Books - Mobile/Cell Phones - Health and Travel Insurance - Meal Plan - Housing - Spring Break - Flights Home

After tuition and fees, remember to budget for your living costs. The price of living abroad will vary by region, personal choice and whether the campus is located in a metropolitan or rural area. As always, check your university website, particularly the financial aid page, for the most accurate estimate. The rough guide provided here was taken from a range of five US universities, and can help you get started on your budgeting! Take a look at our What to Pack section to see the kind of items you can bring with you to save money.

Books and Supplies ($400-500/semester)

The price of books is not included in tuition and fees. Students at US universities are expected to purchase textbooks each semester. Although there will most likely be some copies available, university libraries are not required to carry multiple copies of textbooks.

Bookstores located on campus stock all required class materials. They will also have a list of what books you will need to buy for each class. While this is convenient, they can be a bit more expensive especially if there are no used books available. Look in used book stores and check campus bulletins (notice boards) for used textbooks from other students.

Another option for purchasing books is online. Some sites offer university textbooks that are cheaper than the college store. Be sure that you are ordering the correct edition requested by your professor and allow enough time for delivery to your US address. Students most commonly use Amazon, Follett, TextBooks and Barnes and Noble.

At the end of the semester, you can sell your books back either to other students or the bookstore itself. Often, you will get a very small portion of the money you spent to purchase the book, but it is still one way you can recycle your money for each semester’s books.

Mobile/Cell Phones ($10-$100/month)

Many students will buy an American mobile phone while abroad. This may be a hidden cost of studying abroad depending on how much you use your phone! See our Mobile/Cell Phone page for more information.

Health and Travel Insurance ($1,500-$2,000/year)

As there is no universal health insurance plan in the US, you are responsible for finding suitable coverage for your entire stay. Most universities have health insurance plans for students, which may be mandatory in some cases. Enquire with the International Student Office, and see our Health and Travel pages for details.

Meal Plan ($2,000-3,000/year)

Meal plans for campus dining halls and food facilities are occasionally included in tuition but are normally extra expenses. Most universities will also allow students living off campus to purchase on-campus meal plans. The prices for these plans vary drastically depending on the number of meals per week that are included and how much you eat/spend.

Please note that if you choose not to purchase a meal plan, you will still need to budget a similar amount for food.

Housing ($8,500-$12,000/year)

On-campus housing is paid by the semester and off-campus housing is paid in monthly instalments. Read our pages on On-Campus Housing and Off-Campus Housing for more information.


Utilities are usually included in the on-campus accommodation cost but are usually not included in off-campus rent. This utility cost varies according to the number of people in the facility, climate and roommate habits.

Spring Break ($0-$1,500)

Spring Break is a weeklong holiday built into the academic year, and many students plan trips during this time. Depending on where your school is located and what travel plans you make, Spring Break can be very expensive. Not all students leave campus during this time, and the break can be used to catch up on your studies.

University clubs and organisations usually plan trips for their members or any interested student. Whether it is a ski trip or a volunteer alternative Spring Break service project, Spring Break packages with organisations are fun and easier on your wallet.

Flights Home ($700-$1,000/return)

Depending on your financial situation and school location, you may choose to fly home for the summer or winter breaks. Some universities close all residence halls during break, so you may want to go home or find temporary housing (this is a great time to stay with a host family!). Be sure to check out the travel tips as outlined in the Travel Arrangements section.

The College Board website also breaks down typical expenses and rough costs, but their estimates can vary between semester costs and full-degree four year costs.