Hey hey, it’s me your friendly Rutgers Global – Study Abroad Peer Advisor who had an incredible time spending the Fall semester in Florence, Italy! Part of the reason my time abroad was as amazing as it was had to do with the fact that I didn’t run out of money halfway into October like some of my less frugal friends. I am here to give you a couple of tips on how to live in a foreign country well without breaking the bank, ‘cause they don’t call me the Budget Broad for nuthin!
At the end of the day, there is no shortcut around making the budget itself. At the beginning of the semester, ideally before you leave, take an hour or two to figure out exactly how much cash you’ll need outside of what you paid for the term bill. Depending on the program that might mean you will have to budget for food or housing, but for many programs that provide those, your spending budget will need to cover personal items, snacks, entertainment, and travel. Divide your total budget by the number of weeks you plan to be abroad and that will give you a good price range to know how much you should be spending weekly.
At the beginning of my semester, I had $3,500 to spend on food (Florence University of the Arts basically has no meal plan), weekend trips and anything else I needed. I knew the semester was 14 weeks so that left me with $250 per week. I had a notes page on my phone where I logged all my purchases and then every Sunday I added them up to see how much I had spent on the week. This might seem like a lot, but it’s one of the best ways to hold yourself accountable consistently and in intervals so that you know you can’t ball out in Paris one weekend if you haven’t been saving up for it with other weeks. If notes aren’t your jam, there are also plenty of great apps to download (Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB) and Wally are some popular choices.)
Beware of currency exchange rates! When you first arrive in your study abroad location it will take you a little while to adjust your mindset about prices, but the quicker you can find a way to remember how many dollars a euro, pound, or rupee is the better. I used an exchange rate app to help when I visited other countries on the weekends and always made sure to convert my total purchases back to dollars during my weekly budget calculation.
Being mindful of how much you have to spend is a great first step, but here are some lifestyle choices that will help you stay within the budget you made for yourself:
- Eating out is fun to do occasionally, but it gets expensive quickly and my favorite memories were the times my friends and I went shopping and hosted a dinner party. I recommend making it a weekly tradition and try to invite different people so that you’re expanding your social circle. I wish I had done way more of this!
- Many places in Europe and elsewhere will make you pay for water at restaurants, so you can save money by staying hydrated and using a reusable water bottle.
- Staying at hostels and Airbnb’s when traveling will save you loads and it is very easy to do price comparisons on their websites to find the best deal possible.
- Lastly, take advantage of all the opportunities your program and university have to offer because just like Rutgers, your abroad university will likely have free events and programming that can serve as a better way to meet your peers and to save a dime.
The Budget Broad from Abroad