How I saved hundreds of dollars in the cost of living in the US as an International student.

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For the last one year, I did not pay a dime for heat, electric, garbage pick-up, laundry and gas without any roommates. I am successfully graduating from GCC this fall and I managed to do it by saving hundreds of dollars in the cost of living. Most Americans and International students alike, stare at me in disbelief when I tell them that I pay nothing for utilities and I managed to do so without a roommate. Do I sound too good to be true? I certainly do. Let me show you how I made frugal living a reality in this outrageously exorbitant economy. According to a news report by the national low-income housing coalition, a full-time minimum wage job won’t get you a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in America. A lot of one bedroom apartments in Batavia range between $500-650 plus you will have to pay for heat, electric, Internet, phone bill and fuel separately.

I have spent the first one year at GCC building friendships. I have spoken with everyone and I got to know everyone around me. I am a keen observer of people around me and I am a pretty decent judge of character. It did not take me long to figure out people who would be genuinely helpful to me. I like helping people as well and I am usually extra kind and respectful to elderly folks. I live away from my parents and whenever I come across an elderly person I suddenly miss my parents. South Asian children like me usually live with their parents until their parents pass away. South Asian culture also emphasizes a lot on family values. Very quickly, I got to know a lot of elderly folks with empty houses in Batavia and Oakfield because their children moved out. Many of these elderly, soon to be retired folks were impressed by me and offered me to live in the basement of their large, empty houses to pay off their mortgage. It did not take me long to figure out that it is way cheaper for me to lease one bedroom and bathroom space in a large empty house, instead of, leasing a whole apartment. I pay only $500 for rent without any roommates. Electric, heat, laundry, garbage pick-up and everything else is included with it. I do not deal with electric or fuel companies at all.

I know a lot of International students who pay $300-400 for off-campus housing but they are forced to put up with roommates and additionally need to pay for heat, electric and other necessities separately. On-campus housing is extremely expensive and if you are like me who is not at all interested in dealing with roommates, residential assistants then, yes, off-campus housing is for you. Some International students almost get free on-campus housing if they choose to be a residential assistant on campus. However, all students do not get the job of being a residential assistant. International students also do not get financial aid from the US government to live on-campus. Personally, the job of being a residential assistant and dealing with on-campus drama never appealed to me. Never mind, how much you dangle the offer of a free on-campus housing to me. I simply refuse to have roommates. Hence, I never considered applying for a residential assistant job.

Leasing a basement or a separate unit in a large, empty house with no children is the best way to save money on the cost of living, instead of, renting a separate house or one bedroom apartment all by yourself and being responsible for your own heat and electric. I live in a basement of a large house with my own kitchen, bathroom, study room, and bedroom. I have a nice backyard and parking space as well. I almost never see my landlord who lives upstairs. I have my own separate entrance. There is no way I would be charged a separate electric or heat bill as there is usually only one meter per house. However, be respectful. Try to conserve energy and heat. Do not abuse anybody’s generosity and trust. I keep all my lights off when I do not need it and I use as little water as possible. Do not tamper or raise the thermostat. You certainly do not want to upset a landlord who is willing to pay for your heat, electric, garbage pick-up, and laundry.

Thus, the moral of the story is to be nice to people in general. Do not pretend to be nice to people just because you have an ulterior motive. People will quickly realize your motive and turn away from you. If you want to successfully live in a place for a year or two like me, then focus on building a good relationship with your landlord. Good behavior will take you a long way in life. Do a background check and make sure you really know the person you are living with. You will definitely come across good-hearted people who will offer you almost free-housing or housing at a lower cost. I am graduating this fall from GCC and I am moving to another state. I will be a house-aide at an elderly person’s house and I will be paying nothing for rent, electric, heat, garbage- pick up and other expenses. Now, I have decreased my cost of living from $500 to zero dollar. I repeat again, “Be nice to elderly people!”

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