way to save money on textbooks is to buy a previous edition. These books are often significantly cheaper than the latest edition and at times have very few changes. Many professors, as long as they are not the book authors, are receptive to this cost saving measure.

  2. International School Chennai Says:

    Thanks for sharing the ideas on how to study on limited budget in USA. Very useful article.

  3. Kemou Says:

    Thank you. Very helpful

  4. James Hemsworth Says:

    Thanks so much, I have been looking for these kind of idea.

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