The Cost of Living in the U.S. (and How to Save Money!)

The Cost of Living in the U.S. (and How to Save Money!)

For those looking to study in the United States, there are many living costs to take into consideration. Some of these costs, such as housing and food, may be covered or supported by things such as your study abroad program or education grants. Whether you are interested in studying in the U.S. for a semester or planning to become a citizen, it’s important to understand the common costs of living where you plan to study.

For that reason, we’ve created a list of common living expenses by state, which can be found at the bottom of this article. This was calculated by determining how much money, on average, is spent on the most important expenses on a monthly basis: rent, food, and gas price per gallon. Keep in mind that because this is an average, you may find some areas will be cheaper than listed, depending on if they are located in major cities or smaller towns.

Once you know how much each state might cost you to live in, it’s time to plan your monthly expenses.

Creating a budget

Depending on what you’ll need to spend your money on, you may need to create a budget for things such as food and gas, and even housing. Therefore, you’ll need a strategic plan to prepare you for your expenses and save money where possible. Doing so will not only prevent you from running out of cash, but it can also prevent you from going into debt and allow you to save money for emergency situations.

To start, create a full budget that incorporates all of your income. Consider all sources of income that you will have access to, such as scholarships, grants, work studies, or other part-time gigs. Add these together and divide by the amount of time you will be working to determine your monthly income. Then, use this as a guide to determine the type of housing you can afford and what other expenses you will be able to afford. Where possible, cut back or avoid spending on things that will drive your expenses up and instead use the extra cash to save and prepare for a rainy day.

Open a bank account 

Finding a bank account can be tricky for many students studying abroad, as many banking options are limited to U.S. citizens. If you have recently received your U.S. citizenship, you are in luck, as there are going to be fewer roadblocks in your application process: simply provide your social security number and work through the application process with a representative. If you are not a U.S. citizen, are applications that allow you to apply for a personal checking account, which usually requires your tax information and identification number.

Many banks look into your credit history during their application process. Those with a limited credit score due to their age or inability to access their credit score from their home country may find it hard to find an account; however, there are a few options available. The first option is to find an account known as second chance banking, which allows you to create an account even without a credit score. This is especially useful for new citizens who lack a significant U.S. credit history, but keep in mind that this option is limited to U.S. citizens. You can also use services that help you use your international credit score to apply for loans in the U.S. and build credit.

Make the most of your money

Once you’ve given your financial plan some thought and have all the necessary arrangements set up, it’s time to find the best ways to save and cut back. There are many unexpected ways that people are able to save on necessities, and we’re going to dive into some of the most tried and true tactics.

For housing, one of the best ways to save is to find a roommate to split the cost of housing with. Consider meeting up with other students studying abroad, or plan to house with a trusted friend. Many campuses even offer roommate finders, which allow you to meet people based on pre-set criteria, allowing you to find someone who is a perfect fit to live with. Keep in mind that this may mean renting a more expensive apartment, such as a two or three-bedroom, but by splitting the cost, you’ll end up saving more in the long run.

When buying food, take advantage of coupons and discounts where possible. Considering most student housing or apartments will include a kitchen, it’s best to buy ingredients at a grocery store, instead of eating out, as restaurants and fast-food chains will inevitably cost you more in the long run. When possible, try to buy in bulk, because while the initial cost will be higher, buying food in bulk will last you longer and save you more in the long run.

Living Expenses by State:


Rent (Monthly)    

Groceries (Monthly)    

Gas (Per Gallon)    

























District of Columbia       




























































































New Hampshire




New Jersey




New Mexico




New York




North Carolina    




North Dakota




















Rhode Island




South Carolina




South Dakota




























West Virginia












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