One of the major challenges of education is balancing your studies with your finances. Although most students work or receive loans, it’s difficult to maintain a decent standard of living on a part-time job or borrowed money. As most international students notice, most of American spending revolves around luxury and convenience—you can easily spend over $100 per day on ridesharing, food delivery, and leisure activities. The trick is to maintain a comfortable lifestyle but spend less. Here’s how:
Buying Food in Bulk
This might be the number one money saver. Food is available in the bulk section of most markets. Even expensive grocery stores like Whole Foods have affordable bulk offerings of dried beans and flour. With a little bit of prep, you can make enough food for a week and freeze the rest, saving you money and time in the long-term. It might also be worthwhile to open a membership at a warehouse-style market like Costco—their affordable offerings of healthy organic meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy are comparable in quality to most markets.
American thrift or second-hand stores carry clothing, electronics, books, and houseware that can be in surprisingly good condition. There is no stigma in the US around buying items second-hand and it’s even considered fashionable to wear “retro” or out of date fashions. Even lightly used items can be found at less than 50% of the retail price.
Buses, bicycles, and walking are consistently cheaper than filling a car with gas or using a premium ridesharing service like taxis or Uber. It’s not always feasible but with a little bit of planning, public transit can be an effective and cheap way to transport yourself. Get yourself a free map from a train station that includes all of the routes your city offers. A cheap bicycle can also be an effective supplement to get to places where buses won’t go. And it’s a great way to get exercise.
Numerous movie theaters, restaurants, bookstores, and museums offer student discounts of up to 25% with the presentation of a student ID. Carry it wherever you go and don’t be afraid to ask for the discount even if it’s not displayed.
The United States public parks system is an expansive resource for its citizens and visitors to enjoy at free or very low cost. Take a break from studying by visiting a beautiful redwood forest instead of spending $50 on two movie tickets.
Carrying currency with you, especially when you are near retail outlets, can increase your likelihood of making a purchase. Remove the temptation by never carrying cash in your wallet. Carry credit and debit cards for when you make a purchase or make a cash withdrawal from an ATM if necessary.