A 6-step plan for seeing the world on a student's budget

By Valeri Boyle
Published January 8, 2013

Traveling is one of life’s luxuries – and luxury doesn’t come cheap. Whether, you’re traveling abroad to study or you’re traveling for pleasure, you’re bound to run into a few financial hurdles along the way. But if you make a plan – and stick to it – it may be possible to see the world without going broke.

Step 1: Calculate your “big picture” number.

Before you start breaking down your study abroad budget, you need to know how much money you will have for the duration of the trip. Whether it’s something you’re funding on your own, or with the help of family or friends, knowing your total budget will make it much easier to itemize expenses later on.

Step 2: Convert your currency.

Most people are surprised by the vast difference between currencies. Before you start making an expense list, take your “big picture” number and see what it converts to in the local currency. There are various currency converters online that allow you to do this with amazing accuracy.

Step 3: Figure out your needs.

Housing accommodation’s. Food. Transportation. The cost of these necessities should be calculated before you start thinking about the fun stuff. Your study abroad program may set you up with some sort of housing arrangement. Check to see if your current financial aid package can be applied to your study abroad university; if it does, funding for on campus housing abroad may be included in the package. You will also want to set aside 10-15% of your overall budget for emergencies.

Step 4: Get a SID card.

These student identification and discount cards are available to all students and may save you hundreds of dollars. They offer discounts on various items, from museums tickets, to transportation, to dining – you can save a few dollars everywhere you go! Be sure to read about the different types and choose the one that’s best for you.

Step 5: Figure out your wants.

Now’s the hard part – figuring out everything you want to do. Obviously, you’re in a new country and you will want to see and experience everything. To determine how to budget your “fun money”, be sure to consider the following things:

  • Excursions: There’s a lot to see and do in a new country. Plan ahead for bigger excursions on your “must do” list. Be sure to include the cost of transportation there and back, meals, and entrance for each trip as well.
  • Nights out: Most days abroad will be spent in class or visiting sites, but you still want to have money to do spontaneous things with your new friends. Set aside some money for random events that pop up while you’re abroad. It may help to create a monthly budget for your “party” money to be sure you don’t run out by month two!
  • Souvenirs: Chances are you’re going to want to bring back some fun gifts for friends and family, as well as souvenirs for yourself. Check out some of our great out-of-the-box souvenir ideas, and if none of those appeal to you, be sure to set aside some extra spending money.

Step 6: Manage your budget.

Okay, so you have your necessities budgeted, you have your emergencies savings set aside, and you have all of your fun money budgeted out for different activities. Now all you have to do now is stick to your budget. Keep a copy of your budget with you while abroad so you can make sure you’re on track. Save receipts and track your spending as well – it will help you stay honest, and stay on budget!

Looking for more information? Check out these tips for studying abroad and saving money.