Budgeting and Spending Money
For most students, studying abroad may involve changes in lifestyle and require more financial planning. Even if you do not already budget your money in the United States, you should begin doing so to prepare for your Study Abroad program. Before departure, find out exactly what is and is not covered in the program fee. This will help you calculate how much will be needed for other purposes. Keep in mind that the cost of living varies from country to country, with currency fluctuations, and according to your personal lifestyle, so it is important to plan a budget individually. Some major expenses which you will need to account for include housing if not included in program fee, meals, local transportation, travel, mobile phone, books, personal items, and entertainment. Here are some helpful budget tips to get you started:
- Determine costs of daily expenses in the host currency. Refer to your program’s page on the International Education website and Cash Passport.
- Make weekly and daily budgets and stick to them. Adjust up or down in light of initial experience upon arrival.
- Quickly learn the value of the local money in relation to the U.S. dollar.
- Be alert to discounts and use student discounts with your student ID or the ISIC card.
- Take advantage of less expensive alternatives whenever possible. Cook meals (especially breakfast) and use student cafeterias, saving restaurants for special occasions.
- Plan entertainment and recreation around the availability of free, inexpensive and discounted events — on campus or in the surrounding community.
- Shop in street markets or major chain supermarkets, which are less expensive than convenience stores.
- When traveling, stay in hostels or in modest bed-and breakfast accommodations as opposed to hotels that cater to tourists and business travelers.
Bank cards and credit cards
Prior to departure, contact your bank to identify the international ATM networks that offer the lowest transaction fees for cash withdrawals abroad. Some large banks with international relationships offer no fees at certain ATMs. You should also inform your bank and any credit card companies of your upcoming travel plans. Give them details of your host country and any other countries that you might visit, as well as the length of time you will be out of the country. This should prevent holds from being placed on your account due to suspected theft or fraud. Make sure to note the daily maximum withdrawal limit.
The following website provides a useful tool for converting currencies from all over the world.
Please feel free to use this helpful budget template when planning your semester budget. Formulas have been entered in many of the cells to make your calculations easier.