When you study abroad, money takes a whole new meaning as a way of accessing new experiences that you would never be able to have. Thus, you say to yourself “money doesn’t matter – I’m abroad, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is more important than money.” This thought is very true, but it does come at a cost. Some are lucky to have large funds to draw from, while others rummage through unclaimed “I owe you’s” to have enough to get through the semester. All in all, when you are abroad, you learn to budget and plan your spending no matter who you are.
When I left in August to Grenoble, I had a nice hefty sum in my bank account after working all summer and during the school year — around $5,500. Five months later, I have about $3,000 left with three months to go. How did I manage not to go bankrupt abroad? Here are my tips to enjoy being abroad while still having enough money left to rent an apartment in Allston over the summer:
Make all of your travel plans early
One of the easiest ways to save money is actually by spending money. If, at the beginning of the semester through the first month or so, you make a plan for the majority of the large trips you want to do, you are set to be aware of how much you are spending. Just the act of buying multiple tickets will make you more aware that your bank account is getting emptier and you will be more frugal.
Avoid eating out
One of the easiest ways to save money is by avoiding eating out. The first few weeks you are abroad, you tend to eat out a lot because you go out to make friends and you want to try everything possible, from escargot to wine. But if you try to limit this from the start and only eat out for more special occasions, your wallet will thank you.
Easyjet is literally a lifesaver for college students studying in Europe. If you plan in advance, you can get extremely cheap tickets all around Europe and even beyond. For example, the past semester I got round-trip flights from Lyon, France to Tunis, Tunisia for around €100. Had it not been for the budget airlines I took, I would not have been able to see North Africa since the major airlines were at least €50 more expensive.
Especially in Europe, markets are very popular and there is most likely one open every day of the week somewhere in the city. Not only is the food at these markets fresh and delicious, it is cheaper than buying it from certain supermarkets. So you’re helping out a local farmer while also saving money for those weekend trips to Spain.
At the end of the day, studying abroad is all about spending money, and there is no shame in doing it. From flight tickets and train tickets to nights out on the town with friends to groceries, you will be spending money. The most important thing is looking back on everything you did and spent money on and knowing that it was worth it. One of the favorite things I spent money on this past semester (other than travel) was shot glasses. Every time I go to a new city, I bought a shot glass so I would have a physical item that I could compare among them. Now I am excited to add more to this collection this semester. For about €5 each, these small purchases are worth it. All in all, studying abroad may make your wallet cry, but it will be worth it.