How to Get the Most Out of Study Abroad While on a Student Budget

Ryan Sutherland is a student at Endicott College and was an ISA Featured Blogger. Ryan studied abroad with ISA in Gold Coast, Australia.

If you’re a university student, chances are you know how difficult it can be to live on a tight budget. Going abroad will only amplify the need to watch your spending. Here are some handy tips and tricks to help you conserve cash while abroad!

Set a Budget | ISA Student Blog

Set a budget for yourself. This should be one of your first tasks when you arrive at your host country. Give yourself a week or two to get a sense for how much money you will spend in a typical week, then budget accordingly. Whether it is a weekly or monthly budget, planning is key when it comes to financing your adventure. Setting limits on your spending forces you to prioritize which is extremely important when you’re on a tight budget.

Ask locals where the cheapest places to find food are. If they are fellow college students, they have already figured it out themselves.

Don’t buy disposable dishes/silverware. Buying a set and cleaning it yourself will be cheaper in the long run.

Make friends with someone with a car. Yeah, it sounds pretty shallow but transportation costs add up when using public transport. I’m not saying you should stalk people to find out whether or not they have a car, just be extra nice to people with cars. You’ll be glad you did.

No, you don’t need that. This is probably the hardest rule for people to follow but it is undoubtedly the most important. Luxuries like drinks, desserts, room decorations, etc are short term purchases that are ultimately unnecessary and do not contribute much of anything to your overall experience.

Save your change. I live and die by this rule and I have saved myself hundreds of dollars because of it.

Utilize the Library | ISA Student Blog

Don’t buy your textbooks until you are SURE you need them. Most students drop hundreds of dollars on books because it is generally accepted that we are “supposed” to spend so much. There are others ways.

  1. Google search the name of your textbook and add “pdf” at the end. This will typically yield plenty of free results.
  2. Look for your textbooks at the nearest library. It’s a little less convenient than owning the books but you can’t argue with free.
  3. Share textbooks with friends. Odds are you’ll be doing homework together anyways and it’s a quick way to cut your costs in half.
  4. If all else fails, rent, don’t buy.

Never EVER buy bottled water (in countries with safe drinking water) . Bring one water bottle and fill it whenever possible. Bottled water is absurdly overpriced everywhere in the world and establishments that sell it will almost always fill a water bottle for free.

Don’t waste food. Buy your food with the expiration dates in mind. Make sure you’ll be able to eat all of it before it goes bad. The carry out box is your friend. Saving leftovers gives you a free meal for another day!

Take electronic notes. This is easy for me because I’m a computer science major and I understand that many people prefer handwriting to typing but hear me out. Electronic notes offer a more organized means of storage, they are easily shared with others and they save you money in the long term because they eliminate the need for binders, notebooks, paper, pens, etc.

Use cell phone data sparingly. When choosing an international data plan, there are a million choices and it’s quite overwhelming. Now, I know that big UNLIMITED data plan looks fantastic and it’s less of a worry but you DO NOT need that. Get a cheaper plan and reserve your data for emergencies like maps, phone calls and when you have to post that perfect Snapchat story.

When traveling, hostels are your friends. Hostels were made for adventuring and, more importantly, they were made for people on a budget. Sharing a room with anywhere from 8 to 30 other people might not be the ideal situation, but it can be an amazing way to immerse yourself in the culture and save money doing it.

Treat yo Self, within reason | ISA Student Blog

Treat yourself…within reason. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself. Sure, get that large ice cream, you earned it. However, discretion is important here since “treat yo self” is a slippery slope. Make sure it stays a treat and doesn’t become a habit.

Follow as many of these tips as you can and you’ll be saving yourself hundreds of dollars towards your next excursion!

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