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How to Save Money as an International College Student in the US

Classes, extracurricular activities, and dorm life come to mind when you think about college. But don’t forget—managing your money is a big part, too. The truth of the matter is, higher education in the United States is costly. It’s one of the most expensive countries in which to study abroad, but it’s also one of the best countries for quality education.

Ready to pack your bags and head off on an adventure across the pond? Don’t let unexpected costs pile up while living abroad. Make the most of your college experience with eight money-saving tips for international students, which we’ll dive into below.

Creative Money-Saving Tips for International Students

Saving money is a skill that you can use in many aspects of your life. Learning how to budget in college allows you to save up for big purchases like a home or car after graduation, as well as emergencies that may arise.

Here’s how you can start managing your finances:

  1. Explore the School’s Resources

As a student from another country, you may be able to take advantage of special resources at the school. Talk to your financial aid office and see if they have any scholarships available for international students. Visit your school’s International Student Advisor to ask about programs that offer discounts on health insurance or other services. Saving every little bit counts!

  1. Get a Job on Campus

Besides the obvious perks, having a job will give you more independence and you’ll meet new people. On-campus jobs often come with extra benefits. For example, you may get free meals if you work at the dining hall. Getting a part-time job will also help you develop skills in customer service and time management—both vital for any career.

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  1. Attend Free Events

Most colleges and universities host free events each month, and it’s a great way for students to get out and mingle. Network with others while enjoying complimentary food, entertainment, and social activities. You may even get some free school swag!

  1. Make the Most Out of Student Discounts

Your student ID is your best friend in college. Make sure to always have it on hand—you never know when it’ll come in handy. The savings you can get by showing your ID can range from 10% to 50% depending on where you go!

Many stores and restaurants have student deals or promotions. You can save money shopping in retail stores and dining out with your student ID. Additionally, some movie theaters offer reduced admission during certain hours for students.

Want to explore off-campus? Most institutions have a partnership with the local transportation company to offer free bus rides within the city. Take advantage of this on weekends and see new sights with your friends!

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  1. Create a Budget and Stick to It

Budgeting ensures you don’t overspend on things you don’t need. It also prevents you from falling into insurmountable debt in the first place. To create a realistic budget, make a list of monthly essentials like:

  • Food
  • Rent
  • Books
  • Tuition
  • Transportation
  • Utilities

Then, make another list of emergency expenses that may come up so you’re prepared:

  • Health bills
  • Car repair
  • Vet visits (if you have a furry friend to college)
  • Miscellaneous (needing to buy a new laptop because it unexpectedly malfunctions)

Once you have your list, review your income and current savings to allocate funds to each item. Ideally, you’ll still have some money left to spare for emergencies and long-term savings in the end. If not, see where you might be spending unnecessarily (leisurely shopping) or consider getting a part-time job.

  1. Cook and Eat at Home

This one’s a no-brainer—cooking at home is cheaper than eating out. You can also make it healthier by watching how much oil, salt, and sugar you put into your meals.

If your goal is to get serious about cooking in college, consider buying non-perishable items in bulk (like pasta noodles) from wholesale stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. Buying generic brands from grocery stores will also save you money in the long run. 

When preparing your meals, try to avoid processed foods—believe it or not, they are more expensive and packed with empty calories that don’t do your body any favors.

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  1. Buy Used Textbooks

If you don’t want the hassle of buying brand-new books and then having to sell them at half price at the end of the semester, consider buying used textbooks online. You can find amazing deals on sites like Amazon, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace.

Another option is renting books from companies like Chegg or BookRenter. These services allow students to rent books for a fraction of their original price.

Don’t mind reading off of an electronic device? Visit your library. Many libraries now offer eBooks and audiobooks that you can check out for free. This comes in handy when you need access to a textbook but don’t want to spend extra cash.

  1. Avoid Unnecessary Spending

As an international college student, you may be used to a different lifestyle than most in the US. But that doesn’t mean you must give up on your favorite things. It’s important to treat yourself once in a while, but think twice before making purchases:

  • Ask yourself if you need that new gadget or piece of clothing
  • Avoid impulse purchases
  • Don’t buy things you don’t need

Has something special been on your mind lately? Consider selling something you have but no longer use. This will give you extra cash to put toward your new favorite item.

Enjoy Studying Abroad on a Budget

As long as you’re smart about your purchases, you can live life to the fullest in college as an international student. Saving money while studying abroad is possible—it just takes time and budgeting. As long as you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll be well on your way toward financial freedom. Happy saving!

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