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Expenses of Living in Boston as a BU Undergrad (Part 2)

My third full year in Boston was quite different from my first two years. I shared an apartment with one roommate, but this was the first time I’d ever lived in an apartment-style home. I didn’t anticipate the costs of buying kitchenware, or how much time cleaning takes–much more than what I expected! That fall semester, my roommate and I were both under a lot of stress from school. I was overloading (taking more than the recommended number of credits), and my roommate was in an intensive business section. Though farther away than Shelton/Kilachand, we were still near campus and close to our classes. Both of us had bikes to help us commute, saving us time throughout the year!

The stress and anxiety of third year made me blind to how I was living–only after my roommate went abroad did I realize how dirty our home had become! I started to invest more time in cleaning and keeping up the house, but didn’t want to spend much money, since it was my last semester. I learned you don’t have to buy 20 different kinds of cleaners–just sponges and brushes for cleaning, soaps for the kitchen and bathroom, tabletop sanitizers, and heavier-duty cleaners for the floors and bathroom. You shouldn’t have to spend more than $20 - $30 USD ($600-900 NTD) for these items, and can split the cost with those you live with.

In addition to splitting costs, outlining specific chores to keep your home clean is a great start to maintaining your apartment. Once you make the list of what you have to do, consider what you and your housemates enjoy doing. I actually enjoy washing dishes; my roommate liked vacuuming. When you communicate proactively to split the housework, you can enjoy a more comfortable environment, save time and money, and can live with less stress. This is worth the conflict, time, and initial discomfort!

In the summer of 2016, I paid $400 USD/month ($12,000 NTD) to share a living room floor. I had no furniture. I slept in a sleeping bag, and used a suitcase and boxes to store my clothing, medicine, and food. I enjoyed this summer more than you might expect. My roommates were from India and several countries in Southeast Asia. The girl I split the living room with was a first year student, several years younger than I was. Her parents were from Taiwan, and she shared about her parents, especially their challenges and successes of moving to a new country. A few times that summer, the 5-6 of us prepared meals together, laughing and sharing stories from our hometowns. Each one of us was so different in this house, but we learned a lot from each other!

Before I came to Taiwan in 2018, I spent about a month and a half in Boston’s Back Bay/Fenway/South End neighborhoods. I helped “fill in” for a friend who was gone for the summer, but living in this room near Huntington Avenue was past my budget. I spent $900 ($27,000 NTD) a month to share a room, but this was beyond what my salary in RMB could afford. Because of this, I was anxious to find work and start my next job as soon as possible. I found cheaper ways to eat, too. Everything worked out in the end, but I think I’d set my budget first, considering both savings and income, and then decide where to live.

For more practical help, consult for more tips on comparing prices between neighborhoods. I strongly recommend setting your own personal budget first, and finding friends to live with that are “within range” of your personality and budget. You can find the list for Boston here:

Across Boston, I’ve lived in Kenmore Square (Bay State), Mission Hill/Jamaica Plain, Back Bay (near the Fens), and Allston.

In order (least to most $):

In order (least to most comfort):

In order (most worth the cost):

For neighborhoods, at the top of the line, North End, Beacon Hill, and Newbury Street are in “touristy” parts of town, and all feature high-fashion shops and expensive food. Following one friend’s advice, I’d recommend: live where you can afford to eat!

In other “fancier-schmancier” neighborhoods, you could end up paying much more! Please do a price comparison by neighborhood before you move to a new city. Once you have your work/school address, consider the alternative transportation methods for you to commute, enabling you to spend less money or time going to and from work. Remember if you choose to walk or bike: Boston has lots of snow in the winter! You might not be able to bike from November - March, if the roads are packed, wet, or slippery. Look for bus and Boston’s “T” (MRT) alternate routes.

Lastly, here are some websites where you can look for housing:

  1. Facebook housing groups

  2. BostonPads

  3. Boston Apartments



These are my experiences from living around Boston! I hope these stories can help you as you decide how to prioritize living comfort with cost in town.


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