Most students live on a tight budget. Even with a part-time job, they still struggle. And when students decide to study abroad, funds can be in even shorter supply. And it’s no fun studying abroad if you don’t have at least some money for sightseeing and going out.
That’s why it’s important that you figure out your finances before you go. This means setting up a budget — and making sure you stick to it once you get there!
Here’s how you can create a budget for your study abroad program, as well as some tips on how to stick to it once you’re there.
Start Accumulating Cash ASAP
Your decision to study abroad was not a last-minute one for sure, which means you have time to earn and save.
Get a part-time job if you don’t have one already. If you do have one, either ask for more hours or look for other side hustles that will bring in some extra cash.
Your mantra should be save, save, save. The more you accumulate, the less stress (and more fun) you will have once you’re abroad.
Nail Down the Costs
You need to know exactly how much tuition, housing, and food will cost you. Tuition and fees are set. The other two are not.
Do the research now – get online and search study abroad sites that can give you at least a rough idea of study abroad housing and food costs. You can also seek discussion forums and talk to other students who are currently in your country of study or who have been there recently.
Add in Travel and Insurance Expenses
Can you keep the health insurance plan you have in the states when you go overseas? What is the cost of airfare to get there and, obviously to get back home when your semester or year is done?
Make sure you add these into the total amounts you are now accumulating.
Estimate Your Incidentals/Fun Money
Okay, so you have figures for tuition, fees, housing, food, transportation, and insurance. This is your base amount. The next step is factoring in any other additional personal expenses you’re likely to accumulate while abroad.
Use your current amounts as a guide. How much do you normally spend on grooming items, clothing, and such? These are flexible and can be cut back in a squeeze, if necessary. For example, you can buy Nike shoes anywhere in the world. Do you really need them or will a cheaper brand do?
Fun money is what you will spend on your social life including travel and sightseeing. You cannot get an exact figure here, but you can talk to others and get a pretty good estimate. And then add some more for emergencies.
Add it All Up and Divide
Once you have added up the necessities and the incidentals, you’ll have your grand total.
Subtract the tuition and fees from this total. Next, divide what is left by the number of months you will actually be abroad and voila!
Now you know how much money you can allow yourself to spend each month while abroad.
Now Comes the Self-Control
If you don’t have it, and you are a bit of a spendthrift, enlist some help. For instance, at the start of each month have a family member put the allotted amount it into your account or wire it if you plan to use only cash (more on that next).
This way you’ll be able to keep your spending in check.
Card or Cash?
If you have a bank card that is accepted in your destination country, then you’re good to go. But there can be fees and you need to plan for them – they do add up. And if that card is lost or stolen, you are definitely in a pile of trouble. Better have a backup charge card just in case.
Here are some of your other money management options:
- You can go all cash. Lots of students do. But make sure you put it in several different places or in a safe, and never carry it all with you.
- Swipe that card as seldom as possible, if there are fees. If you divide your monthly budgeted amount into weeks, swipe once a week for the cash you want.
- Get a travel card. These credit cards are specifically designed for international travel so there are no fees. And many offer no interest rates for the first year.
- Open a foreign bank account. This is a good option for students studying abroad for a year or more. Just be sure to close it out before you head back home!
Live More Like the Locals
You can eat McDonald’s in large cities most anywhere. But understand that the prices can be much higher, especially in places like Paris. Instead, eat where locals do and food costs will be lower. If the university has a student center with food services, you will find that costs are more reasonable there too.
If you’ve done your research, you should know how much housing will cost. In a lot of places, it may be cheaper to live in an off-campus apartment than in university-owned housing. And check to see if any others are looking for roommates – that cuts apartment costs at least in half.
Be a “Budgeting Fool”
If you do not have unlimited funds, a budget is a must. Nothing is worse than not having money to do the fun things when abroad, or — even more devastating — running out of money!
While a budget is not carved in stone — and you may have to modify yours as you go along — once you set it, you have to rule over that budget with an iron fist. If you do, you sure to fully enjoy your stay.
How ULS Can Help
If you’re traveling overseas as an international student, ULS can help with all your translation needs. From diplomas and transcripts to letters of recommendation and student resumes, we provide professional, certified translation services in more than 200 languages.
About Diana Nadim: Diana is a writer and editor with a Masters degree in marketing. She combines her passion for writing with her interest in research to create thought-provoking content in various fields. Besides working as a contributing writer for BeGraded, Diana also does some editing work at ClassyEssay and TopEssayWriting. What inspires her most in her writing is traveling and meeting new people. Follow her on Twitter.