It’s important not to underestimate the true cost of living, which includes rent, food, transportation, entertainment, and other expenses. It is also important to note that many internships and training programs take place in major American cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, where the cost of living can be much higher than in rural areas.
TRAVEL TIP: Your host organization can offer guidance on the cost of living and advice on managing your money while you are in the U.S. In addition, Expatistan.com is a useful tool that can help you compare the current cost of living in different U.S. cities to the cost of living in your home country.
GUIDELINES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR FINANCES
A good rule is to spend no more than one-third of your monthly income on rent. Also keep in mind that most leases will require the first month’s rent and a security deposit in advance.
Some rentals include heat/air conditioning, water, and electricity; others do not. Be sure to ask. If not included in your rent, there may also be bills for services like cable TV, internet, and phone.
While it might be more convenient to eat out, it is far less expensive and generally healthier to prepare home-cooked meals. This also creates opportunities to share meals – and your culture – with others.
It is a good idea to plan ahead for daytrips and vacations. Make travel a budgeted item, and set some money aside each week for exploration.
It is easy to spend a lot of money on entertainment in major cities, so choose wisely. Ask your colleagues or supervisor for tips on fun but inexpensive things to do locally.
OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT
A bank account makes living in the U.S. easier and is a good way to protect your money. There are several different types of accounts, including savings and checking. We recommend you choose a checking account at a bank that has no minimum balance requirement or ATM fees. It is also smart to choose a bank with a branch or ATM near your residence or host organization.
To open an account, you will need these documents:
- Your passport and J-1 visa
- Your DS-2019 form
- Proof of your Social Security application (or Social Security number, if you have received it)
- Proof of address, such as your rental agreement (or lease)
- A letter from your host organization confirming your position (not always required)