Hacks to Save You Money While Studying Abroad

Hacks to Save You Money While Studying Abroad

Guest Writer

Updated June 18, 2020 Updated June 18

By Danielle Pacheco

Congratulations! You’re heading to study abroad in a great city, jumped through all the paperwork hoops and arrived in a foreign country’s airport with just your suitcase and a heady sense of excitement. What now?

In a few months time, you’ll have made new friends and gained an invaluable knowledge of a new culture, but you’ll also be broke. Like, totally, totally broke. You’re not even sure if you can afford the plane ticket home anymore because you’ve had to pawn pretty much everything you own. It’s that bad.

The euphoria of going on exchange to a new country is something everyone should experience, but it can also be one of the most financially stressful times of your life.  You want to see everything and do everything, but it’s hard to budget when you’re thinking in a strange currency and everything is so shiny and new.

So, before you get to this point of no return, take a quick peek at the list below.  By following these suggestions, you might just be able to pull off the perfect, stress-free study abroad experience.

Save money by opening a local bank account


One of the worst parts about studying abroad has to be the conversion and ATM fees you pay, just for the privilege of changing your money into a different currency. To work around this, open a local bank account ASAP then take your maximum daily limit out of your home bank and shuttle it straight back into the local bank account at the same ATM. By boosting your local bank account balance, you’ll only pay the ATM fees once and you’ll be able to spend money in the local currency. When you need more cash, do the same thing instead of just taking out twenty at a time.

Eat local (and healthily)


Before I went on exchange, my parents warned me about the son of a friend of theirs who had gone to college, eaten only beer and pizza for a few months in a row, and developed scurvy.  Yes, the pirate disease! That’s what happens when you don’t get your fruits and vegetables, folks.

It’s tempting to just stock up on pesto pasta, but you’ll do much better if you hit up the local markets.  Buy food that is in season and look up some local recipes to find out how people there survive all winter.  Then, make enough for leftovers and bring some to school the next day for lunch to save money.

The smart way to go out


There’s no way you’re going to stay home every night just to avoid paying money for a few drinks with your new friends, so be prepared for nights out to be the biggest money sinkhole you’ll face. Reduce the amount you spend by doing some research into free museum days, open-air cinemas, street festivals and other cheap events so you can still get your dose of culture without breaking the bank.

Also, bring your student ID card everywhere and check Groupon or local versions for discounts or other ways to save money. When it comes to nightlife, having a few friends over or doing a picnic under the stars can be a pretty sweet way of avoiding the overpriced nightclubs.

Get a bike


Yet another reason to be stuck at home, steeped in gloom, is because you can’t afford the bus to the city centre.  It goes without saying that expensive cab rides weren’t designed for broke students, and sometimes even public transport can seem pricey. 

For a great way to explore the city on your own terms, get a second-hand bike or subscribe to one of the public bike-sharing systems that are cropping up in more and more cities around the world. You’ll never have to worry about missing the last train, and you’ll have total freedom to explore all the cute side streets you never would have noticed otherwise.

Skimp on textbooks


Another thing that’s easy to forget about when planning your time abroad is the money you’ll need for textbooks. These costs can add up so look into buying your textbooks second-hand or seeing if you can find them online. Literature majors can rely upon Gutenberg Online, a growing database of books that are too old to be copyrighted and are back in the public domain. Most of the classics are in there and freely accessible.

Make some pocket change


If, despite your best efforts, you’re still strapped for cash at the end of the month and your study abroad visa prevents you from working in this country, what can you do?  Well, an easy way to make some money on exchange is by tutoring, translating or babysitting on the side. If you don’t want to commit to anything that drastic, check out the psychology labs at local universities.  They’re often looking for participants for studies and will pay you to spend an hour answering a survey or doing some sort of mindless task. A bit of pocket money should keep the wolf at bay for a little longer!

Lead image: Modern Languages @ FLCC: Costa Rica Study Abroad 2015 (Flickr)

This article was originally published in July 2017 . It was last updated in January 2020

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