I moved to America for my Masters in 2008 as a single woman with no dependents. I borrowed money from my dad at no interest. But he told me he needed it back for retirement.I went to Utah state University which is relatively pretty reasonable as far as the Fees/cost goes. My cost of tuition, lodging, boarding and other personal expenses was around $27000.Here are some of the big ways I saved money during this time:
1) Get a campus job with a tuition waiver
My second semester onwards, I had jobs on campus that got me tuition waivers. This waived off $3000-$4000 of my tuition plus payed me monthly. This took stress off from my family and myself to arrange money.
Students have several ways to land good campus jobs:
One sly classmate joined student discussions about when they were going to land in the US from India, lied about his landing date and landed before anyone else. He landed up with 2 campus jobs when majority of us had none :p
Read researches of professors, email them, show interest in what they do and clearly tell them you are looking for a campus job.
Be a great student in class and build a relationship with the professor and they might offer it themselves or give you a preference. Network socially and professionally. That is how I got my summer job.
Walk into every professor’s office, introducing yourself and dropping off your latest resume. One of my classmates got multiple offers this way. She had to refuse a few!
2) Credit Score
Get a credit card with a low APR. Spend less than 30% of your credit limit every month and then pay it off every month on time. This is how you build your credit history.
This helps you in getting a phone line, an apartment to rent, better loan rates on a car or a condo you’ll purchase later. Limit your credit cards to a few recommended cards. Otherwise you will inadvertently miss a payment and hit your credit score.
Sign up with a service like Myfico.com. They send you alerts about your credit activity and tell you what your credit score is with Equifax. There are 3 companies in america that calculate your credit score, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. All 3 are important.
Register your internet connection, credit cards, utilities bill, car loan etc on your savings account’s bill pay. This will help you pay your bills in seconds.
Also, ask your credit card company every 6-8 months for a credit increase. This will lower your chances of reaching that 30% limit while you are on vacation or what have you. Mind you, asking for credit might hit your credit score initially but ultimately will help you improve it in the long run. American finance system is convoluted and quirky. I wish someone would had guided me better on it sooner.
3) Spend Smart
The more roommates you have, the more your cost gets divided. That is the easiest way to save money.
Wholesale markets are cheaper. So if you buy things in wholesale with buddies, that cuts cost. Here, Sam’s club and Costco are the wholesale options. As students, we shopped from second hand stores like Deseret Industries, Salvation army and Goodwill a lot.
Now you can even use OfferUp or some other app. I still get my silverware, glasses, skirts and earrings, even clothes from there sometimes. If you are living in a cold place though, do not compromise on a good snow coat. Mine has lasted me 7 years later.
Some of my friends lost money lending large amounts to their friends. If you are an international student, you are a juicy target to scamsters. They are everywhere. In your classroom, at your workplace, craigslist, candidates applying for the apartment lease you are trying to give up. If you hear ‘Western Union transfer’ or ‘I am in debt’ from someone you don’t know that well or just a candidate that isn’t local, it’s wise to be suspicious.
Given these pointers, travel and have a good time. It’ll be worth it!
Author: Nazneen Malik
Nazneen is a software engineer based in the Greater Seattle area since 2010. She is originally from Mumbai. She did her B.E. in Computer Engineering and then worked as a Software Developer in Mumbai for 2 years. After that she moved to Utah to do her Masters in Computer Science in 2008. She is passionate about her career and serving the community. For fun she likes to read, hike, salsa dance and travel!