Calculating the Cost of Living

As a graduate student, you’re probably accustomed to living on a tight budget and stretching your stipend/income to cover daily living expenses, childcare, healthcare, and other basic and social needs.  One factor to consider as you look for research opportunities, residential fellowships, or postdocs, is the cost of living in the area(s) where you plan to collect data, write and/or teach.  Many grant proposals require a budget and it can be difficult to judge how much living expenses, let alone research expenses, will cost in a place that’s new to you.  Likewise, if you’re weighing your options between fellowship and postdoc opportunities, it’s important to know how much your stipend will cover. Living costs can vary dramatically depending on whether you’re living in a large, metropolitan area or a small college town, like Amherst, MA.

For comparing the cost of living in the U.S., NerdWallet offers a helpful new tool: the Cost of Living Calculator.  Not all cities are represented, but it’s a good place to start if you’re trying to figure out living costs in the U.S.

You can also refer to the Economic Research Institute for cost of living comparisons. If you’re trying to calculate living costs abroad, the U.S. Department of State publishes foreign per diem rates and quarterly reports on living costs abroad.

Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the expertise of fellow graduate students and professors who may have traveled and conducted research in the same areas – they can provide great advice on preparing budgets for grant proposals, where to live, where NOT to live, etc.

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