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Getting Set Up


Moving to a new city can be very costly. Some houses and apartments may have basic furniture, but you may need to purchase many items (e.g. bedding, clothing, kitchenware, cleaning supplies) in order to make your new home livable. In a city the size of Philadelphia, it is possible to save

a lot of money by buying second-hand items or looking to see if people are giving certain items away for free.


Second-hand (“Thrift”) stores


Thrift stores are common across the USA, and they are a great place to find a huge variety of second-hand items at very low cost. There are many thrift stores in Philadelphia, but the following are some of the better-known ones:


Finding Free/Low-cost Second-hand Items Online


Craigslist is a platform with websites for most major US cities, and it allows people to advertise a variety of goods and services. You can search the for sale or free stuff section for specific items, and use the menu on the left to filter by price and distance from your home. You should be careful when using Craigslist, as listings may be fraudulent - never pay in advance for something you see on Craigslist, and never share your bank details with sellers! You can find more advice on spotting Craigslist scams here.


It is very common for people to buy and sell things on Facebook Marketplace. Similarly to Craigslist, some listings will not be real and some sellers will not be trustworthy. Again, never pay in advance for something you see on Facebook Marketplace, and never share your bank details with sellers.


“Buy Nothing” Facebook Groups


The Buy Nothing Project represents the world’s largest gift economy. Many people in the Greater Philadelphia area use neighborhood Buy Nothing Facebook groups to give away items for free that they no longer need or use. If you are a Facebook user, consider joining the Buy Nothing group for your neighborhood or surrounding neighborhoods.


Find your neighborhood Buy Nothing group on this interactive map.



A Taste of Home


Philadelphia is home to communities of people from around the world, and so it is often possible to find

the ingredients and produce you might crave from home even if it is not on the shelves of your local


Here are some well-known examples of grocery stores with international ingredients:



There are many stores across the city representing specific cuisines, and a quick Google search will help you find stores selling what you need.


At the Supermarket


If you like to browse the shelves and cover all your shopping needs in one go, these local supermarket chains are common

destinations for Philadelphians:



Delivery Services


Grocery deliveries are an increasingly popular option for people who find it hard to make time to go to a supermarket or who do not live close to one. The following services allow you to order deliveries to your door, sometimes same-day:


School Materials




Books can add thousands of dollars to your expenses during your time as a student, but there are a number of ways to avoid spending too much:


  • If you prefer to have new books, see if the textbooks you need are available at Barnes and Noble or your campus bookstore.

  • Check the syllabi for your courses. If it is not 100% clear which books are mandatory, ask your instructor which books you need to own.

  • See if you can find digital rentals for books you might only need for one course. VitalSource Bookshelf, eCampus, and Chegg are good options for digital textbook rental.

  • Try to connect with students in your program who have already taken the courses you will need to take. You might find someone willing to sell you a textbook, or even give it away.

  • Look for used books on CampusBooks, Chegg, Amazon or Ebay.

  • See if the book is available at your campus library. You can usually check library catalogs online, and if a textbook is available, borrow it early (as other students might have the same idea!).

If you do end up needing to buy books new (or even used), if you keep them in good condition you can resell them online for close to

their original value.


Tipping is a widespread practice for various goods and services in the USA, extending well beyond service at restaurants and bars. Guidance on suggested tipping amounts can be found here, but you can also navigate this cultural norm with the following guidelines:

Restaurants and Bars

A standard tip while sitting at a restaurant or bar is 20% of the bill. Servers and bartenders do not earn minimum wage and their livelihood depends on these tips. Tips are typically left on the table in cash or added to the credit card receipt. If you’re ordering drinks with cash at the bar, a dollar per drink is customary. 

Personalized Services

Tipping is expected for taxis, rideshares, hairdressers, nail technicians, food delivery, valet, and similar services. Tip amounts range from 15-20%, depending on the quality of service received.

Navigating Digital Tipping Culture


As more and more businesses are using cashless payment methods, there is an increased prevalence of tipping prompts. and offers five strategies for navigating tipping culture.


When faced with a tipping screen at a checkout counter, don’t feel guilty for not tipping. Aim to tip 20% for most services, such as at restaurants, hair stylists, and food delivery drivers. 


Carrying Cash 


Some fast food and coffee chain restaurants and other businesses may have tip jars on their counters. If you’re feeling generous, you can tip in cash. Other instances when you should tip in cash are staying in hotels or using valet services. 

Navigating the tipping culture in the USA ensures a positive experience for both international visitors and service providers, fostering a culture of appreciation and mutual respect.

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