Total Monthly Budget (without a car)

This posting is to give you some basic ideas about life expenses in the US. Based on my experience living in a big city, private student housing (not run by the university, but geared towards students), near campus, without a car, on a frugal student lifestyle.

1) $1,000
(If you are a real saver)

I would say this is as minimal as you can go. For some months, this may be impossible because of fees related your visa, class materials, certification, etc.

This might be possible if you are fine with following lifestyle:

  • You found a housing at least under $750 month
    • It’s furnished
    • Utilities are included
    • Some basic kitchen tools are supplied
  • Your food cost is around $100~150
    • This means almost never eat out or you can divide what you ordered into almost three meals by adding veggies, rice, bread etc.
    • Utilize free food event as much as possible. The quality and amount varies from cookies to Korean BBQ
    • Relatively cheap and healthy food items from grocery shops: chicken, eggs, milk, green leaves, carrots, bread or grains
  • Cell phone costs about $40 monthly including all data, texts, phone calls. Data could be a bit slow at sometimes but fine in big cities

2) $1,500
(If you are living a modest student life)

For most people, this is more realistic option. Most frequent, and perhaps reasonable reason to set your budget at this level compare to $1,000 would be:

  • More safe and convenient housing
  • More socializing
  • Most people would need more than $150 for food

3) $2,000
(If you don’t want to be too budget conscious)

You are probably adding:

  • Better housing
  • More socializing
  • Eating out more
  • You just eat more or in particular way (e.g. gluten free, organic)
  • Some traveling (probably still not enough if you travel internationally)
  • Months with extra costs (e.g. books, graduation cap and gown, visa application/cost)

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