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Four Tips To Better Manage Your Finances While Studying Abroad

June 29, 2023
by JJ Koumaglo

As a first-generation college student, planning a study abroad experience can be difficult. Financial planning can be especially daunting and terrifying. Financial aid at your institution may help cover some of the fees and costs of the program, but it is likely necessary to think beyond that. Before I got on my plane to Florence I had a solid financial plan accounting for a) daily expenses, and b) big ones such as traveling or activities/experiences. However, it can be hard to plan and account for everything beforehand. For me, I had to learn to give myself some grace to enjoy my experience abroad without too much worry. While it can be difficult to control spending while traveling, these are four of the biggest lessons I have learned.

  1. Plan before you leave: Apply to scholarships and grants, and budget your overall spending

Before choosing a study abroad program I recommend researching the cost of all the programs available at your institution. While looking at your options it is important to see which ones will take your scholarships and grants. Knowing the amount that will be available to you will allow you to think about the rest of your expenses. Personally, all my financial aid was able to cover the cost of this study abroad program, which included the housing and tuition fee. Being aware of that allowed me to focus on ways to get scholarships that could help with my daily expenses. I applied to multiple scholarships that I qualified for. With scholarships, I was able to save around $3,000, which is used for my daily expenses. This aspect of planning was time-consuming but extremely helpful and important to me. I was able to get scholarships both from my college and CEA CAPA.

  1. Travel within your host country and plan day trips

While being abroad a lot of people choose to travel outside of their host country. The way I see it, we live in the United States and still choose to travel to different states, so why not do the same within your host country while studying abroad? One reason why Italy is a popular study abroad destination is it offers the opportunity to easily travel to multiple cities. While in Florence I have been to Venice, Rome, Siena, Milan, Lucca, Pisa, and San Gimignano, which are all within Italy. While I spent more time in some cities, I learned that taking day trips is a great way to explore while also keeping your expenses in mind . Train tickets are easily accessible and efficient for exploring Italy. Planning small trips is a great way to explore more of your host country and city. Being able to visit other parts of Italy has been one of the highlights of my experience so far.

Buildings in Venice
View outside of the Venice train station.
A yellow building and car in Lucca, Italy
My day trip to Lucca.
  1. Cook meals at home and know when to eat out

Another big expense while abroad can be meals, but grocery shopping in Italy has been manageable and affordable. I have learned to plan out my weekly meals. During the week I try to eat at home for all my meals, and I go out to dinners on weekends or when I am traveling. Although my diet consists mainly of pasta and sandwiches, I can spend around €25 to €30 on groceries, which can last me up to two weeks. Eating pasta this much may seem repetitive, but it gives me more chances to get creative with how I cook it. I enjoy cooking so being able to save on food gives me more room to spend on other experiences. I still eat out when I want to with my friends without breaking the bank. The key is to know when to save and when to spend.

A plate of carbonara pasta
Trying an Italian carbonara dinner in Rome.
  1. Using cash for everyday expenses helps with budgeting

The last tip I have is to use ATMs to get cash to spend on daily expenses. While planning I knew I would have access to one of my savings accounts from which I could withdraw money to pay cash for recurring expenses. Note: Multiple banks have international fees for using cards abroad. Having access to cash for some of these payments makes it easier to save on fees and conversion rates while also controlling your spending. Most of my cash spending is on groceries and dinners. I save the money on my cards for plane or train tickets when traveling. Having these two separate ways of accessing money has been a way for me to be mindful of my expenses and aware of how much I am spending.

Money can be a difficult subject to approach while abroad. After multiple spreadsheets and budgeting sheets, I found a plan that worked for me. These tips are ways I financed my experience abroad and saved on money once in Europe. For example, there is a big emphasis on traveling through Europe while you are here, yet I find that you can still enjoy travel even if it is within your host country. Do not get hung up on where other people are or what they are doing-enjoy your experience and find what works for you! I hope this helps.

A student in the center of a crowd by the duomo in Florence, Italy
In front of the Duomo in Florence.

JJ Koumaglo is the Content Creator - Blogger.
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