Money Tips I Wish I Knew While Studying Abroad
by Danielle Meltz, Student Blogger
Being a political science major and curious about the world, my biggest goal in life is to travel. It’s no surprise to the people who know me that while I just got back from a summer studying abroad in France, that I’m gearing up to study abroad in Tunisia next spring. Unfortunately, it’s really easy to get carried away with being in a different country and not acknowledging how much money you’re actually spending. While I prepare for my next trip, here are a couple things I’m going to look out for.
Planning trips in advance
A big part of studying abroad is weekend excursions, or even day trips to a nearby city. Especially in Europe, where it’s so easy to take a plane, bus, or train to a different country for the weekend. However, the longer you wait the more expensive it is. If there’s a city or a country nearby that you know for sure you want to go to, don’t be afraid to book it into your original trip plan with a multi-stop plane ticket
. It will save you money in the long run and you can guarantee visiting all the places you planned on seeing.
Deciding what you want to spend more money on
Choosing what you buy is one of the biggest challenges while you’re abroad. For me, I would choose to spend $100 to go paragliding, and then live off of bread and cheese for the next week. You might think jumping off of a mountain is a bad idea, and instead eat out every day of the week. Figure out what you think is most important about being abroad, and minimize your spending on everything else.
Spending money before you leave
Whether it’s trying all of Starbucks new winter drinks, or that new winter clothing item, you probably don’t need it. This is definitely something I wish I had realized before I left last time. Strip down your expenses to what you truly need, and save the rest.
Say you usually buy two Starbucks drinks a week. If you stopped buying them for 3 months, you would save $120. Speaking from experience, $120 could buy you a train ticket, a hostel room, and food for a weekend if you were visiting a neighboring city.
I am the queen of over packing. Send me away for a weekend and all of a sudden I think three sundresses, two winter coats, and that pair of shoes I never wear are suddenly my prized possessions. While you’re abroad you will buy things, and you will return with more than you left with. For my next trip I’m packing a week’s worth of clothes in a normal sized suitcase. That way I don’t have to pay for extra weight or a bigger suitcase on the way back.
Ask anyone who’s ever been abroad, the less you can bring the better.
Here’s probably the only time I’m going to say to spend more than you normally would as I have definitely learnt my lesson about booking the cheapest hostel available. In one of the cities I stayed in, the hostel lobby had all of the owners things piled up on the furniture and the whole building smelled like old Chinese food. When looking for where to stay consider two things.
Look for as close to the center of town as possible, otherwise you’ll spend more money commuting anyways.
2) Average priced
I’ve found that most medium priced hostels near the center of town are filed with travelling college students. Read the reviews and see how youth friendly it is. These strangers will become your best friends in a matter of hours.
is a great website to use when searching for places. When I landed in Barcelona I realized my hostel had never gotten my reservation, I hopped onto their website and found somewhere to stay that night.
Living and traveling alternatives
When it comes to where you stay, hostels are a great way to meet new people and find someone to go on an adventure with. However, if you’re looking for the cheapest place to stay, a lot of countries have websites where you can rent out someone’s apartment or a room for a couple days. Airbnb
is a website that has places almost all over the world, and you can read people’s reviews of houses they’ve stayed in before.
Traveling has similar options too. Europe has this great option called Blablacar
where you put in where you are and where you want to go, and it lets you know if anyone is driving in that direction. It’s usually a lot cheaper than trains or plane tickets, and if you’re learning the local language this is a great way to practice.
Another great website is Rome2Rio
, where you can see how much it costs and the time it takes for you to get from one city to the next by train, car, plane, or bus.
The biggest money tip when it comes to studying abroad is focusing on what you want to get out of it. Whether its adventures, food, clothing, or weekend trips, think about what you want to remember when you get back home. You might start off wanting to try every restaurant in town, and then quickly realize day trips are a better expenditure. Create a budget and stick to it. Studying abroad is a rare experience; make sure you get everything out of it that you want to.
December 12th, 2014