Student & host family expenses: who pays for what?

Having an extra teenager in your home will likely increase your household expenses, such as petrol, water and grocery bills. Here is some guidance on how to best set financial boundaries from the beginning to ensure that both you and your student are on the same page.

Host family expenses

Host families are responsible for providing their exchange student with their meals, transportation and a clean and safe living environment. At first, it may feel awkward trying to balance treating your student as a member of the family, while also expecting them to pay for their own personal expenses. It can be tempting to be overly generous with your student at the beginning and offer to pay for things that are their responsibility. However, this can set the wrong precedent in your student’s mind. Helping your student understand their monthly expenses and what they're responsible for will set you both up for a healthy relationship.


EF tells students that personal toiletries are their responsibility. However, there may be household toiletries that you’re buying for everyone in the family, such as toilet paper and toothpaste. Discuss those items with your student and clarify which toiletries you will provide for the family and which personal toiletries the student would be expected to pay for. Host families are expected to cover:


  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Utilities
  • Reasonable transportation
  • Household toiletries

Exchange student expenses

Students are expected to cover their personal expenses while on programme. They will likely bring a credit card, debit card or pre-paid card from back home. Students may experience some challenges using their foreign cards in local retailers, so it's best that they also carry cash. 


When planning family activities that come with a cost, talk with your student about the expenses and ensure that they have enough in their budget to participate.


Students are expected to cover:


  • Personal toiletries and cosmetics
  • Phone plan
  • Clothes
  • Entertainment — time with friends such as concerts, school dances, museums, entry fees, movies, coffee dates, miniature golf, etc.
  • Holiday gifts
  • Additional food costs beyond what’s provided
  • School and sports fees
  • Travel

Who pays for the school lunches?

Students are expected to pay for their own lunches during the school week. If you are providing lunch supplies for them in the house but your student would rather eat at school, that would be their expense.

Who should pay for the student when we eat at a restaurant together?

Host families provide for an exchange student, so if you decide to eat out for a meal and you expect your student to go along, plan to pay for them. Set guidelines for your family around meals that are eaten outside the home. One host mum says, “When we go out, I look over the menu and tell my sons and student how much they’re allowed to spend at that restaurant. I usually pick an average of the prices listed and everyone is expected to stay under that. This helps keep our meals affordable."

Do students know how to manage their own money?

Students usually have little experience managing and budgeting money; your guidance will be needed and appreciated. Your student may not realise all the expenses associated with social activities and entertainment or the reoccurring expenses like a monthly cell phone plan.

How much should exchange students budget per month?

Students are encouraged to budget 250-300 Euro per month during the exchange. Prior to their arrival and throughout the exchange, it is helpful to provide a list of monthly expenses, like their mobile phone plan and toiletries, as well as any one- time fees they should be aware of such as family holidays, sport expenses, additional school fees or tickets to local events.

Can my exchange student open a local bank account?

Your student may try to open a local checking account so their parents can deposit money for their spending money. Not all banks allow a minor from abroad to obtain an account. For everyone's protection, we do not recommend co-signing on a bank account for your student. Instead, encourage your student to use their debit or credit card from back home.

Other topics

Learn more about hosting an exchange student

Are you ready to experience a new culture at home? Connect with us and start your hosting journey now.

Tell us about yourself

Speak to an EF exchange advisor

Choose your exchange student

Get started with hosting