Tips to save money for international students

International students can always use some extra money during school. They are anyways buried in education loans at high interest rates and anything they can save can help them in the future. Some international students are financially savvy and good at saving/making money during school.

We went to various colleges and collected the best tips from international students to help you save and make money during school.

Below are the top 5 ways you can save money during school:

  1. Bring stuff from home: When you are traveling from home as an international student, many airlines offer extra luggage. Instead of 2 bags, they allow 3 checked in bags in addition to hand luggage. We have seen students bring a lot nonperishable food items from their home country. Ashutosh from India studying Computer Science at Stony Brook in New York brought in 50 packets of Maggi Masala Noodles to help him survive because he didn’t know if he’ll able to get vegetarian food near the university.
  2. Have roommates: One of the biggest parts of living expenses during school is rent. It is always a pain to find a good apartment close to campus that is cheap, safe, and easily accessible. Safety is really important, especially for girls from other countries. Parents are always about their kids being a victim of a crime, more so in a foreign country. If you can, try to find an apartment close to campus – it’s not going to be cheap but you can have roommates. Having too many roommates may save you more money but it is not worth it at the cost of your privacy and comfort. Choose roommates wisely and save money. Cindy Lu from China at NYU MS in Finance got an apartment close to downtown campus. She got 2 roommates for a 3 bedroom apartment which help her a lot of save money (as 1 bedroom apartments were very expensive) and she stayed close to campus. She suggests that having roommates who also go to the same school helps with schedules and general understanding.
  3. Cook at home: The second highest expense of students living on their own is food. Students are fairly busy with classes, homework, networking, job hunt and many other things. They either don’t have the time or energy to come back home and cook food. Let’s face it, most of us are not good cooks. But it’s worth spending some time initially, maybe before you leave the country to learn to prepare a few basic dishes. There are a lot of dishes you can cook in a matter of minutes. If you make them in bulk on a weekend, you can refrigerate the rest and eat during the rest of the week. Not to say that you should completely stop eating outside but cooking even half your meals at home can save you a lot of money. Erfat from Turkey who is a Ph.D. in Economics student at Columbia University cooks a few meals at home every week. He mixes it up with different cuisines when eating out. It keeps the bills low and food interesting for him.
  4. Travel on a budget: During the school months, most students are really busy but they get a few breaks including summer holidays to relax and wind down. Some students use this time to take trips across the country to explore and experience the culture. These are peak times for all students and usually, flight tickets and hotels are expensive. If you are planning a trip during these breaks, try to book tickets in advance and plan accordingly. Sometimes a flight leaving early in the morning or late at night can be cheaper than flights leaving at peak times. It is easy to go out of the budget and spend 3x than normal fares during these times. Ashwin at Arizona State University planned his summer break trip 4 months in advance and was able to get deals on flight and hotels. He says that it helped him save hundreds of dollars for the complete trip.
  5. Work on campus: One way of saving money is to make more money. One of the best ways to do that is to work on campus. As an international student, you are not allowed to work out of campus until after 6 months of your arrival in the U.S. There may also not be many jobs for you. But you can work on campus soon after you start school. If you get an on-campus job offer, you get your I-9 and SSN pretty quickly which allows you to work and earn some extra cash. This cash will help you meet part of your monthly expenses and you can save something in case of emergencies. Edwin Wu from Hong Kong at University of Florida got a job on campus in the first week of starting school which made him enough money to cover his rent. He suggests that applying to many departments at the university even before you start school helps in finding a job faster.

Additional tips:

  • Get a phone on a family plan: Everyone needs a phone to stay connected with their family and friends. In the US, most people get a phone on a postpaid plan. You may need to have a credit history to be approved for a plan but you can join someone in a family plan who already has one. A family plan is sort of a combined account where allotted call and data usage can be used by everyone in the plan. This helps reduce the cost of your phone bill by up to $30/month.
  • Have meals at campus events: There are always a lot of events at campuses. This is more prominent at campuses with MBA schools. There is always leftover food from these events and sometimes there are mailing lists where students are notified if an event has ended and there is leftover food. This is high quality food that serves as lunch and dinner for many students. The best thing is that it’s usually on campus, so you can save time.
  • Get student discounts around campus: There are many shops and stores around campus that are catered specifically to university students. You can get discounts at these stores with your student ID.

Major tip:

  • Become friends with seniors: The best way to learn the tricks of the trade is to be friends with people who have already done this before you. Seniors at any campus are always the best and most up to date source of information. They understand you the most closely and can guide you based on your specific situation. Almost every university has an international student association focused on their country. For e.g. there may be separate associations for Indian students, Chinese students, and Korean students. Don’t feel shy of reaching out seniors and asking for help. Usually, they are more than happy to impart wisdom. It’s even better if you can become roommates with them. You will be in constant and will get to learn from every day.

If you follow these tips, you will quickly see the benefits and save thousands of dollars during your higher education. The cost of education puts a significant financial burden on international students and their parents, so every saving helps.

About Stilt:

Stilt provides loans to international students and working professionals in the U.S. (F-1, OPT, H-1B, O-1, L-1, TN visa holders) at rates lower than any other lender. Stilt is committed to helping immigrants build a better financial future.

We take a holistic underwriting approach to determine your interest rates and make sure you get the lowest rate possible.

Learn more about us on Wikipedia or visit us at If you have any questions, send us an email at