My answer on Quora:
Thanks for A2A.
I will give this answer in context to my experience 3 years back. The total expenses that would occur to you are:
- Step 1, 2 CK, CS fees
- USMLE Coaching or tutoring if any,books, self assessment,q-bank and their extensions fees
- ERAS, separate residency application fees per hospital
- Minimum 2 US-India round trips- 1st one for your Step 2 CS and 2nd one for Residency interviews.
- Staying expense in hotel during CS and Interviews
- Air travel within US to-fro from relatives and between interviews
- Stay ,food and travel during USCE and interviews
- USCE fees if any
- Visa application and Passport if not one present
- Currency exchange cash or travel card
- Phone bills
6–8 lakh plus keeping 2–3 lakh on side safely for any unforeseen emergency is the minimum for USMLE prep. This cost is excluding any paid USCE and USMLE coaching.
10–12 lakh is a good comfortable amount to go ahead with.
A repeat at any stage is bound to cause an increase in total cost.
I had completed my entire USMLE within 6 Lakhs with 4 unpaid USCE bundled in 2 US trips I did for Step CS and few Residency interviews.
Tips to reduce cost during USMLE till you start earning:
- Find nearby motels, sharing apartments nearby to the hospital of interview or USCE to avoid travel cost.
- Avoid eating out and cook at home with friends. Take some basic items from India. A parachute oil bottle for hair can cost upto 10 $ in a US Indian store!
- Bundle your US visits for CS and USCE. Ideal would be to bundle CS+USCE+Residency interview in the same US visit.
- Do not buy anything from airports. Most buys at airports are due to boredom. A freaking small bottle of juice had cost 600 INR at my 6 hour Zurich stopover!
- Try getting unpaid USCE through contacts. Paid ones are costly and sure to increase your total cost.
- Never use ATM in US or any other country apart from India. They charge you a fees for every cash withdrawal. Do card transactions. You can swipe card even in taxis !
- For room rent if your room mate is Indian with Indian account do NEFT transfer instead than exchange dollars.
- Groceries- never buy anything organic if on budget. Buy plain staple diet bananas, cornflakes, milk, some vegs,bread and a few of your amercian diet tries. Never go over 20 $ for one grocery shopping as a thumb rule during your USMLE prep time.
- Travel card use helped me a lot as I had pre filled with dollar at a fixed exchange rate of Rs.59–60. When I was in US , the exchange rate fluctuated many times soaring to a max of Rs.65 in the short span. Thus always buy some currency at a fixed price. I had also bought around 500 $ of cash just for name sake in case my card crashes or lost or some system down.
- Airtravel book atleast 5 months ahead of time to get lesser air charges. Go for Indian websites and airlines as doing any other transaction would eat the margin in currency exchanges.
These are a few I can remember.
Stipend during residency will be enough for you to survive on own and saving will be based on the city you reside in.
Hope that helped in clearing your doubt.