Studying abroad comes with many joys, lessons, challenges, memories, and obstacles that will undoubtedly make you a better person. I have been studying abroad in Italy for one semester, and I luckily have another semester in this incredible country. The biggest challenge I’ve encountered (along with many study abroad students) is budgeting. I don’t know about you, but using Mom and Dad’s credit card for everything isn’t an option. Instead, I’m using graduation money and money I earned over the summer to fund my life here and my travels. Here are some helpful tips for budgeting while you are studying abroad:
1. Don’t splurge on souvenirs.
When you first arrive, you will want to buy so many fun trinkets for friends and family to bring home. Save your souvenir shopping until the end of the semester when you can see how much money you can splurge on others and how much space your suitcase allows! There’s no point in buying souvenirs when you first arrive because you will see and experience so many other things.
2. Set a weekly budget.
This is huge. I set my weekly budget for 80 euros/week, and I’ve kept to it. In the beginning, it was 100, but I managed to narrow it down. With 80 euros a week I know I can spend 30 on groceries, 20 on eating out, 10-20 on cappuccinos and gelato, and 10 for every day needs (toilet paper, soap, etc…). Sticking to a budget helps me know exactly how much I should be spending on what.
3. Don’t focus on making your room/apartment look like it’s straight out of PB Teen.
Being abroad is not the time to be Martha Stewart. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars at Ikea or its equivalent on things to decorate your room. It’s not worth it. Instead, use that money for a weekend in Paris! You will be surprised by how little you need to make your room feel like home.
4. Cook instead of eating out.
Eating out is so much more expensive than cooking for yourself. Limit yourself to eating out for once or twice a week max. Watching Food Network before you’re abroad will come in handy more than you think!
5. Limit shopping for clothes.
New clothes shouldn’t be a priority while you are abroad. However, once in a while it’s nice to get a new shirt or pair of pants you can take home with you. You’ll find that clothes are cheaper too outside of the U.S., so don’t be tempted!
6. Use paper instead of plastic.
Using cash instead of a debit or credit card certainly makes you spend less money (money can be psychological indeed). Take out your desired weekly budget in cash and only use that. Seeing how much you physically have will make you be more conscious of your spending.
7. Record how much you’re spending.
I write down how much money I spend every day, and it helps me spend less. Keep a small notepad on you or a list on your phone to write down your daily spending. It might surprise you and motivate you to use your money more wisely!
Everyone’s budget is different both in the United States and abroad. But one thing is the same: spending less money is best! Enjoy your semester abroad and think about your wallet!