A big part of the college-experience™, is managing your own money a.k.a budgeting. All of us ambassadors teamed up to give you our best tips, tricks, and hacks to living the dream at the University of Cincinnati.
I have lived on campus for around 2 years now. The most important thing that helps with the living cost for me is work. I work on-campus both during school and during breaks. International students can work on-campus for up to 20 hours/week during school and 40 hours/week during breaks. You can make at least $600/month if you work the full 20 hours during school. This should be enough to cover groceries and utilities, and even rent depending on where you live.
Co-op and internships is another great way to earn money (some internships will be unpaid, but you’ll gain the experience needed to get that paid internship next semester). Students on co-op make an average of $10,000/semester. After 3-5 semesters of co-op (requirements vary by program) you’re looking at lots of money towards tuition, rent, and other everyday expenses. Many of my friends on co-op have been paying their bills independently. Even though I am not required to co-op, I worked at a research lab full-time last summer and made some decent money.
Some cost-cutting tips:
1. Compare textbook prices everywhere online. Everywhere. Try to rent them instead of buying them. Almost every book retailer has online returns. Buy them second hand. See if the library has the book, and don’t buy it at all.
2. Sign up for membership/deals at places you visit often. For example, I eat at this restaurant off campus a lot. Because I signed up to be a rewards member, I collect points every time I eat there. So far, I have gotten 2 free meals already from my points, and it’s only been 3 weeks.
3. Black Friday sales! I bought a winter coat that would cost $200 for $80 this Black Friday.
4. Hanging out with your friends shouldn’t mean spending like crazy every week. There’s so many fun things you can do for cheap or free like watching movies (either at home or in the campus cinema for just $2!), cooking at home, play games indoors, on-campus events.
Xi’s tips for living off campus:
Living off campus is a great way to save some money and learn to be independent, so I strongly suggest you try it after your freshman year. Living on campus can be relatively expensive despite the fact you can easily access many resources. So most students choose to live off campus with their friends after their first year and pay way less for their monthly rent. How cheap can off-campus housing be? I would say VERY depending on where you live. I know students who pay around $300/month for their rent, but the monthly rent for some of my friends is more than $1,300. It really depends on you and what demands you have for living. Just keep in mind, cost should not be the only consideration! Safety, distance to campus, and distance to grocery store and gas station are also important to research. I will provide a list helpful off-campus living link for you below, so feel free to check them out.
Another great benefit of living off-campus is to become independent quickly. What I mean is that you will have to learn taking care of yourselves by cooking and eating healthy food, paying electronic and water bill on time, living harmoniously with roommates. Even though those sound like a lot of extra work compared to living on campus, they would be extremely helpful for you to know how to deal with others, how to balance between your school work and daily life, and even just how to read a bill. Overall, this is the necessary process for you to really grow up and become independent from your parents (as we all wished!).
There are some off-campus housing resources, hope this would be useful for you.
· The first place you can go is the off-campus housing page on UC’s website: offcampushousing.uc.edu This is compiled by student organizations that aim to assist students in finding the most appropriate apartments or housings. You can also find roommates and post housing resources for sublease, so it’s definitely a great resource!
· My next suggestion would be some online applications that are designed for matching housings, such as ABODO and Zillow Rentals. The housing my friends and I live in now we found using Zillow. We just filtered our search based on our needs like budget, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, pet-friendly or not, and so on. Then we contacted the landlord directly and visited the actual house to make our final decision.
· Other resources could be recommendations from friends, especially those who have experience living off-campus. Recommendations from friends will become one of your most reliable resources. Some students will even sublease from each other while they are on co-op in another city, for example.
Nicole’s money-saving tips:
For my first year, I lived on campus and had meal plans, so the total cost of living and dining for one semester is around $5000 ($900/month and meal plan $2200/semester).
In my second year, I lived off-campus and started to cook by myself. I also found a part-time job on campus and got paid around $300/month. My earnings can afford my daily expenses (grocery $240/month, telephone $30/month).
Abhishek’s wisdom on the best credit cards & travelling cheap:
Credit cards for international students are largely the same as any other student credit cards. It’s just that not all international students can qualify for their own credit card account while studying in the United States. And not all credit card companies have the same requirements. More specifically, most credit cards are only available to foreign students who have a Social Security number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). But there are some that require only your passport and student ID.
Since international students travel a lot, I recommend getting credit cards that give you points for every flight ticket you purchase. However, since credit history takes time to build after getting your SSN, not all can qualify for such high-end credit cards. Usually, international students would start with either a PNC credit card or a Discover credit card which will give you a credit limit of about $500-1,000.
Here’s a list of credit cards I carry:
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred (moderate to high credit score) – 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Premium travel & dining rewards Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants. $0 intro annual fee for the first year, after that $95 per year. Chase is the best travel card since it gives you 2 miles for every dollar spent. These miles can then be transferred to your preferred airlines’ frequent flier program.
2. Discover Cash Back (low credit score) – 5% cash back at different places each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. No annual fee.
3. Amex Everyday Credit Card (moderate credit score) – Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. No annual fee. Amex also gives me free travel insurance while renting a car.
International students need to travel a lot and cheap tickets can always help bring down overall costs of studying in the United States. My two cents: always check slickdeals.net before buying a ticket online. Slickdeals.net has great flight deals. Just by searching “flights” on the Slickdeals.net search bar, all current/upcoming deals will popup. Additionally, one can also create an account and set alerts for deals on flights to/from specific cities. Another great website to check out while making travel bookings is StudentUniverse.com. StudentUniverse is a travel booking site for students and youth. It offers discounted pricing and terms on flights, hotels and tours.
Tosha’s guide to living on the cheap:
- Cook! Cooking your own food is a lot cheaper than eating out all the time. A meal in a restaurant costs around $9 – $13, while one week’s worth of groceries costs me about $25 tops.
- Pay attention to social media and emails. If you’re on campus and want a little snack, there’s is definitely at least one student organization giving out free food at that very moment. They give food out so students can eat it, don’t hesitate!
- Groupon and Pocket Points. Both of these services offer discounts on local food places. Be sure to check them out before heading somewhere.
- Chipotle – a huge student favorite – gives complimentary soft tacos, burritos on the side with any meal.
- Always ask for a student discount. Most places offer 10-20% off the general ticket just for showing your college ID. Employees will not always ask you if you have a student ID, so make sure you ask to avail your benefits!
- Some public spaces have a ‘suggested donation’ policy – keep an eye out for that! You’re a broke college student and you shouldn’t have to pay more than you can!
- Check if any of your student organizations are offering to sponsor a trip to somewhere fun! UC groups on campus have organized trips to baseball games, escape rooms and trampoline parks! All you have to do is sign up and there you have it – free fun!
- If you don’t have a car (or even if you do!), get the UC + Metro student pass. The pass is free and allows you to travel nearby by bus for just $1 per ride, as opposed to $1.75. That’s a 40% discount right there!
- Carpool. If you want to drive to a nearby state or city (like Columbus or Detroit), ask on the RideShare group. It is likely that someone else is driving there, and you’d have to pay them gas money which is comparatively lesser than paying for the bus. It also takes a lot less time!
- Taking campus-provided transport like the shuttle and NightRide when you’re not in a hurry.
- Price Match. Price Match. Say it with me, PRICE MATCH! A lot of big brands like H&M and Forever 21 will reduce their price to match a competitor. Before you check out your items, google them and see if there is a cheaper version.
- Buying used items when it comes to things like books where hygiene isn’t an issue. Facebook marketplace is a goldmine. So are thrift stores. Renting helps too.
1. Off-campus housing is cheaper. Do your research.
2. On-campus part-time jobs for the win!
3. Cook! It’s cheaper AND healthier.
4. Take advantage of free things! Credit card cash-backs, travel perks, free food at on-campus events, you name it!
5. Always check if you can get student discounts, promotional discounts, or a cheaper option.