Student and 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 exchange student are on the same page.

Host family expenses

Host families are responsible for providing their exchange student with their meals, reasonable transportation when needed, 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

Exchange 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 lunch at school and meals outside the home?

Host families are expected to provide and/or pay for students lunches during the school week and weekends. We recommend Host families communicate openly with their students about what they would typically provide for lunches, where supplies for making lunches are stored in the kitchen, and which supplies can or cannot be used - including if leftovers or other types of food can be used. Host families are not expected to prepare lunch every day as students can prepare lunch for themselves, but its a good idea to help students in the first days when they are still getting used to their new home.


If you are providing lunch supplies for your students to prepare their own lunch, but your student would rather eat at school, that would be at their own expense. Alternatively, if you do not want to purchase supplies to store at home for school lunches, you can provide "lunch money" to students on a daily basis so that they can buy lunch when at school. Again, we recommend open communication and choosing what works best for your family and your students together.


When it comes to eating together as a family outside of the home, host families provide meals 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 exchange 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."

What costs are covered by EF?

EF's programme fee is inclusive of the larger costs associated with both the student and host family experience. For students, this includes exchange preparation, visa application guidance and support, language support before and during the programme, travel costs to and from the UK, our "EF Welcome Days" and "EF Farewell Days" experiences, and more.


EF additionally provides several benefits to our students in order to help students have a positive experience and to encourage their independence.


EF provides the following benefits:

  • Reimbursement of £30 for a 16-17 Saver or 16-25 Railcard to help students get discounts on travel around the UK.

  • Reimbursement of up to £120 per month for travel to and from school for class.


Each student's Student Success Advisor and EF Team will additionally organise smaller meetups, activities and large EF Regional Meetups throughout the exchange that are free of cost to join and typically include an activity and a meal.

Do exchange students know how to manage their own money?

Exchange students usually have little experience managing and budgeting money; your guidance will be needed and appreciated. Your student may not realize 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?

Exchange students are encouraged to budget 250-300 GBP 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 exchange 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.

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