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Studying in the US: A Lesson in Personal Finance

How much spending money should students budget for? Part 35 of our Foreign Student Series. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

A question from the teacher. Susanna Wesson writes: "I teach English to French students of engineering who benefit very much from your Foreign Student Series. Could you do a program on money, banking and shopping for students in the U.S.?"

Many colleges and universities in the United States have guidelines for what they consider reasonable budgets for personal spending.

Senem Bakar is the assistant director of International Student Services at American University in Washington, D.C. She suggests that students budget at least one thousand three hundred dollars for a nine-month school year. This will help pay for things like transportation, telephone bills, supplies and entertainment.

Paul Butler is the financial manager in the Office of International Services at Indiana University Bloomington. He says the advice there is to have at least two thousand four hundred dollars for twelve months in the United States.

Indiana and many other schools also offer advice on ways to manage spending and save money. For example, for entertainment, look for free concerts or museums. Want to go to a movie? Prices are usually lower in the daytime than at night.

American University advises students to check newspaper advertisements for sales and to use money-saving coupons. If a product is "on sale," that means it is being offered for a limited time at a reduced price. Senem Bakar says students learn that in the United States you can find almost everything on sale somewhere.

Also, many banks offer special services for students, like free checking accounts, including a debit card. Debit cards can be used almost anywhere credit cards are accepted.

Millions of Americans now use a debit card or credit card, instead of paper money or checks, to make most of their purchases.

With a credit card, you are borrowing money every time you use it. Debit cards are different. They are linked directly to a checking account so you are paying with your own money.

Debit cards, also known as check cards, do not have interest charges. But users are charged if they try to spend more than the amount available in their account. These fees can be costly even if you overspend by just a few cents.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by June Simms. Earlier reports in our Foreign Student Series are at I'm Steve Ember.