Budgeting Abroad

1. Set a monthly budget 

Going abroad for a semester? At the beginning of each month, create a rough-draft plan for the next couple of weeks; including your weekend trips and extra activities. If you know you’re headed around Europe for two weekends in October (fall break), boost your budget and limit it the next month.

Having a monthly budget, rather than a semester budget, will help with organization and the smaller timeline is easier to work with. If needed, you can budget weekly!

2. Bargain

Bargain, bargain, bargain! Most vendors expect a little back and forth bargaining before selling their goods. Put yourself out there for major discounts.

Don’t be surprised when you say ‘no’ and get called back with the item 5 euros cheaper.


3. Bring a set amount of money for nights out on the town 

It’s too easy to spend your cash after a couple drinks of sangria. With that said, limit yourself to a nightly budget. However, make sure that you have enough money for a taxi ride home!

4. Travel tour-less

There are many tour groups that are wonderful for first-time travelers. I traveled with two different groups to Oktoberfest and the Amalfi Coast. However, after you start to feel more comfortable with train stations in a different language and planning activities on your own, I suggest to travel with a group of friends, rather than a tour group.

This will be much less expensive and you can customize your trip to your liking!

For example, my roommates and I created our own Fall break trip to Morocco, France and Spain using kayak.com to find flights and staying in airBnBs. Stay tuned for my upcoming article on the incredible benefits to staying in an airBnB, short term and long term).

If you are to travel with a tour-group, keep an eye out for their sweet deals!


5. Cook meals at home

Hit the little Italian grocery stores or the Spanish markets to find fresh produce and goods for a delicious homemade dinner. Not only is cooking your own dinner less expensive, but it is a great way to experiment with local cuisine! Grab a couple of your roommates, a bottle of vino and some fresh pasta for a fun night of cooking.

However, don’t forget the enriching cultural experience of dining in local restaurants as well!


6. Avoid international fees

Find a bank in your city that doesn’t charge foreign transaction or ATM fees. Avoid outdoor ATM’s as they usually charge around 5 euro per transaction; which can add up quicker than you think!

If you cannot find a bank that does not charge for foreign transactions; try to take out the maximum amount of money at one time. Find a safe place in your apartment for your extra cash.

7. Bring local currency with you

Before your trip, contact your local bank for some currency. Before traveling to Italy, I brought 400 euros with me. I avoided international bank fees and the cash lasted for a decent amount of time.

Never use the cash exchanges you find at airports or the small windows on the streets… they are major rip-offs.

8. Student discounts

Look for student discounts. Just like in the states, students can often find discounts in a variety of places. I’ve received discounts at countless museums! 


9. Find a job

If you are living abroad for an extended period of time, find a job! I have a couple of friends who are working abroad and only have great things to report about the experience.

If you are learning a new language, this is one of the best ways to do so! In Buenos Aires, Argentina, there were many US students who moved to the city to work and learn Spanish. Within a few months, they were basically fluent!

Remember that studying abroad is an experience of the ages. It is okay to spend a little more money on something that you’ve always dreaming of doing. Don’t be hard on yourself and keep everything in perspective when it comes to your budget! 

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