How to Fund Your Study Abroad Trip

by Danielle Meltz, Student Blogger

Studying abroad is more than exploring a new city and living somewhere else for a few months. It’s one big adventure that combines finding more about who you are, while helping you achieve what you want out of college. It helps you learn how to adapt to new cultures and makes you a more appealing applicant for future jobs or graduate school. Not to mention the friends that you make and the experiences you have will surpass every expectation you have going into it.

The truth of the matter is, I believe, that you can’t afford to not go.

study abroad

Here are the ways I funded my study abroad experience:

Exhausting every opportunity your school has for you

Financial aid

If you are someone who receives financial aid, you will likely be able to transfer that money over to your study abroad program. This is a great way to make studying abroad more feasible if you chose a program that costs less than the university you are currently attending.

Scholarships

Universities often set aside a large amount of scholarships for people who want to study abroad. Look at your schools study abroad finance page (here’s CU’s) and talk to your financial aid office about all the possible scholarships you are eligible for. Some scholarship deadlines are more than a year before the program, so the earlier you look the better.

  Personal savings

If you are already paying for college yourself, it can be difficult to save money to fund your study abroad experience, but it is possible. One of the biggest struggles of funding your own study abroad trip is having all of the money upfront. The trip might work out to be cheaper, but the flights, housing, and food might need to be paid before you even leave. That along with not being able to work while you’re abroad makes the trip look unfeasible to a lot of people.

This can be avoided by doing two things: knowing how much you need, and splitting up payments. Instead of taking your ‘estimated cost’ at face value, do some research into it. How much do plane tickets actually cost? Will you be traveling apart from your trip? What activities will you are doing abroad?

Then, split up the costs. If you’re planning for a trip that’s a semester away, try buying plane tickets one month, take a month off to save, pay for housing the next month, and so on. This helps you work towards smaller goals instead of the larger more intimidating number. Saving for two semesters in the span of one is difficult, but a great way to focus on it is by readjusting how you spend your paycheck or allowance. As soon as you receive it set money aside for things that are not adjustable, such as rent or tuition. Then put 50%-70% into your savings account. This forces you to be more frugal when it comes to what you spend money on, and makes you realize how much more cost efficient grocery shopping might be over eating out.

  Be aware of hidden expenses

Credit cards

Something I realized really fast while I was abroad, but took a while to fix was using my credit card. The main idea here – avoid withdrawing money from an ATM at all costs. Withdrawing money in a foreign country can cost around 20% of what you take out.

You can avoid this by going to a bank when you get there and exchanging money, which also helps you visualize how much you’re actually spending on your trip.

Trinkets

Visiting a market the first day you are in a new country might use up a week’s worth of expenses. Buying things while your abroad is a great way to bring back memories with you, but you do not need little touristy trinkets or a gift for everyone you know back home. Go in with an idea of how you want to spend your money, be it experiences, food, or more travelling and you’ll be far better off half way through your program.

I’ve never met anyone who’s ever gotten back from studying abroad and said they wish they’d never done it. It gives you more experiences and stories than you could ever re-tell, as well as opening you up to a ton of new opportunities. If you don’t think studying abroad is possible, talk to an advisor and look into it before you shut the idea down. The fact that you’ve read this article shows that you’re already on the right path.

 

5 New Year’s Financial Resolutions

by Niomi Williams, Associate Program Director, CU Money Sense new years resolutions

Some people may not believe in making New Year’s Resolutions, but everyone should at least have financial goals. Below are five tips/goals/resolutions to consider this year:

1. Keep track of your spending. Try using a financial app like mint.com (free) to help you keep track of where your money is going.

2. Review your monthly and yearly expenses. Determine if you should spend less, focus on debt, or save more.

3. Create a budget. We say this all the time, but budgets really are awesome. It helps you tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. Schedule a one-on-one financial coaching session with CU Money Sense to help you plan out a budget for the new year.

4. It’s never too early to think about retirement. If you’ve ever worked part-time or full-time, chances are that your current or former employer enrolled you in a retirement plan, such as a 401(k). There might not be much in the retirement account, but even if there’s a few dollars in it, you have some options on what to do with that money. Take the time to find out which (if any) retirement accounts you might already have—you can do this by contacting your (former) employer.

5. Live like a college student. Let’s say you received a refund check this month, after paying all of your tuition, books, and expenses. I know from experience that it’s so tempting to spend that refund on fun stuff—new clothes, dining out, ski trips, going out with friends, etc—because it can seem like FREE MONEY. But then two months later, you bank account has less than $50 in it and you’re suddenly panicked because you’re broke and can’t remember what you spend all that money on! I see it happen all too often with students, which is why is it’s important to embrace the “poor college kid” perception and try to keep your lifestyle within your means (by not spending more money than you have).

These are just a few ideas to help you get on track with your personal finance. If you have any questions about ways to best handle your money, remember that we are here to help! Schedule a one-on-one appointment with our Certified Personal Financial Manager; appointments are confidential, personal, and specified to your needs.

 

3 Tips for a Lower Electricity Bill Over Winter Break

by Danielle Meltz, Student Blogger

1. Turn down the water heater

There’s no reason for you to continue to have warm water over break. That price can increase especially over winter break because of the cold. If you have control over the temperature over your water, try and set it on the lowest temperature, and then re-set when you get back.

2. The house doesn’t need to be warm either

It’s easy to forget to adjust the thermostat throughout the week, but make sure it’s also set to the lowest temperature to save you a couple dollars over break.

3. Unplug in appliances that you’re not using

Appliances which are plugged in use up energy even if they are switched off. Unplug any lights or power outlets before you leave to avoid the unnecessary expense.

  Turn Off Lights

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.

danielle study abroad 1

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.

danielle study abroad 2

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.

Over packing

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.

  Hostels

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.

1)      Location

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.

Hostel World 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.

 

Winter Bucket List

by Danielle Meltz, Student Blogger

With the weather cooling down, most outdoor activities are coming to a close and some college students may be on the hunt for inexpensive winter activities. After being in Colorado for two years, here’s my winter activity bucket list on a budget.

Ice Skating

Nothing makes me think of winter more than ice skating, and luckily I have two affordable options for you. The first, which is the cheaper and easier of the two, would be the ice rink at the rec center. Not the most magical, but at $2 for rental skates it’s a pretty convenient daytime event. The second option is Winterskate in Louisville. Ice skating outdoors in the winter time makes the twenty minute drive from campus and $7 for a ticket and rental skates worth it.

Sledding

As someone who didn’t grow up around snow, I’ve never actually been sledding. But this is the year for me. You can go tubing or sledding while you’re at a ski resort such as Keystone for a little extra money, or you can join me in my makeshift sledding experience.

From cardboard to cushions here are some suggestions on homemade sleds. And if you want a good place to go, the incline at Chautauqua is supposed to be a pretty good spot.

sledding

Art Museums

Escaping the cold into a warm art museum where you can spend hours looking at local art work is always on my winter bucket list. For a free and nearby art museum, check out the CU Art Museum on campus. Their exhibitions are always changing, so you might have this on your bucket-list more than once this year.

Snowshoeing

Now this I’ve never done, but have always wanted to. Your love for hiking doesn’t have to end just because winter started. You can rent snowshoes at Fleet Feet for about $15 a day and $32 a weekend. You can pretty much snowshoe anywhere you like including Keystone, Estes Park, and Steamboat. Rocky Mountain National Park even has maps to show you where the dozens of trails you can explore. If you’re a first timer like me, here are some beginner snowshoeing tips.

Theatre performances

The CU Theatre and Dance Department has a show this year called ‘A Broadway Christmas Carol.’ With tickets less than $25, this is a local and cost-efficient way to get you into the winter spirit. Since I try to see one CU play a semester, I’ve been eyeing this one for a while and can’t wait for the show to open.

cu theatre a christmas carol

There’s a ton of winter bucket-list activities to do in Colorado, so what’s on yours? Whatever you might fancy, winter is coming and so are some of the best activities Colorado has to offer.