Cost of Living
in USA

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Note: The education loan information on this page is provided only for the information of the website users, digibank by DBS doesn’t offer this product at the moment.

Key Takeaways

  • The US is one of the most sought destinations for Indian students intending to study abroad.
  • As an Indian student, you need to account for the living expenses in US which include accommodation, transportation, food, school fees, and health care.
  • You can choose on-campus accommodation to reduce your costs considerably.
  • Tuition fees at private schools are significantly higher than those at public schools.
  • Most US universities require international students to buy health insurance.

Cost of Living in USA – A Detailed Account

Home to Ivy League schools, private and public higher education institutions, the United States of America is a country that has attracted the international student community for years. With the second-largest higher education system (overtaken only by China), the US has emerged as the top destination for the global student population. Studying in the US gives you the distinction of earning a college degree with an excellent international reputation. Moreover, it proves to be a culturally and intellectually enriching experience. If your life’s mission is to study in this great country, your first order of business should be to understand the cost of living in US. Here is all you need to know.

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Average Cost of Living in US?

As a first-world country with state-of-the-art amenities and civic facilities, the USA ranks relatively high on the expensive countries charts. Yet, there is a massive gap in the cost of living in eastern or western USA, as opposed to other parts of the country. For instance, the living expenses in US schools in states like Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana in the Midwest will be comparatively lower than states like Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and California (home to Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, respectively). As an international student, you can reach out to the university you intend to attend to understand your estimated living costs.

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Necessary Expenses

The USA is a vast country with 50 states and over 19,000 cities, towns and villages. As such, accurately estimating the monthly cost of living in US is almost impossible. That said, here is a breakdown of the costs in some US states with the best school districts.

  1. Accommodation

    You can rent an apartment on your school’s campus, which will cost you anywhere from $300 to $600. In the US, average rent also varies depending on the location of your school. You may also utilise the option of living off-campus by renting an apartment on an individual or shared basis. The rent for an average 1 bedroom apartment in the smaller towns is in the range of $600, going up to $3,000 and above, for a 1 bedroom apartment in urban cities like Boston or New York. Living off-campus can turn out to be less expensive if you opt for shared rooms. But you should account for the costs involved with the daily commute to and from school.

  2. Transportation

    A considerable percentage of public transit costs in the US are subsidised. As a student, you can apply for a monthly public transportation pass, which costs anywhere from $45 to $100. For instance, while a monthly pass for students in Nashville costs $44, it is $53 for a semester for students from Cincinnati. While calculating your transportation costs, remember to factor in the expense of flying to and from India and add this to your overall budget of US life cost. This factor can significantly impact your finances.

  3. Food

    Your food costs in the US largely depend on your dietary habits and whether some meals are included in your on-campus accommodation costs. Thus, if you choose to live in residence halls, you could end up paying $250 per month on on-campus meal plans. In general, you may end up spending anywhere from $400 to $600 on groceries and meals each month. However, the US is famous for its cheap supermarkets – Costco, Target, Walmart, Trader Joe’s etc., where you can shop to reduce your monthly cost of living in US.

  4. Schools

    Like with every other country, the cost of studying in a private school is more than that of a public school. The program you intend to attend, and the location of your school also impact your cost of living in US. For instance, your tuition and other fees for a two-year program in a public college can cost about $3,660, whereas the prices for four years at a public college in-state can cost about $10,230, while out-state fees can be around $26,290. If you dream of studying at a private college, be ready to shell out about $35,830 for a four-year program.

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  5. Healthcare

    While calculating the cost of living in US for Indian students, do not ignore health care expenses. Most US universities require international students enrolling in their programs to have adequate health insurance. Some universities have dedicated health insurance plans, which you can buy on campus. Since the US does not have a universal health care program, your insurance requirement may vary based on your visa category. Lack of insurance can prove rather expensive. For instance, a single visit to a doctor for a routine check-up can cost anywhere from $110 to $155. Also, the US is infamous for its high costs associated with dental expenses.

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Other Costs

Besides these basic living expenses in US, you must remember to consider other miscellaneous costs. You need to consider the costs associated with utility bills, entertainment costs, and other additional expenses for a well-rounded, social life in the US. You will need to consider these below-mentioned expenses:

Expenses Type

Average cost in USD

Internet usage (including Wi-Fi at home)

$51 per month

International calling card

$15 per month

Cell phone charges

50 per month

Weekend activities

$100 per month

Meal for 1 at a mid-range restaurant

$23 per meal

Meal for 1 at a fast-food restaurant

$8 per meal

Utility bills for one person in a studio apartment (Approx 480 square feet)

$112 per month

Utility bills for 2 people in 900 square feet apartment

$180 per month/ $90 per person

Car insurance


Car fuel (1 litre or 1/4 gallon)


Shopping for clothes (including winter jackets, thermal wear, etc.)

$500 per annum (can be more based on your budget)

12 doses of antibiotics


2 tickets to the movies

$25 per trip

Toiletries (shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper etc.)

$15 per month

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much money will I need per month to live a reasonably comfortable life in the USA as a student?

The average cost of living in USA differs from city to city and state to state. However, in general, you will need approximately $1000-$1200 per month to lead a reasonably comfortable life as a student in the USA. This amount covers you for expenses associated with accommodation, food, transportation, books and stationery, weather-appropriate clothing and other miscellaneous costs.

Am I allowed to take on a job to manage my living expenses in USA? If yes, how many hours of work are permitted?

Yes, as an international student, you may work in the USA to manage your expenses. However, you may work only if you are an F-1 or M-1 visa holder. You may work for up to 20 hours during your regular academic sessions and 40 hours during breaks and holidays.

What kinds of jobs are available to international students?

International students may only take up on-campus, student-oriented jobs during their first academic year. These include working in the cafeteria, library, or student centre. After completing your first academic year, you may gain off-campus employment through specific programs designed for international students. You can consult your university to know more about it.