Personal Expenses

Personal Living Expenses

Most students have to live on a limited budget wherever they are. Luckily, it doesn't cost a lot to live comfortably in Portland. Besides the cost of tuition, fees, and textbooks, you will have to pay for basics such as the following:

Entertainment and Recreation
Cell Phones and Internet


Housing and related costs will probably be your biggest monthly expenditure. Living in a University Housing residence hall or living with a host family in a homestay are less expensive options. Renting an apartment is more expensive because in addition to rent you also have to pay for utilities like water, electricity, gas, etc. You can save money by living with a roommate. For more detailed information about housing options, go to the Housing page.

Estimated Cost of Housing
Type of Housing Estimated Cost
University Housing (utilities included) $600 - $1,500/month
Homestay (utilities included) $600 - $900/month
Apartment (rent only) $1,200 - $1,500/month


Additional Estimated Costs
Type of Cost Estimated Cost
Utilities (water, sewer, garbage, electricity, gas, internet, phone) $300 - $500/month
Food and personal necessities $300 - $500/month
Furnishing for your room $500+


If you choose to live in an unfurnished room or apartment, you will have to buy or rent furniture when you move in. You can buy new furniture at IKEAFred MeyerCity Liquidators Furniture Warehouse, or other furniture stores in the Portland area. You can buy used furniture at Consignment Northwest, on Craigslist, or thrift stores like Goodwill. You can rent furniture from Rent-A-CenterPeople's Furniture Rental, or Express Furniture Rental.


If you live off campus, you will have to budget for the cost of transportation. Walking and bicycling are the healthiest and least expensive ways to get around, but they are not always practical if you need to travel far. Portland has an excellent public transportation system, which includes TriMet buses, MAX trains, and the Portland Streetcar. Tickets cost $2.50 and allow you to ride and transfer for up to two hours. If you ride the bus or MAX regularly, you can buy a reduced-rate Student Transit Pass from PSU's Transportation Services. All PSU students can ride the Portland Streetcar for free, just show your PSU student ID to the fare inspector. For more information, see the TriMet website. Over 40% of IELP and PSU students use public transportation to get to and from campus.  Driving a car is the most expensive way to get around because you have to buy the car, maintain it, fill it with gas, pay for parking, and purchase insurance.

Estimated Costs of Transportation
Type of transportation Estimated cost
Portland Trimet pass (bus and MAX) $150/term
Bicycle $100+
Car $2,000+


Additional costs associated with a car
Type expense Estimated cost
Gas $30/week
Parking on campus $400/term
Car $2,000+
Car insurance $50+/month


Food is moderately expensive in the United States, and how much you spend depends on your eating habits. Eating out in restaurants is more expensive than preparing your own meals at home. The cost to eat out ranges from $5 for fast food to $12 or more for a sit-down meal in a restaurant. For more information about restaurants, go to the Life in PDX page.

The cost of groceries depends on where you shop and what you buy. Large supermarkets tend to have the lowest prices and the largest selection of products. Examples of supermarkets in Portland include SafewayFred MeyerAlbertsons, and Winco Foods.

There are alternatives to supermarkets. Natural food stores like New SeasonsWhole Foods, and Trader Joes sell a variety of health foods and organic fruit and vegetables, but they tend to be more expensive. Portland has many farmers' markets where you can buy local fruit and vegetables and other specialty food products. Finally, you can find the foods you are used to eating back home at international food stores such as the following:

Middle Eastern

Barbur World Foods, 9845 SW Barbur Blvd, Portland, 503-244-0670 
Bazaar Market, 10255 SW Canyon Rd, 503-641-1352
Beaverton Halal Meats, 11527 SW Canyon Rd, Beaverton, 503-574-2383
Halal Meats and Mediterranean Foods, 11535 SW Pacific Hwy, Portland, 503-293-3020
Hashi Halal Market, 106 N Killingsworth St, Portland, 319-335-3557


99 Ranch8155 SW Hall Blvd, Beaverton, OR 97008, 503-605-1899
An Dong Market, 5441 SE Powell Blvd, Portland, 503-777-2463
Anzen Hiroshi's Inc, 736 NE MLK Blvd, Portland, 503-233-5111
Chang Fa Market, 8310 SE Division St, Portland, 503-788-8882
Fubonn Shopping Center, 2850 SE 82nd Ave, Portland, 503-517-8877
G-Mart, 3975 SW 114th Ave, Beaverton, 503-641-3313
H-Mart13600 SW Pacific Hwy, Portland, OR 97223,  503-620-6120
Hong Phat Market, 9819 NE Prescott St, Portland, 503-254-8280
Oriental Food Value, 8303 SE Insley St, Portland, 503-775-8683
Pacific Supermarkets, 6750 NE Broadway St, Portland, 503-251-0524
Tin Seng Trading Company, 8350 SE Division St, Portland, (503) 777-8203
Uwajimaya, 10500 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy, Beaverton, 503-643-4512
Vieng Lao Oriental Food Center, 1032 N Killingsworth St, Portland, 503-285-7833


African International Food Market, 922 N Killingsworth St # 1C, Portland, 503-283-8585
African Mini-Mart and Deli, 819 N Killingsworth St, Portland, 503-360-1398
East African Hallal Meat Deli, 7830 NE Glisan St, Portland, 503-432-8600
Selam Market and Restaurant, 3513 NE MLK Blvd, Portland, 503-288-8585
Warsame African Food Market, 7535 NE Glisan St, Portland, 503-933-7368
Your African Community Market, 5516 NE 16th Ave, Portland, 503-287-5200


The cost of clothes varies depending on when and where you shop. Take advantage of sales for big savings, and remember that Oregon has no sales tax. Shopping malls are convenient because they have many stores in one place, which allows you to compare prices for similar items. The largest shopping malls in the Portland area are Pioneer PlaceLloyd CenterClackamas Town Center Mall, and Washington Square. You can save a lot of money on clothes at discount stores like Ross Dress for LessT.J. MaxxMarshalls, and Burlington Coat Factory. You can also save money at outlet stores such as those located at Columbia Gorge Premium Outlets and just south of Portland at Woodburn Company Stores. Your cheapest option is to buy used clothes at thrift stores such as Goodwill.

Entertainment & Recreation

As a student, it is important to have a balance between work and play. You can find the least expensive options for entertainment and recreation right here on the PSU campus. The IELP offers many free and low cost activities for students throughout the term. For more information and a schedule of events, go to the Activities page. It is free for students to use the Student Recreation Center, which is a fully equipped sports facility, as well as to attend Viking sporting events. Students can see movies at the 5th Avenue Cinema for free, and attend theater and concerts on campus for only $7-$15. The Viking Game Room offers low-cost bowling, billiards, and video games. There are many more options for entertainment and recreation off campus. For details, go to the Life in PDX page.

Estimated Cost of Recreation & Entertainment
Type of entertainment Estimated cost
Movie $10 matinee / $15 evening show
Online Video Streaming Account (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, etc) $8.99+/month
Professional Sporting Event $20+
Theater Ticket $20+
Concert Ticket $30+
Museum Admission $10-$12

Cell Phones and Internet

You have many options for keeping in touch with friends and family and accessing the internet. Some students bring a cell phone/smart phone with them from their home country and purchase a SIM card and data plan from an American provider. You can also buy a smart phone here. You may also choose to arrange for home internet access, as well as cable TV or satellite. You can save money by going through one company and "bundling" services for a discount. This usually requires that you sign a contract for a year or longer. PSU offers free internet access and Wi-Fi to students on campus, as do many cafes in Portland. Typical providers of cell phones, internet, and/or cable services include the following companies: AT&TCentury LinkCricketDIRECTVDish Network,  SprintT-MobileXfinity, and Verizon.

Estimated Monthly Costs for Cell Phone and Internet Plans
Type of Service Estimated Cost
Data Plan (Smart phone) $50+/month
Internet $75+/month