Thursday, June 2, 2016

Electives: How much does it cost and how to be cost effective


This post is on how to reduce your expenditure when you travel for studies.

When I went to US for electives, I was on a really low budget and had to save every cent. I couldn't afford spending lavishly and no blog briefs you about the finances clearly. So I thought of writing a blog on how to be cost efficient during electives so that it would help someone who was chasing dreams with loans like I am :)
I will be writing about how much I spent, where I saved money and how much things cost in general.
Somethings might seem like I went a little over board with saving money, I honestly will sound like a miser in this post, but I was well aware of what my budget was and acted accordingly.

Saving money also helped me to chill out and enjoy with my friends. You need to spend smart. If you can save during the week, you can go to expensive places on the weekends ;)

Rent: If the place you got an elective in doesn't provide you accommodation, most of your money is spent on rent. I got my elective in Cleveland and I had to pay 600$/month for rent. It's more expensive in cities like New York and Washington where a tiny apartment can cost you 1000$/month.

Food: It costs 6-10$ per meal in canteens and a little more in restaurants. Most students prefer frozen food from an Indian-Pakistani store near by. But frozen food is price-y.
For breakfast, I had simple cereal, oats, milk, nutella, peanut butter, jam, bread and fruits. On weekend brunch, I had fancy pancakes and bagels :D

The best way to save on food is to cook food. When I was in my apartment, the lady who owned the apartment allowed me to use her stove and utensils so I cooked. In Cleveland Clinic, they provide you with a microwave and a fridge, that's it. I found out a lot of microwavable recipes and thus saved up.

For girls and guys who don't know how to cook, here's my advice: You don't need to be an expert cook to cook. Nor does your food need to taste tasty for you to survive :P

What to cook in a microwave?
Rice, eggs, potatoes, celery, cabbage, broccoli, ramen, noodles, pasta. ANYTHING!
Mix different veggies, different salad dressings, sauce, mayo, cheese, salt and pepper. Be experimental. Do what suits you :D
If I had a heavy lunch, I would simply eat curd and rice for dinner at times.
When you cook at home, you spend lesser, roughly 3-5$ per meal.
Home made food :D
You can always go to fancy restaurants on the weekends and box the extra yummy food.
I'm sorry, I'm sucha foodie.

Restaurant food :D
Laundry: I brought soap mini bar and small packet of washing powder from home. I did most of my laundry at home, washed my clothes in the basin and dried them in the hangers in my closet. The temperature inside in the room is warm due to heater so you don't need to worry about.
In the laundry, it's 3$/wash. It's also very hectic to take your clothes to the laundry.
If the apartment you are renting has a washing machine, you don't need to worry about it.

Phone network provider, internet:
Some of my friends didn't buy a SIM card at all during electives. USA has WiFi everywhere. You can Whatsapp call, Skype call. Hangouts dialer let's you call on American numbers, all you need is the internet.
If you desperately need a card, Lycamobile and T mobile have the best plans. They do cost quite a bit (10-30$ per month, I am not sure.)

Money spent on clothes:
The general advice I got was to buy all my winter wear  from America since it's warmer, cheaper and of better quality. However, get at least one pair of gloves, one sweater, thermals, etc from your home country so that you don't freeze to death when you land.
Winter coat: They cost around 80$ in America and are warmer than the ones we get.
Burlington coat factory has the cheapest coats I hear. I was the most confused while buying a coat - There are pea coats and down coats and what not. You'll  figure it out :)
Boots: I didn't end up buying snow boots. You might need them if you are walking daily and if it snows a lot.
Formal clothes: Get your lab coat, shirts, pants (Do not wear denims or jeans to work), skirts, ties, formal shoes (They should cover your toes) from your home country. The amount you spend on your wardrobe is of course, variable.

The more stuff you get from your home, the less you need to buy in America and thus you spend less. So pack your bag wisely. 

How to save up on travelling: Make sure you download Uber and Lyft. Use referral code among your friends to get free rides and then split with each other :P
Lyft gives a couple of rides free initially, so make sure you download it when you know you are going to be travelling a lot for the next few days. 
There are also a few shuttles and transportation that universities like Case Western provides for free. Make sure you ask around and be updated.
I didn't live in big cities like NY or Chicago to comment on commute out there. Maybe next year, I will :)
Inter city travel: Your tickets might be expensive if you travel around Christmas or New Year's. The only way to save up on flights is to book in advance. When travelling from city to city, my friends preferred SouthWest airlines or GreyHound bus.

Managing finances: Get a prepaid card or travel card or a credit card. PayPal is great for online transactions.
Bank accounts are expensive but if you need a bank account in the US, Chase is the most economical. Bank of America is good too.
If you have dollars in cash, guard it with your life.

That's all!

Thank you, juniors, for pushing my lazy soul to complete this post.

Ask me any questions you have on expenditures in the comments section below, I will answer the best I can :)

Related posts:
Accomodation in the US

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