The basics
THE USA: Essentials - Must read

Essentials: Saving money in America

Read our guide to how international students can save money while studying in America including researching the best bank, working while studying and "couponing"...

couponing - how to save money in America

While it’s important to have fun while studying in America, you should also be wary to stick to a budget to save money where possible. As we’ve covered elsewhere, healthcare cover in America can be expensive so whatever you can do to save money will be useful.


Try the following tips to save money while studying in America...



Your bank account

There is one key question which students must ask regarding their banking before leaving for America: to open or not to open an account with a USA-based bank?


A few international students will feel more comfortable opening an account with an international bank in their country of origin, and will find that there is little need to transfer their money to an America account provider. If you’re thinking about staying with a bank that you know and trust, then it is always a good idea to set up a meeting with your bank provider back home to discuss the possibilities of doing this. What are the benefits? Are there any limitations? They may even have a partner bank in your study destination. Whatever the question, they will be able to advise you best.


However, the majority of students entering the USA to study are likely to open an account with an American bank just to keep things simple. This will make the management of finances both quicker and easier. You should aim to open your account as soon as you arrive in the country and should do so in person at a local branch; as a non-US citizen it is better to establish face-to-face contact.


Before you speak to a banking advisor, make a list of questions that you want answered and compare what each bank is able to offer you. Shopping around for the best deal can really save money; and this way, you won't be tempted by features you don't actually need. While banks will have their own incentives to entice students such as discounts on entertainment, look closely at the fine terms of particular accounts such as overdraft limits and charges.


In America many banks are regional. You should consider which banks have branches which are near campus or on your local route. This is because you will be charged for using an ATM (cash machine) which does not belong to your bank (this charge will be on top of any charges to use the machine itself, something which is not always clear to those from abroad).


Read our guide to opening a bank account in America or why you should open a bank account before you leave home



Keeping in touch

When you’re studying away from home, it is important to keep in touch with family and friends. While it is always advantageous to have a mobile phone, there are many other ways to keep in touch that don’t involve spending a lot of money on phone bills.


Skype is the most popular way to talk to friends and family via audio or video call. It’s free to install though you may have to pay for credit to call different countries. It’s simple to use too! We don’t know how international students survived before Skype!


Thanks to the advancement of smartphones, tablets and apps, staying in touch with loved ones at home has never been easier. As well as Skyping from a mobile device, you can also use apps like Whatsapp, Facetime as well as Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts to continue long messages.


If you’re going to purchase a mobile phone, it is advisable that you do so in America once you arrive, as charges from foreign networks will be considerably higher if purchased in your own country. Similarly, if you’re living in private residential accommodation with other people, then you may be able to get a broadband deal that includes landline rental (though most students find it easier to just have their mobile phone).


Read our guide to staying in touch with loved ones at home




What are you entitled to?

Many students opt to work during their studies as a means of subsidising their lifestyle while in the USA. This is also the case for foreign students, although there are some limitations placed upon their working life. International students are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week during the academic year, provided that their job is classed as an ‘on-campus’ role.


An on-campus role is one which is defined as working physically within the university campus, or offering educational services of benefit to the student body from an off-campus location. You may also work more hours during university vacations. All students on an F1 or J1 visa must also apply for a social security number which tracks the earnings of an individual over their working lives.


One of the great things about getting a part-time job is that sometimes you’ll be entitled to staff discount – so make the most of it! If you’re a lover of good books, apply for positions within the campus bookstore; or how about working at the on-campus convenience store for a discount on groceries? Even if you decide to work as a waiter/waitress, you’ll get [tax free] tips, and most likely be entitled to some staff meals while on shift.


Most on-campus jobs for students tend to pay little more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, although some states, such as Washington, have a higher minimum wage of $9.19 p/h.


Read our full guides to visa conditions for working while studying in the US and working as a student in the US.




Everyday savings

There are a number of smaller things that you can do in order to save yourself money on a day-to-day basis and make your finances stretch further. One of these is to invest in an ISE card, especially if you’re planning on exploring America. This will offer you discounts for a large range of tourist attractions within the country, as well as reducing the cost of global travel for those who wish to explore further afield.


If you’re living with a large group of people, you may also want to consider shopping in bulk in order to reduce the price of food and household necessities. Try shops like Target or Costco which often have deals, especially if you buy in bulk. Many supermarkets offer "buy one, get one free" offers on a variety of fresh food products; so if you’re planning on going shopping, take a friend with you and split the bill. Cooking with fresh fruit and vegetables is not only healthier, but in the long run, the cost per meal is considerably lower than quick, unhealthy, microwave alternatives.


One of the most popular ways of saving money within the USA is through the use of coupons (also known as “couponing”). A coupon refers to a printed ticket that can be exchanged for a financial discount when making a purchase, such as 1/3rd off. Couponing has always been popular in the USA, and there are a number of websites from where you can download coupons such as Retail Me NotCurrent Codes and Coupon Cabin (they are also commonly found in the back of newspapers and magazines).


Read our guide to living costs in the US




Start your journey to studying in America today - browse popular and highly ranked institutions, read guides and search for courses in the US



Read more:

‘The US higher education system... simplified’

‘Tuition fees in the USA’

‘Applying to study in the US’

‘Applying for a US student visa’

‘Student accommodation in the USA’


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About Author

couponing - how to save money in America

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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