13 Ways to Save Money Studying Abroad
So, here you are: about to head off on your legendary study abroad adventure. Your bags are packed. Your phone is loaded with WhatsApp or Viber or Skype or all of the above. Your passport is never out of your sight. Your bank account is sitting pretty, not to mention that under-the-clothes valuables pouch your aunt forcibly thrust upon you when you mentioned studying abroad. You didn’t mind, though, because she also happened to slip in fifty bucks, and any little bit helps. In fact, you realize, for the next few months, every little bit counts. The decisions you make with those funds you’ve scrimped for and saved over the past year(s) will help direct the course of your time abroad. As much as you dream otherwise, you realize that the scope of your adventures will ultimately be determined by the state of your financial resources and the (god-willing) generosity of your family members and friends. Cue minor freak out. Sure, you’ve had to manage your money as a college student, but it won’t quite be the same when you’re miles away from home and there is no such thing as a campus food court. You’re going to need to learn how to budget your funds, and you’re going to need to learn quickly. Lucky for you, I’ve had two semesters’ worth of time to blunder through study abroad financing. Here are thirteen tips I’ve learned for wise spending and saving while studying abroad:
1. Get crafty with the kitchen.Some study abroad programs cover anywhere from a few to all meals each week, but it’s highly probable that you’ll be responsible for many of your meals throughout your term abroad. One way to save money is by cooking for yourself. Whether you’ve been cooking all your life or you think you hit your peak when you mastered your microwave ramen technique, I believe in you. It’s preposterous to think that you will turn into a Master Chef overnight. You can, however, master some simple kitchen skills and recipes rather quickly. Don’t underestimate simplicity. Some of the most delectable meals I ate while abroad consisted of noodles, butter, salt, and pepper. When done well, it’s the height of cuisine (or it will at least feel like it).
2. Shop smart.The What:
- Get your groceries weekly. Buying for a week’s worth of meals rather than a few days at a time will save you money in the long run. You can overlap ingredients and buy bundled items. Plus, you’re less likely to impulsively add to your purchases when you’re already getting a week’s necessities.
- Stock up on staples. Learn all the various ways you can prepare noodles, rice, beans, eggs, etc. These staples will help you keep costs low while still allowing you to have variety.
- Fresh produce deals! Let these weekly specials help dictate your menu. Don’t know what to do with a particular fruit or vegetable? The internet can help. Most times, your culinary adventures will pay off.
3. Dine selectively.It can be tempting to eat out frequently when you’re abroad—nearly every restaurant and café in your host city will look tantalizing. Dining out can be expensive, though, and these expenses definitely add up over time. Prioritize which places you most want to go to, give yourself a limit for eating out (ex: once per week), and do your best to stick to it. That being said, don’t let your financial guidelines be an excuse to turn down a lunch/dinner/coffee invitation. Sharing a meal with someone else can be much more valuable than the number in your bank account.
4. Plan in advance.The earlier out you book a flight/hotel/train ticket/etc., the cheaper your travel is likely to be. Figure out the places you most want to visit and choose when you want to visit them. As early as possible, nail down your itinerary. Keep in mind, though, that this is just a general rule of thumb. Some airlines and train lines offer flash sales or seasonal prices. Spontaneity doesn’t always have to disagree with your wallet!
5. Know your resources.Thank heavens for the internet, and thank heavens for travel search engines. Traveling on a budget can involve a lot of research and price comparison. Luckily, technology can do much of the work for you. You may be familiar with Expedia and Kayak stateside, but these may not be as relevant abroad. Consider using Skyscanner, for example, to open up your travel possibilities. Input the airport you want to depart from into the “from” box, input “Everywhere” into the “to” box, and search to see where you can fly cheaply. You may end up discovering a beautiful city you never would have visited otherwise! Here are a few places to prowl for deals and out-of-the-box itineraries.