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Budgeting For Your College Study Abroad Experience

Most students who study abroad find it to be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. It is an experience that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, and may impact you in untold ways. But there is one minor issue: how do you pay for it? If your parents or grandparents are footing the bill, you have nothing to worry about, but for those students who are paying their own way, here are things to consider so you can properly budget for your time abroad – whether it’s a single semester or several years.

Paying for It

The first and most important consideration is paying for your time abroad. If you are planning to travel overseas for several years, you may be eligible for a student/work visa, in which case, you can earn money on the local economy. However, if you are planning to study abroad for a single semester, you likely will be forbidden from working in-country – so be prepared to save up enough money in advance to carry you through your entire term.

To pay for your trip, first determine how much you need. Is the program $5,000? $10,000? Remember, factor in both upfront costs, and those that will be incurred while you’re overseas. It does you no good to pay for your trip if you have no money for living expenses once you get there. For a ballpark estimate of how much you should be putting away every month, use a savings calculator to see how far your money will take you – and how quickly it will get you to your goal. If your current income won’t get you over the finish line in time, consider getting a second job, or starting a secondary business, like Uber or Amway. The extra income you earn could be the last piece of the puzzle.

Figuring Out the Local Economy

You’ll have to learn a lot of on the fly once you get to your destination. Does the economy support credit cards, or will you need to have cash on you at all times? How does the cost of living compare to home? How does the value of the dollar compare to the local currency – are you making money with each purchase, or losing it? To help avoid culture shock, do a bit of research in advance so that you know the answers to these questions before you arrive.

Other things to consider include daily withdrawal limits, using your ATM card overseas, and whether or not you’ll have to pay international transaction and currency conversion fees. In all cases, you should speak directly with your bank or credit card provider regarding these questions. For peace of mind, and to ensure that you’ll have access to your money when you need it. The last thing that you want it to be unable to pay for a meal, or take money from an automatic teller, because your card isn’t compatible in the country you are visiting.

Spending and Getting by While You’re There

If you’re on a fixed income during your study abroad, it’s important that you put together a budget plan. Why? So that you have a good idea of how much money you can spend in a given period of time – say, a week or month, for example. If you spend more in a given period of time than you’ve budgeted for, this means that you have less money at your disposal in the next spending period. If you don’t account for this, you could find yourself completely out of money long before your semester (or year) abroad is over. It should be obvious to everyone that this is far from ideal!

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to save money here and there, all of which can help your dollar go further. And if it’s true that overspending leaves you with less money for your next spending period, then it’s also true that underspending leaves you with more! Being frugal here and there – by eating in, bringing snacks with you, visiting free attractions, and taking part in free activities, to name just a few examples – can pay dividends in the long run. There’s nothing better than occasionally being able to splurge on yourself because you’ve followed all of the rules.

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