Saudi Arabia: Saudi Students Managing a Budget While Abroad for Education


For many Saudi students who are coming to the United States or elsewhere for the first time to live it can be initially intimidating and confusing on figuring out how to live and set a budget.  Of course where a student is living in the United States for example makes a big difference too.  Let’s say the budget (scholarship allowance) remains the same whether a student is living near Los Angeles, Boston, Charlotte, Des Moines or Washington, DC.  Although the scholarship allowance is the same the cost of living will be very different.

What does a student need to take into account when coming to study in the United States?  First is likely finding a place to live and whether it will be furnished or unfurnished.  Unfurnished is generally much cheaper and inexpensive used furniture can easily be found at a local Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Ikea is also a good place to buy new relatively inexpensive furniture.  Additionally when renting a place landlords/apartment complexes will require one month’s rent as a security deposit.  There are also landlords who will require two month’s rent as a security deposit but that is something which can be negotiated.

In addition to acquiring and setting up an apartment other expensive to take into account are acquisition of a mobile phone.  It will be more cost effective for a student to get a mobile phone through a local provider.  Unlike Saudi Arabia, a local provider will probably require that a contract be signed.  Be sure and read carefully of what is or is not available or an option.  Some providers may give free unlimited texting and internet.  This can be a separate expense with other providers.  Most providers allow a certain number of free minutes for voice calls before charges go into effect.  Most providers allow free unlimited voice calls after 7pm or 9pm.  FYI:  It is usually most reasonable to make calls to Saudi Arabia either using a prepaid international phone call (for the Middle East area) or through Skype.

Depending where a student is living he or she may wish to have a car.  There are always many good used vehicles available for sale.  However keep in mind that if purchasing a vehicle, there will also be registration costs, perhaps some taxes and auto insurance is mandatory.  If a student purchases a car, then fuel costs need to be incorporated into a monthly budget.

Few apartments include the costs of utilities in the monthly rent.  Therefore monthly utilities can include electricity, natural gas (in some areas), water, sewage and trash.  Additionally a student would probably want internet and cable tv too.

The typical stipend a student receives while on scholarship abroad is generally US$1800.  In order to get started with an apartment a student should arrive with at least US$7000 in order to cover rent, security deposits, mobile phone, acquisition of some furniture and other settling in expenditures.

Tuition is covered through the scholarship program but books are not.  Medical and dental insurance is covered.  A scholarship student will receive an airline ticket one per year.  There are no allowances for clothing.  However a scholarship student can receive bonuses for good grades which can be equal to an extra salary.

The following is a general budget factoring in the typical monthly stipend of US$1800 to help prepare the student on what it will take to live month to month:


Rent – 1 bedroom apartment:  US$1150

Car insurance:                                     130

Mobile phone bill:                                150

Electricity:                                              90

Gas:                                                       30

Fuel for Car:                                        100

Internet/Cable TV:                              100


The above does not factor in food and groceries or a monthly car payment.


Some students may choose to live in a dormitory and others may choose to have roommates towards cutting down expenses.  It would be wise for every student to investigate through online resources what area the University is in prior to arrival.  With good research a student should have a good idea in advance of arrival on the expected cost of living and what a typical budget should be.


It would be very helpful to hear from Saudi students about their experiences on arriving at their destination and what it was like setting up house.



16 Responses

  1. I think 1800$ is a fairly decent amount. It should more than cover rent,food, utilities and leave enough for quite a few luxuries.

    After all students are here to get educated , not just to enjoy the view from the living room . I would recommend getting a couple room mates, good company and it broadens horizons.

    That’s pretty close to what residents get paid and they seem to manage fine.

  2. It is amzing how expensive college is these days. I think the most viable option is to go to school in a city (if cheaper) and avoid purchasing car. Another expense that one can incur is new driver status and under the age of 25. Monthly insurance costs are very high for young drivers, especially NJ, and one lucky to find a insurance company to cover period.
    I listened to concerns of Kuwaiti’s not Saudi’s ow challenging it is to be on their own. In a DIY society, is stressful for them.
    Carol, I like the way you remembered the small details with living expenses. I remember when Iwent out on my own and surprised to find costs that I did not take into account, such a property tax on car–expensive in Connecticut. Although it did not ‘break the bank’ , $850, Iwould rather spend it on sometihing else. At least some states don’t have property/luxary tax! The dealership will most likely not tell you either.

  3. @Jacey – $850??!!! That is outlandish! Is that a one time thing or is that like the yearly registration that we pay in Michigan?

  4. I am not kidding. Check out taxes, Stamford and New Canaan—INSANE

  5. Sometimes, attending university in a rural community and having a car can end up costing about the same as attending university in a city environment. I would definitely also concur that roommates are a good idea. In an urban environment, an apartment in a decent (not even the best neighborhood) can easily cost $1000/month for renting a 1 bedroom whereas sharing a room can lower the costs to anywhere from 400-800 depending if one is sharing a 1BR, 2BR, 3BR, etc.

    I would also recommend using to find someone to stay with when you first arrive in the area and then exploring the area on your own in person. I would also recommend asking around the campus, looking at “Roomate wanted” ad both online and on a bulletin board near the housing/accommodation office for the university. If you are choosing to commute via bus, remember to look up bus schedules and routes, not just what road is closest to the university. (Sometimes what is the fastest route by car is different than the fastest route by bus.) Additionally, sometimes there are good prices for university accommodation.

    I find living on campus convenient because it is easier to get to classes and one only has to worry about transportation for things like grocery shopping, etc.

    In the US, I found it most cost effective to live on campus. However, in England it may have been a better price to live off campus. I would be careful about sharing a lease with others unless you trust him/her to pay on time. However, this is usually not a problem. If you can find a room for rent where you rent the room directly from the landlord, this is better than sharing a lease for the whole apartment with others because you do not have to worry about whether or not the other people are paying on time.

    I would recommend having high-speed internet but not cable because a lot of television shows are available online nowadays.

  6. yes even in MASS we pay taxes yearly on our cars — depending on make and model..
    @lynn – i long long for those MI days .

    This place is taxshussets … and depending onthe car you drive you’ll get taxed a certain percentage of the value.. wish i was driving a chrysler Pt cruiser now.. really really wish. I told F any new cars we get will be the cheapest we can get, we rarely use both regularly yet we pay tax for it to sit inour garage…v sad..

  7. If you multiply the monthly stipend, can’t one just live on campus with a meal plan. Close to 2000k x twelve?

  8. It’s a bit difficult to convert etc, but it’s at least twice or three times as much as what I had when studying. And I could handle it.

  9. And let us not forget if the student is married, his wife gets the same stipend as well. Also if he has children, they will get a monthly allowance as well.

  10. I’m baffled how well the Saudi students live here in East Canada. The students I know pay outlandish living expenses by choice (condo sized apartments in Downtown core, $200 phone bills, cars, dinners out and a fridge stocked full of expensive products, smokes, alcohol and a huge entertainment budget).
    I’m not sure if this is because they are used to a higher standard of living, or because they aren’t used to having such finances and freedom to do with it as they wish.
    The odd thing is, by month end they usually dont have any money left.
    There should be prep classes for this.

  11. Many of the students at my language school drive a Mustang or Lexus or other such expensive car. They go on trips to Las Vegas and Miami beach. However, when asked why they don’t have the required book for class, it’s “oh, teacher, too expensive! I don’t have money.” On the other hand, students from other countries with no scholarship who are barely scraping by ALWAYS have their books. Classes on how to live within one’s means and follow a budget would certainly benefit the Saudi students.

  12. My brother is half Saudi half Spanish born in the US, he needs money to finish his studies which he’s studying in Spain , he can either study in Spain or the US (he speaks Englush and Spanish , but not well Arabic) will there be a way to help him to finish his studies? He have been working at the same time , but his grades are not that high cause he can’t do both at the same time.

    Will they give him a scholarship?

  13. laila where is his daddy?
    no pappa no scholarship.

  14. @Laila,
    If he’s a US citizen (by birth), then he should be eligible for US student loans and scholarships. This includes some schools outside the US.

  15. In case I was unclear, all us citizens and permanent residents are eligible for us student loans and grants. Scholarships vary.

  16. who is they?

    apply for fafsa in the usa. spain i dont know. saudi money call your dad.

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