The Basics of Saving Money While Studying Abroad

imageTraveling is a luxury many of us cannot afford. Obviously, that’s what student loans are for, however much we may ache in repaying them in the days after graduation.

The following are tips to save money while traveling abroad so you have less to worry about later. Don’t worry; your experience abroad won’t be stunted by your savings.

Before you go

1. When you’re still in the planning stages of where you want to study abroad, look outside of Europe. Yes, Florence is the most beautiful city I’ve set eyes upon, but it was also expensive. Much of Europe is (especially the British Isles). Many areas of South and Central America, Africa, and Asia (excluding the likes of Tokyo, of course) offer incredible cultural experiences for less money.

2. Consider living off campus, as in an apartment or with a host family. With a host family, you can more deeply immerse yourself in the culture and more easily learn the language as well as save on the expenses of living in a dorm. Don’t rule out renting an apartment with another student, either, since rent for a flat may actually be cheaper than campus fees if you have a roommate. Compare and assess—the decision is ultimately yours.

3. Keep a sharp eye out for scholarships as well as jobs you can apply for on campus. Don’t stop looking even when you get to your study-abroad destination. Depending on how long you intend to stay in said country, see if you can get a part-time job at a local coffee shop or something similar. This will be notably easier if you speak the local language. Check out the country’s policies on work before you arrive.
4. Get a feel for the local currency. Will you lose money or make it in the exchange rate? Look into what the cost of living is like so you can estimate your budget.

5. Consider purchasing an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). It costs $22.00 but you’ll save money later by getting discounts sightseeing in popular cities, reduced rates at hotels and hostels, and even lower prices at certain restaurants. It’s recognized in over 100 countries.

While you’re there
1. One of the best ways to save money is to keep track of it. Make a weekly budget and stick to it; if you find this impossible, spend one week recording every single one of your expenses and rework your budget.

2. Get to know the locals when you get there. Be courteous by at least stumbling through the local language before reverting to English, even if you know they understand it. It shows respect, a willingness to learn and appreciate foreign culture, and humility. You’ll get better answers out of them when you ask where the cheapest (and tastiest) restaurants are in town, where to go grocery shopping, what brands to get, and where to go for a new sweater. This includes talking to local shopkeepers especially if you’re a repeating customer. You might get lower prices on their goods or otherwise some manner of insider information. If none of those, you’ll at least make a friend.

3. If you have your own laptop or have access to a computer, use Skype instead of buying expensive phone cards to call home. You can call landlines for a fraction of the international price and video chat is free.

4. If you get to travel on your own while abroad, forget you ever saw the movie Hostel and stay in one. Generally speaking, they’re very safe, clean, cheap, and great spots to make friends with other international students and travelers. Check out Hostelworld (, Hostelling International (, and the like. You may even consider acquiring a Hostel International membership if you plan on traveling often.

Education and travel have always been costly, but both are worth having under your belt. Don’t let the high expense of studying abroad keep you from the wonders of plunging into an adventure you’ll never forget and friends you’ll keep in your heart forever.

This guest post is contributed by Maria Rainier. Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where she’s been performing gender wage gap research as related to the highest paying degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop

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