5 Ways to Create and Stick to a Study Abroad Budget

By Chelsea Jackson on April 9, 2017

Studying abroad is an immensely enriching experience, both culturally and educationally. Traveling, in general, allows you to explore different ideas and customs that you would otherwise never even imagine. However, studying abroad allows you the freedom to take courses that you may not otherwise have the chance to and to learn from an entirely new teaching system. Unfortunately, studying abroad can be quite expensive.

If you’re attending an in-state university, then your study abroad program will likely cost more than your tuition. While studying abroad can seem impossible to afford based on the initial program cost, it can be simple to successfully budget for your trip abroad.

Image via pixabay.com

1. Calculate your trip

It’s easy to calculate how much it will cost to fly to and from your destination and how much your study abroad trip will cost in general; however, it’s important that you include other expenditures in your budget. For example, if your study abroad trip cost doesn’t include housing, then you need to save some funds for an apartment and monthly or weekly utilities. While most regions in the United States charge rent on a monthly basis, some regions of the world, like New Zealand, charge rent per each week.

In addition to your cost of living, you should also budget for food and trips to tourist attractions. In order to create an effective budget for your study abroad plan, you should research how much it costs to buy groceries, eat at a restaurant and go to museums (and other tourist attractions). Likewise, you should work in some emergency funds during your trip, and a monthly rate for international health insurance. After all, everyone gets sick and your immune system doesn’t suddenly start to work a double shift just because you’re in a different country.

There are many components that make up the cost of living, depending on what experiences you plan on having. However, there are certain websites that allow you to search the average cost of living in various areas all around the globe.

2. Avoid foreign transaction fees

While you may want to keep your local bank account while you’re abroad, a lot of banks and credit unions charge foreign transaction fees outside of the United States. Thankfully, most bank chains, like Capital One, do not penalize you for making transactions outside of the U.S.

Although a $2 transaction or ATM fee can seem miniscule, if you withdraw or make more than 10 purchases while you’re abroad, that can cost you $20 on transaction fees alone. If you aren’t sure if your bank charges for foreign transaction fees, it is best to call them and check before you go abroad.

Likewise, it’s important that you inform your bank that you will be traveling abroad for an extended period of time. A lot of banks are hypervigilant of credit card and debit card fraud, so they could temporarily suspend your account when they see a transaction in Italy. Or worse, they could cancel your card entirely while you’re thousands of miles away from your bank’s closest branch, which could leave you without a means to make transactions at all.

3. Intern abroad

Applying to internships abroad several months before your expected departure date will ensure that you line up a paying internship. While it can be difficult to find internship opportunities that are open to hiring international students who will only be working for a few months, you can use the study abroad office at your university to find these positions.

If any of your home university’s professors teach at your university abroad, you can also ask them if they know of any internships or student jobs near your international destination. Also, querying other students who have previously been on your prospective study abroad trip can also lead to fruitful results.

Whether or not you are able to find a paying internship before you embark on your trip, it’s essential that you realize that there is never any shame in getting a side job to help defray your study abroad expenditures. Accepting a side job, whether it’s serving or folding pants, should never be considered shameful regardless of if you’re working in Utah or Mexico City.

4. Save money on internet

Depending on where you’re studying abroad, using an internet café or a free source of Wi-Fi can be more inexpensive in comparison to paying for a monthly internet plan. McDonald’s is an international food chain, and the vast majority of the company’s locations offer free Wi-Fi. While it might not be ideal for you to finish your homework in the lobby of a McDonald’s, it will help you save some money so you can enjoy your trip with minimal stress.

5. Don’t splurge

Though it’s easy to binge on extravagant day trips or fancy meals while you’re abroad, it’s important to stick to your budget. Find cheaper options for food. After all, price doesn’t equate to quality.

While it’s difficult to stop yourself from buying everything at local markets and shopping centers, it’s important to know that you don’t need to purchase copious trinkets in order to remember your journey abroad. Instead, take an excessive amount of photos.

I live in Iowa now, but I was born and raised in Florida. When I'm not writing, I'm probably drawing or cooking.

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