Congratulations! You’re heading to study abroad in a great city, jumped through all the paperwork hoops and arrived in a foreign country’s airport with just your suitcase and a heady sense of excitement. What Now?
In a few months’ time, you’ll have made new friends and gained invaluable knowledge of a new culture, but you’ll also be broke. Like, totally, totally broke. You’re not even sure if you can afford the plane ticket home anymore because you’ve had to pawn pretty much everything you own. It’s that bad.
The euphoria of going on exchange to a new country is something everyone should experience, but it can also be one of the most financially stressful times of your life. You want to see everything and do everything, but it’s hard to budget when you’re thinking about a strange currency and everything is so shiny and new. One of the main concerns while studying abroad is how to save money. Analyze your cost of living, courses and visa fees to work out possible savings. Aspects such as the exchange rate, the cost of living and potential ways to save money are questions that you will be asking often. In the end, this will define the success or failure of your experience. So, before you get to this point of no return, take a quick peek at the list below. By following these suggestions, you might just be able to pull off the perfect, stress-free study abroad experience. Here we offer you 7 tips that will help you to take care of your pocket while having a great study abroad experience.
1. Keep track of the exchange rate:
The exchange rate is the amount of money you get when you change your currency for the currency of another country. Check the rate before making any changes for large sums of money, especially before your trip and at the beginning of each month. Analyze whether the rate benefits you and think twice if it's worth waiting a couple of days and maybe get a bit more money.
2. Enquiry about banking fees:
Before your trip, try to talk at your bank branch and ask about all related costs associated with transactions overseas. Costs can range from minimum fees per transaction, commission rates for the currency conversion and even include fees for using cash points abroad. Before you know it you could be incurred at a high cost for each transaction and if you make several per month you could be paying a large proportion of your monthly budget in bank fees. Our advice is to set a budget including the number of transactions that you think you are going to make per month, include this cost in your monthly budget and try to minimize the number of transactions.
3. Withdraw money just when necessary and use your debit card
Limit the frequency of visits to the cash point and use your debit card for purchases even small ones. When withdrawing the cash needed, try to make a single transaction per month. Keep your money in a safe place and take the necessary safety measures to withdraw cash, accompanied by friends when withdrawing large sums and if you're paying for accommodation, transport or phone bills do it by money transfers or by making all payments the same day to avoid having cash with you all the time, in addition, there is the temptation of spending the money on drinks or shopping with your monthly budget when you have cash all the time!
4. Plan and budget
The easiest way to save money is to plan ahead and stick to the budget. Knowing the associated bank fees when overseas and the cost of living at your destination, all you need is to keep a simple diary of expenses based on your budget. Remember also keep a small fund for unexpected overheads in case of an accident or an emergency during your trips.
5. Travel with Low-Cost Airlines
Once you have started your course or program, an exciting part of your experience is the opportunity to travel to nearby towns and go sightseeing outside the country. An advantage of large cities around the world is the number of daily flights and the wide range of low-cost airlines that offer special deals all the time. However, before travelling, we advise you to review in detail other aspects such as excess baggage costs, transportation, fees for additional services for food and fast-boarding, plus do some research about how to get to the airport.
6. Prefer hostels or stay with friends
Hostels are the best choice when it comes to budget but be prepared to share with people from different backgrounds and routines, in most of the cases you will have to pay for additional services such as the internet, toiletries and still water and share the bathroom with strangers. Be careful with your belongings, use a padlock in your suitcase when you leave the room and do not leave valuable items or cash in the room.
7. Always use your student card
Wherever you go, ask for a student discount. You will be thankfully surprised of the many establishments that offer student discounts and in some cases freebies like free tours, city guides and maps. In most cases, you could get a 10-20% discount. Always check the expiry date of your student ID and ask at your university or college if they issue a special student discount card. If, despite your best efforts, you’re still strapped for cash at the end of the month and your study abroad visa prevents you from working in this country, what can you do? Well, an easy way to make some money on the exchange is by tutoring, translating or babysitting on the side. If you don’t want to commit to anything that drastic, check out the psychology labs at local universities. They’re often looking for participants for studies and will pay you to spend an hour answering a survey or doing some sort of mindless task. A bit of pocket money should keep the wolf at bay for a little longer!
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