General chatter - US College students! Please help




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Em Coconut
08-04-2013, 07:24 PM
Or anyone with a typical college-like lifestyle... How is your monthly budget? :)
The thing is, I might be taking a semester in the US in a year and a half, and I need to start saving up.

So basically, how much/little do I need to be comfortable?
I'm mainly looking at Tacoma, WA.

I am interested in living on-campus in an apartment, as my husband is probably tagging along, and will probably have a kitchen. Living arrangements and tuition is already calculated, so it's the everyday living costs I am curious about, as my week long vacations over there doesn't exactly give a typical example :^:

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I hope some of you awesome people can help me with this. I will owe you forever:D


nelie
08-04-2013, 07:44 PM
I lived very cheaply in college, I made $600 month at my part time job and that covered my monthly expenses plus saved a little. I lived on campus but had my own small kitchen. I never went anywhere for spring break but it'd depend where you go. I also didn't have a car so my living expenses were just rent, food, bus fees, some utilities. Granted that was 15 years ago but I also lived in a pricey area.

ERHR
08-04-2013, 09:01 PM
The answer is going to be super dependent on the location, both the state and urban/suburban/rural differences. If you feel comfortable sharing that info you will likely get a much more accurate estimate.


Em Coconut
08-04-2013, 10:28 PM
Nelie - Thank you so much for your input! :)

ERHR - Good point, thanks for bringing that to my attention. I'll edit the original post so it'll be easier to answer :)

pnkrckpixikat
08-05-2013, 11:19 AM
I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

I would guess my hubby and I spend $400 a month on groceries, but could get by an a fair amount less than that if forced. I am lazy about coupons and comparison shopping and tend to buy bagged salad instead of lettuce which adds up quickly I'm sure. I also buy name brand a lot more than I could. I am lucky in that my husband has a job that can support us pretty well while I am in school.

Other than groceries we spend maybe $180ish in gas a month, 2 tanks for him and one for me as I don't drive much as we live on campus. If you aren't going to have a car, check the city for buss pass prices, I know it is very different in every city. San Diego's is like $100 a month but Dallas's is like $75 a month etc.

Entertainment wise, we don't do much. We have HULU and Netflix instead of cable so that is like $20 a month. we go to the dollar movies mostly instead of the regular movies so maybe $20 a month there.

I use the university gym but in most major cities you can find gyms anywhere from $10+tax a month all the way up to a couple hundred. My university gym does have a spouse membership offer we use for $80 a semester so you can look at the university you are looking at to see if they offer something similar.

Once you have decided on the city you can google things to do and plan out where you want to go while in town and ticket prices for you and the hubby. In this case the university might even sell discounted tickets.

Again this is all prices for DFW, sea/tac prices may be higher or the same, but I would guess higher just because of shipping costs for many things.

Hope that helps! If there is anything specific I haven't covered just ask.

nelie
08-05-2013, 11:49 AM
When you say living arrangements are taken care of does that mean all your rent + utilities? Does that include phone and cable tv? Internet?

When I lived in campus, I had a weird arrangement where I had a greatly reduced rent (the cheapest rent in the surrounding city was $1100/month and that was for a dump) but I had to pay for some of my own utilities. Cable tv and internet was included but phone wasn't.

I know a lot of people who live in the Seattle area and they don't have cars so I imagine it will be fairly easy to get around without one. Bus passes do differ and you can probably look that online. For groceries, I live in a fairly expensive area for produce, buy mostly organic produce but don't eat meat and my groceries for my husband and myself are around $250/$300 per month. We could eat cheaper if we wanted but our income doesn't limit our grocery budget. I have a friend who lives in Portland and another in Tacoma, each who lives on about $50/month for groceries. I think you will have more access and possible year round access to farmers markets. It really depends on what you want to eat but I think groceries here are more inexpensive than most european countries but certain things you may be normally used to are probably a lot more expensive here than where you are now. You might want to use your current budget as a baseline but realize depending on availability, you may either pay a lot for certain foods you are used to or have limited/no access to them.

If there is a large expat community, sometime you will get imports stores but they are often very expensive except for Asian/Middle eastern/Indian import stores tend to be reasonably priced and may even be cheaper than american grocery stores. Which brings up another point, I'd search around for stores once you are here, I no longer buy stuff in standard American grocery stores because it is cheaper to buy at smaller stores. On the other hand, I do live in a ethnically diverse area but from what I've heard of Seattle/Tacoma, the level of diversity is almost nil but I don't know if that means there aren't first and second generation europeans.

I agree with entertainment, we only have Netflix and that is about $7.99. Being on campus, you might have really good and free internet. You might have to check if they also include internet in your living arrangements.

Will you want cell phones while you are here? There are inexpensive, short term services but you'll want to budget for that as well.

Em Coconut
08-05-2013, 08:54 PM
Thanks for great answers! Helps a whole lot!

Not completely sure if we'll have a car or not, have to look at some pros and cons for that.

I think cable and internet is included, at least that's the impression I got, but it's probably smart to have a closer look at that...Will have to buy a TV, though. And some other essentials, like bedding items and dishes and all that, but that's more of a one time thing so that gets its own budget.

Groceries are, from what I know, a lot cheaper than they are here. Will probably try a lot of generic products, but also some name brands. And coupons will be used when possible ;) we don't see much of that around here, but we both tend to be frugal when we can. And also, while getting some products from here once in a while can be nice when gone for a while, we both love the typical American stuff (the American shelf in our local super market is probably where we spend most time looking, but rarely buying much as it's a lot more expensive here)

Entertainment, I guess that's a tougher one to predict. We already have netflix, and we'll obviously have to check out HULU. With some luck we'll be able to see some of our favorite music acts that rarely come to Europe, so that's maybe an expense we'll have to think about. Going out for drinks sometimes is important to us, and maybe a movie every now and then. Both things are cheaper to do than here, but again we rarely do it here because of the price. We'll have to figure that one out too, along with how we're gonna be able to visit some other states when we have the time for it.

Cell phones, yeah! That's a must-have, so far we have only checked out what AT&T has to offer, but didn't really understand much as it's all buildt up differently than here. Hopefully we won't have to call home a lot using cell phones, going to try to get family members to get a Skype account :)

And of course, a very important thing to think about is shopping. I am a closet shopaholic (not coming out until I weigh less, lol) and spending so much time having access to my favorite stores that we don't have here can be risky. Luckily, I usually don't go to stores more expensive than for example Forever 21. I am a quantity girl. I know sales taxes in Tacoma is a little under 10% so maybe going to Oregon, Montana or Idaho could be a good idea if we have enough time and money and I'm gonna shop much in one day, as taxes are much lower there (Both MT and OR are tax free, right?).

Just rambling a bit, great way to keep things to think about in one place :)

pnkrckpixikat
08-05-2013, 09:37 PM
For cell phones I recommend looking into Virgin Mobile, I have it cause I got sick of 2 year contract bs. You pay outright for the phone (which means iphones are super expensive but plenty are affordable) and they have various teirs. I pay $45 + tax (52ish maybe) and i get unlimited web and texts and 1000 minutes. which is alot less then the 100ish my DH pays for his sprint phone

nelie
08-05-2013, 09:58 PM
If you do happen to have a car to use here somehow, gas here is much, much cheaper than europe but you will be required to have some sort of auto insurance to register it for driving here. Sometimes you can just get liability insurance but I'd budget for $100-$200 per month for car insurance, just in case. Car registration and requirements vary by state, many require inspections that are fairly cheap ($50 or less) but you will have to ensure that your car meets the state requirements. The actual car registration fees can be as little as $20/year to $200/year.

pnkrckpixikat
08-06-2013, 12:25 PM
If you do happen to have a car to use here somehow, gas here is much, much cheaper than europe but you will be required to have some sort of auto insurance to register it for driving here. Sometimes you can just get liability insurance but I'd budget for $100-$200 per month for car insurance, just in case. Car registration and requirements vary by state, many require inspections that are fairly cheap ($50 or less) but you will have to ensure that your car meets the state requirements. The actual car registration fees can be as little as $20/year to $200/year.

Honestly, If you are going to a large metro area like sea/tac I would say forgo the car, it is a needless expense. For any day or weekend trips you can likely rent a car for a few days and in the end it would be cheaper. or look into services like zipcar where you pay a monthly fee for access to cars and you then are responsible for gas and a daily use fee when you actually use it

Em Coconut
08-06-2013, 06:22 PM
If you do happen to have a car to use here somehow, gas here is much, much cheaper than europe but you will be required to have some sort of auto insurance to register it for driving here. Sometimes you can just get liability insurance but I'd budget for $100-$200 per month for car insurance, just in case. Car registration and requirements vary by state, many require inspections that are fairly cheap ($50 or less) but you will have to ensure that your car meets the state requirements. The actual car registration fees can be as little as $20/year to $200/year.

Great info! Thanks! Doesn't seem too complicated, but definitely things to keep in mind :)

Honestly, If you are going to a large metro area like sea/tac I would say forgo the car, it is a needless expense. For any day or weekend trips you can likely rent a car for a few days and in the end it would be cheaper. or look into services like zipcar where you pay a monthly fee for access to cars and you then are responsible for gas and a daily use fee when you actually use it

Yeah, we've had the same thoughts about just renting when we need one, and we will probably look at the possibilities for something like zipcar. We are used to have a car available at all times, but then again...In a situation like that where we probably won't visit people far away much or go grocery shopping "all the time", it might not be needed much anyway. So car-sharing services might be enough, if we decide to go grocery shopping just once a week or something like that. No problem to take a bus to the mall or other places where we won't come back with heavy stuff and lots of bags:D

nelie
08-06-2013, 06:53 PM
Yeah, not having a car is how I kept my expenses way down in college and my college was in a suburban area, not known for the best public transit (partially because the area also has a reputation for teenagers getting expensive cars as soon as they get their driver's license and most minimum wage workers couldn't afford to live in the area so had to drive/carpool anyway). The seattle/tacoma area has a pretty good reputation for public transit though so you should be better off than I was!

PatLib
08-06-2013, 07:39 PM
I would try not to have a car for awhile, I visited the Seattle/Tacoma area and I found the public transportation system great. If you buy a little cart to carry groceries you should be fine.