The phrase, “it’s expensive, but totally worth it” might just be the death of me this semester. After being here for less than two months, I am fully appreciating how expensive living abroad can be. Hungry for some food? The average cost of a meal in London is £8 (about $13). And don’t even get me started on drinks… £9 for a cocktail will not be happening on a regular basis.
Of course, these are all small purchases compared to travel expenses. My weekend in Zermatt is embarrassingly costly after you factor in the flights, train rides, accommodations, ski rentals, food, more food, airport shuttles, etc., but having the experience of snowboarding the Matterhorn was a no-brainer for me (it’s a Colorado thing…). I’m not trying to scare anyone out of studying abroad; in fact, I’m trying to accomplish the exact opposite. What I am here to do is make sure future CEA students are well prepared for their trip abroad, which is why I have compiled a five-step list to staying within your budget while abroad:
1) Know Your Amount
You wouldn’t walk into an interview without a résumé, so why would you embark on a semester abroad without a budget? Before you even apply
, I would suggest making a budget. Don’t think you can swing it? Apply for study abroad scholarships
(CEA has plenty) or see what financial aid program will work for you – if there’s a will, there’s a way. Once you have figured out what you’re working with…
This is the hardest part. Take all of your hard-earned money and lose about half of it because the value of a dollar is akin to the value of a Chuck-E-Cheese’s token: worthless. Sarcasm (and bitterness) aside, there is no avoiding the exchange rate. My biggest advice to anyone studying abroad is to convert your money before you leave. Trust me, you will thank me for the advice. Please don’t be that person who constantly reminds other abroad students just how much money they are spending.
3) Record Your Spending
This is pretty straightforward. You can’t keep track of how much money you have left without knowing how much you have spent. I invested in an app that does the math for you (#englishmajorproblem), but as long as you keep a written record of your spending, you’ll be fine. I also recommend keeping all of your receipts just in case.
| I recommend the app "Monthly Expenses"
4) Stick to a Plan
Most of us international kids have some sort of daily/weekly/monthly budget arranged. It’s pretty unrealistic to go an entire semester abroad without some sort of plan, so make sure you’re prepared. More importantly than making a plan is actually sticking to it. It’s not going to work out perfectly; some weeks you’ll be in Paris, spending money on macaroons, and other weeks you’ll be hanging around your host city. No matter where you are, just make sure you don’t go wild with the spending too often.
5) Have Some Wiggle Room
Europe is great in the sense that you can fly to an entirely different country on a whim for a relatively low cost. If you’re like me and want to travel every weekend, make sure to have some money set aside back home. Even if it’s only $100 – that amount will enable you to bring home an overweight suitcase. You absolutely do not want to run out of money after spring break and realize you still have a month left of living abroad. Avoid this mess and budget some wiggle room.
Studying abroad is expensive, there’s no way around that, but following these steps can help you use your money to the fullest!
Karly Sandsmark is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in London. She is a junior at Colorado State University.
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