Going Abroad without Going Broke
Posted by admin on August 27, 2015.
So, you’ve finally arrived in Europe for the term! The first few days abroad are a massive rush of excitement, with touring the city, setting up living quarters, becoming familiar with the neighborhood and hitting up orientation events. The financial reality might hit many students when they first check their bank account. Oh, so ciders cost $12USD per pint here? And looks like I took that Holiday Sale at Harrod’s VERY seriously.
Optimizing your budget abroad is crucial, especially in a foreign country where just about every activity comes with a price tag, and exchange rates fluctuate every day. Anticipating these changes are key to keep your account from croaking. Plus, there are tons of ways you can save money while abroad--if you’re smart about it! Here’s some Financial Survival 101- your wallet will thank you.
If you haven’t left yet...
Reach out to someone who has been studied in your city recently to gain some first-hand insight. Previous study abroad-er’s will be able to offer valuable tips and tell you how much they really ended up spending above or below the estimated/posted price. While everyone’s experience is different, this is a solid reference for perspective, and a great resource for completing our next tip:
Do your research
Is laundry provided? Will you have a meal plan? Are there cheap grocery stores/markets nearby? Do you have a full kitchen, microwave, etc.? What kind of transportation do students use? And how much of all this is covered by your program?
Take less frequent trips to the ATM, withdrawing the maximum amount to avoid added up fees. Every time you use your credit card, you might also be spending extra from your card company. So keep this in mind, and having cash on you will also help track/limit expenses.
Ask for the Student Discount
Europe uniquely offers lower prices to students more often than in the U.S., from retail stores to your local sandwich shop. It never hurts to ask, and most of the time is available. (e.g. Our trips are 20 Euros off for students if booked during September with promo code SEPTEMBER20)
Many locations offer take-out (take away) as an option for dining, which is a little cheaper. Order your meal to go and keep the extra dollars for Gelato! I mean, to save for emergencies..
Plan trips ahead
Week and Fall Break trips can cost a pretty penny, but locking in transportation at the right time can save $$$. For instance, studies found that Tuesdays to be the best day to book flights. Or if you're taking the taking the train tickets, are cheaper earlier on, and climb as more spots are booked.
Utilize free communication tools and apps such as Skype, Viber and Whatsapp on wifi to reach your loved ones across the pond.
2 things you’ll acquire after a term abroad:
- Expert public transportation skills
- Legs of steel
Tip: Look into the multi-day passes as they’re almost always cheaper than one-off tickets. Even a day pass usually pays for itself before your third trip on the tube/bus, so consider that before plopping down for each ticket along the way.
Another great thing that’s way more common in Europe, especially at market. I’ll never forget sweet-talking my way from £30 to £10 for my favorite sundress.
Lay it out
I know, organizing a budget is the last thing you want to do, especially if you’re like me and prefer “winging it”. Still, writing out and setting a weekly/monthly goal at least allows you to know what you’re working with rather than spending your money blindly. Not sure how much to spend? Start with smaller, simpler goals, such as making dinner at home 4x a week or buying 2 drinks max. at the bar.
Need help? Mint.com offers great real-time updates and check points to see how you’re doing as time goes on.
A one point I would head to the market down the street and fill up on food samples for lunch - a tasty way to be thrifty.
I’ve seen too many students stay in or stress out because something looked “too expensive”. Don’t let the issue of money ruin your time abroad. Many experiences are worth the money, and being that Negative Nancy who always brings up their financial worries only induces anxiety for everyone else. Stay sensible from the beginning, and you will still have loads of fun abroad! Remember, you’ll never regret taking that trip or having that experience!