Studying Abroad: How to Budget Your Adventure!

You’re studying abroad. Good for you! It’s the chance of a lifetime and you won’t regret it!

Now for the part no one likes to talk about: having enough money to last you from the beginning of your adventure to the end. Sounds like a challenge, but trust me, you can do it! I’m here to help you with some tips to make your money last longer on your adventure abroad. Check out our article on budget travel tips and subscribe for our interactive budget calculator and trip itinerary!

Studying Abroad Budget: save enough money to travel

Earn your money before you leave

Earn your money before you leave. Pretty simple, right?

I studied abroad in the spring of 2015. I knew in fall 2014 that I’d be studying abroad the next semester. But man, I was terrible at saving. Thankfully, I had a small savings from the past year but it wasn’t near enough. It wasn’t until winter break came around and I spent a month working my old server job. It was then I realized how little money I had saved for my trip.

Studying Abroad Budget: working as a server to make enough for almost 5 months

So I worked my keister off. I took as many shifts as I could and by the time it all was said and done I had $4000 saved up for my almost five months abroad. It’s a decent amount but that money would not have lasted long if my room and board and meal plan hadn’t already been covered in my program’s costs. I also lucked out by having nice parents who offered a monthly allowance to keep me floating.

This was my apartment in Arezzo.

Studying abroad budget: living room and kitchen of my apartment

Not everyone has nice parents who offer allowances so it’s important to calculate how much you need to save. This also brings up the important point of choosing the right program. My study abroad school covered room and board and most meals. It’s a good idea to look for a program that does the same. My program took place in Arezzo, Italy, and I got to use my meal plan at local restaurants. Can’t beat that!

Research! The most fun part! Not really…

It’s not a lot of fun, but it’s smart!

Start off small and figure out what your daily budget will be. For example, my meal plan covered breakfast or lunch and a dinner 5 days a week. So that means I had to pay for any snacks and one meal each day. I decided I would pay for breakfast since it would be cheaper and less of a hassle since I had class around lunchtime.

If you’re not sure how much a meal is going to cost in your host country then look up the cost of living for that destination. I recommend checking travel costs by country. If your program doesn’t have a meal plan then you’re going to need some sort of idea of how much food costs. I found it’s very helpful in getting a broad idea of expenses. It’s a good place to start!

Ok, you’ve figured out food. Great! Will you need daily transportation? If so, add that to your daily budget as well. Research the city to see what kinds of transportation they offer; you should be able to find out the price on their website. But if you can manage it, walk! It’s healthy, environmentally friendly, and free!

Once you have your daily budget figured out multiply that by 30/31 and figure out your monthly budget. In this budget I would also factor in your toiletries and other necessities; they can really add up.

Don’t wait until you’ve settled abroad to start your budget. Start right now!

Before your trip, take notes for a month to figure out how much shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, make-up, etc. you use. This will help you find out how much you can expect to spend while abroad. You can look up the cost of these items online and add that to the monthly budget you’ve calculated! The more detailed your budget the better. You might even find you can give up a few things while abroad, which will make it cheaper for you!

Studying Abroad Budget: monthly budget spreadsheet

Awesome! Now you have a monthly budget. How long will you be studying abroad? Multiply your monthly budget by how long you’ll be abroad and you’ve got a good start but that doesn’t include the most important part: trips and activities!

Plan out those awesome weekend trips!

My class schedule worked out so that I had 4 day weekends. That’s a lot of free time! This was great because I could spend more time seeing the rest of Europe if I wanted to and I took full advantage of that.

In total, I had 16 long weekends to do whatever I wanted. Two of those weekends were on either side of spring break, which made for a really long trip! I rarely spent a weekend just hanging out in Arezzo so I had to budget accordingly.

Studying Abroad Budget: View of Cinque Terre Town

Your next task, and arguably the hardest, is to figure out where you want to go in your free time. If you mostly visit other cities in your host country then you just have to figure in accommodation, travel and activity costs since food should be around the same price. But if you go to another country you have to figure out an entirely new daily budget, which is where this travel costs website comes in handy again.

By no means should you plan every single trip you want to do while studying abroad because your plans will change. This is just to get an idea of the costs you could be facing. Once you figure out about how much each trip will cost you then add that to your first budget.

There’s always that spur of the moment idea for a trip and you should do it! Those are the most fun, after all. That’s why budgeting is a good thing; it allows you to say yes to those kinds of trips because you’ve saved for it!

Summary of Budgeting for Studying Abroad

Ok, now you’ve got a good idea of how much money you should save for studying abroad! All you have to do is start saving!

Should you follow this budget religiously? In reality, it’s quite difficult because the unexpected will always happen. From my own experience of studying abroad and now traveling the world, these budgets are hard to strictly follow. That said, they are a great help in keeping those savings in line, which provides more opportunities down the road. Like an awesome spring break trip to three countries!

If you’re interested in more info about studying abroad then take a look at my post about studying abroad tips or study abroad packing list for females. I talk about my personal experience in Arezzo, Italy and offer some of my advice.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a blast studying abroad!

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Darah and Garrett in Spain

Where Food Takes Us

We’re Darah and Garrett. Our life has been an adventure ever since we eloped in a pink Cadillac in Las Vegas. Now we’re running around the world, working online, and eating everything we can.

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