Estimated Costs and Budget
Congratulations on joining the InterExchange Work & Travel USA program!
Living in the U.S. can be expensive and it’s important to make necessary financial preparations before your arrival. As you research your host city, you will need to consider a range of possible expenses. Here we will guide you through creating a budget and provide advice for saving money throughout your program.
The majority of our participants spend between $3,500–$4,000 throughout their stay in the United States. We suggest that you budget at least $900 to $1200 to cover your initial costs and deposits when you arrive in the U.S., and to cover any emergency situations.
To give you some guidance on allocating your money during your time in the U.S., please review the estimated standard expenses for a single person during a typical work and travel program in the United States.
- Initial Expenses: $300 to $500 Average transportation cost from the airport to your host city and one week stay in a hostel or budget hotel.
- Housing: $125 to $150 per week Most landlords will require a security deposit equal to one month’s rent and the first month’s rent when you sign a lease.
- Utilities: $100 to $125 per month Gas, electric, phone, internet.
- Food: $100 to $250 per month or more Depending on how often you cook at home or dine out. Additional transportation: $50 to $100 per month Depending on mode of transportation in your local town.
Emergency Fund It’s always a good idea to have an emergency fund - that is, a savings account or travelers check where money is set aside in case you need it. Most U.S. checking accounts have an attached savings account where you can put a portion of your money or earnings. If your host company offers direct deposit (meaning your paycheck is automatically deposited into your account each pay period), you may be able to have a portion of your paycheck deposited directly into savings.
Stay on budget Once you have an idea of how much you will be spending each month, it’s important to stick to that number! When you’re in a new and exciting place, it’s tempting to overspend and splurge. Think about your needs versus your wants: paying your rent on time is a need, but buying a souvenir for your friend is a want!
Pay with cash, when possible It’s easier to see what you are spending when you pay in cash. It’s much more difficult to complete a big purchase when you are physically handing over the money as opposed to swiping a credit or debit card. Some small stores will have a minimum of $5 pr $10 to swipe your credit card. Make sure you have cash in hand.
Avoid ATM fees Plan ahead for your expenses. Many ATMs will charge you a fee (in addition to your own bank’s fee) when withdrawing cash, particularly if you have an international bank account. Check with your bank before arriving in the U.S. so you know ahead of time what these fees cost. It may be more cost-efficient to set up a U.S. bank account and use only that bank’s ATMs when you need cash. Please read our guide on How to Open a U.S. Bank Account.
Student discounts, coupons and deals You can get a student discount card or just look for student rates that are available for travel and entertainment. Be sure to bring your student ID card with you. Using coupons and deal websites can be a great way to save money.
Budget for your travels You will want to use the opportunity you have on the weekends or during the 30-day grace period at the end of your program to do some traveling. Look at your budget and think about how much you can afford to save up each month. If you make sure to save a little every week, you’ll be surprised how quickly your savings can grow.
Cost of Living Resources
Please visit the National Standard: Food, Clothing and Other Items section on the Internal Revenue Service’s website to learn more about the average cost of living in the United States. You can also compare the cost of living between your home city and your host city in the U.S. on these sites:
- Numbeo Cost of Living comparison
- Expatisan Cost of Living Comparison tool
In general, with proper planning you will find that you can cover the most, if not all, of the above expenses with earnings from your primary employment.