Cost of Living in the USA for International Students

9 minutes reading time (1700 words)

Embarking on a journey from the Philippines to the USA? If so, understanding the cost of living is crucial. This Cost of Living in the USA guide offers insights into housing, from renting in low-cost states to buying in pricier cities, and daily expenses like food and transport. Whether you are moving to a city with the highest or lowest living costs, this introduction helps Filipinos navigate the financial landscape of the US for a smooth transition.

Accommodation Expenses in the USA for International Students

Grasping the spectrum of accommodation costs is a key part of planning for students coming to study in the USA. The price tags vary significantly based on both the accommodation type and its location.

  • Dorms on Campus: Ranging from USD 500 to USD 1,000 per month, these are typically near educational facilities and provide essential amenities.
  • Off-Campus Apartments: Prices here oscillate, usually between USD 800 and USD 2,000 monthly. Opting for these means more room and privacy, though costs are influenced by the apartment's size and location.
  • Shared Housing: An affordable option, with costs about USD 400 to USD 800 per person each month. This involves living in shared spaces with roommates.
  • Individual Studio Apartments: Priced at approximately USD 1,000 to USD 2,500 per month, these studios are for those who prefer their own space, but at a higher cost.
  • Homestay Arrangements: This choice is around USD 600 to USD 1,200 monthly. It typically includes staying with a host family, covering meals and basic utilities.
  • Short-Term Rental Options: Ideal for temporary stays, these are priced at about USD 30 to USD 100 per night, often coming fully furnished.

Each of these options offers different advantages, suiting various preferences and financial plans of international students.

Food and Grocery Costs in the USA

Navigating the expenses of food and groceries is crucial for international students in the USA. The prices for these essentials can vary greatly, influenced by where you are living and your individual choices.

Here is an overview of what you might pay


Food Item

Expected Cost (USD)

Fruits & Vegetables


$1 - $2 per lb


$0.50 - $0.70 per lb


$1 - $3 each


$2 - $4 per lb

Milk & Eggs


$0.90 - $1.50 per litre


$5 - $10 per lb


$1.50 - $3 per dozen



$3 - $5 per lb


$4 - $6 per lb


$3 - $6 per lb

Bakery & Cereal


$2 - $4 per loaf


$3 - $5 per box


Beans (Canned)

$1 - $2 per can


$1 - $2 per lb


$1 - $2 per lb

Snacks & Beverages


$3 - $5 per bag


$1 - $2 per can


$5 - $15 per lb

Transportation Costs in the USA

For international students in the USA, understanding and managing transportation costs is a vital part of their budgeting. The expenses vary widely depending on the city and the chosen mode of transport.

  • Public Transit
    • Modes: Buses, subways, and trams.
    • Average Cost: USD 30 to USD 100 for monthly passes.
    • Key Point: Most budget-friendly option, price varies by city.
  • Rideshare and Taxi Services
    • Modes: Services like Uber, Lyft, and local taxis.
    • Average Cost: USD 5 to USD 25 per trip, varies with distance and city.
    • Key Point: Convenient but pricier than public transit.
  • Personal Vehicle
    • Mode: Owning and driving a car.
    • Average Cost: About USD 300 to USD 500 monthly, inclusive of insurance, fuel, and upkeep.

Healthcare and Insurance in the USA

Understanding the healthcare system in the USA can be a complex task for international students. It is essential to understand the available options and the importance of having adequate health insurance coverage.

  • Health Insurance Requirements
    • Mandatory: Required by most universities.
    • Options: University-provided or private plans.
    • Annual Cost: USD 500 - USD 1,500.
  • Medical Services and Costs
    • Primary Care Visits: Around USD 100 - USD 250 per visit without insurance.
    • Emergency Room Visits: Can exceed USD 1,000 without insurance.
    • Insurance Coverage: Significantly lowers these costs.
  • Prescription Medication
    • Average Cost: USD 20 - USD 100 per prescription without insurance.
    • With Insurance: Often reduced to a copay of USD 10 - USD 30.

Education-Related Expenses in the USA

For students from abroad, understanding the various educational expenses in the United States is a key step in planning their academic journey. These expenses include more than tuition and can vary widely depending on the chosen institution and specific program.

Tuition Fees

  • Main Educational Expense: Tuition fees represent the bulk of educational costs.
  • Cost Range: Typically, annual tuition ranges from USD 10,000 to USD 60,000, with variations between public and private institutions.

Books and Academic Supplies

  • Necessary Academic Resources: Includes textbooks and related materials.
  • Typical Annual Cost: Generally, around USD 500 to USD 1,000.

Technology Requirements

  • Necessary Equipment: This includes computers and necessary software.
  • Expected Cost: Usually between USD 1,000 to USD 2,000, though it may be higher for certain specialised fields.

Laboratory Fees (Where Relevant)

  • For Certain Courses: Extra fees are applicable for courses requiring lab work.
  • Usual Additional Expense: Often adds a few hundred dollars to the yearly budget.

Entertainment and Leisure Costs

For international students in the USA, balancing the costs of entertainment and leisure is key to enjoying their time without straining their budget. The USA offers a variety of activities, each with its own cost implications.

Activity Type

Average Cost (in USD)

Cinemas and Theaters

$10 - $15 per ticket

Outdoor Activities (Hiking, beach outings, park visits)

Free - Minimal fees

Museums and Cultural Sites

Varies; often discounted for students

Music and Festivals

Free - Varies (concerts can range widely)

Utility Costs in the USA

Understanding and managing utility costs is crucial for effective budgeting. Utilities include electricity, water, gas, and internet services, each contributing to the overall living expenses.

  • Electricity & Gas Costs: Monthly range of $50 to $100.
  • Water Bills: Typically between $20 and $50 each month.
  • Internet Service: Costs around $30 to $60 per month.

Miscellaneous Expenses in the USA

For international students in the USA, it is important to consider various miscellaneous expenses that can impact their budget. These costs, often overlooked, play a significant role in overall financial planning.

  • Personal Care and Clothing: $30 - $50 per month
  • Entertainment and Social Activities: $50 - $100 per month
  • Emergency Fund: $100 - $200 (as a one-time reserve)

Money-Saving Tips for International Students in the USA

Navigating finances in the USA as an international student can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can make the most of your budget:

  • Effective Budget Management: Establish a budget to monitor your spending. Utilise budgeting apps for better financial control.
  • Economical Housing Options: Opt for shared living spaces or university dormitories to reduce accommodation costs. Seek housing with utilities included.
  • Smart Transportation Choices: Embrace public transport, cycling, or shared rides over owning a car. Many cities offer reduced fares for students.
  • Cost-Effective Food Shopping: Shop at budget-friendly supermarkets and prepare meals at home. Look out for student discounts.
  • Leveraging Student ID Benefits: Your student ID can unlock numerous discounts in various sectors including entertainment, travel, and retail.
  • Buying Second-Hand: Opt for pre-owned textbooks and gadgets. Keep an eye out for sales and discounts.
  • Earning Through Part-Time Jobs: Engage in part-time employment or internships to supplement your income.
  • Curbing Non-Essential Expenditure: Avoid overspending on luxury items and frequent trivial purchases.
  • Affordable Healthcare Options: Select a cost-effective health insurance plan. Maintaining good health can also reduce medical expenses.
  • Exploring Scholarships and Aid: Actively seek out scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities available for international students.

Adopting these strategies can significantly ease the financial burden for international students in the USA. Prudent financial planning and mindful spending are key to a fulfilling and stress-free educational experience abroad.

This Cost of living in USA for International students guide provides a comprehensive overview, helping you understand and manage these expenses effectively. Remember, careful planning and smart budgeting are crucial for a successful and enjoyable experience in the USA. Ready to start your adventure in the USA? Contact AECC's student counsellors for a free consultation and expert guidance tailored to your needs. Let us help you make your dream of studying in the USA a reality!


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