Making a Student Budget Stretch Abroad

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Although there are many advantages to going overseas, one reason why many people prefer to study abroad is simply that they can’t afford the cost of the education they deserve locally. While this makes huge savings on tuition possible, many foreign students don’t know about the various other ways in which they can adapt their lifestyles and attitudes in order to reduce their living costs further, leaving more money available for weekend excursions, extra activities and paying off loans early.

Pretend to be an Adult and Draft a Budget

Most people think they know how they spend their money – they’re physically present when this happens, of course. Unfortunately, our minds don’t come equipped with an integral adding machine to sum all the little things over the course of a full thirty days, and the totals often turn out to be a little surprising.

Actually saving receipts or logging payments in a notebook may be tedious, but it’s a necessary step towards developing a budget that includes all essentials, discards everything that doesn’t add real value and leaves some room for life’s little luxuries. This will show you how spending money on one thing means having to spend less on something else, which is unfortunately how finance works.

Eat like the Locals

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Out of homesickness, habit or just never thinking about it, many foreigners try to stick with the exact same diet they had at home. These are the same people who complain that their favorite brand of peanut butter isn’t available in their closest grocery store, that local hamburgers are too small/large/greasy and they have less than a dozen familiar fast food outlets to choose between.

Depending on where you live, trying local staples, shopping at markets rather than under fluorescent lights and getting take out at family-owned businesses rather than franchises can allow you to eat, and eat well, on less than $100 per month.

Choose a Place to Live Based on Value Only

Plenty of dormitories, apartments and other living options charge astronomical rates based only on their décor, image, imagined security or amenities that residents rarely actually use. They can charge these rents and survive because most people really are impressed with having access to a swimming pool they’ve never been in, or live a block away from where identical accommodation costs a third less.

Of course, you are not most people, so you won’t be falling for this trap. Finding a place to live through an estate agent or foreign student placement agency is often the worst thing you can do; they will see you coming and automatically assume that you are rich, stupid and scared. If possible, take a month-to-month lease in an apartment or room that is at least adequate to your needs. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to take a look in the local newspapers, talk to locals and wear out some shoe leather finding out more about the local property market. Many families in university districts earn a little extra money renting out spare rooms to students. This can help with feelings of loneliness and sometimes includes dinner. If the contract isn’t totally clear to you, consulting a lawyer will be money well spent.

If possible, take a month-to-month lease in an apartment or room that is at least adequate to your needs. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to take a look in the local newspapers, talk to locals and wear out some shoe leather finding out more about the local property market. Many families in university districts earn a little extra money renting out spare rooms to students. This can help with feelings of loneliness and sometimes includes dinner. If the contract isn’t totally clear to you, consulting a lawyer will be money well spent.

Find a Way to Earn

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You might be surprised to learn that there are indeed ways for a student to make money that doesn’t involve taking your clothes off, and some of them do pay more than a pittance. If English is not commonly spoken where you live, it’s fantastically easy to get a few students together and help them learn the language. This is work that any native speaker can do with the help of internet resources, and it’s quite possible to earn $100 a week, or even more, for only a few hours of work.

Buy Used or Electronic Textbooks

It seems to many of us that paying $100 or more for a book that you are only planning to read once, partially, is not making the best use of Herr Gutenberg’s gift to humanity. A large number of lecturers prescribe the most recent edition of their courses’ textbook even though the previous one is still perfectly adequate for an undergraduate course. Often, there will be dozens of the latter to be found gathering dust in second-hand bookstores, allowing you to purchase something 99% as good for 20% off the price. Publishers have gotten wise to this practice and often switch up the assignment problems while the chapter contents remain effectively unchanged, so just copy any homework questions from the reference copy the library will have. Electronic textbooks might be ever so slightly less convenient to use, but they are also significantly cheaper.

Keep an Eye on Currency Fluctuations

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While the intention here is definitely not to encourage day trading, if you have to move money between different countries, it pays to choose your moment. Also take a look at your options: banks charge high rates in addition to sometimes having unrealistic exchange rates.

Figure out Student Discounts

Out of the goodness of their hearts (because I cannot think of any other earthly reason to) numerous businesses offer reduced rates to anyone who can show a student card. These special offers aren’t always advertised well, though, so keep an eye open and don’t be afraid to ask at the counter.

Allow Yourself the Occasional Treat

All study and no play…well, that’s not really on the cards anyway, is it?

However, this is another instance of value and price not being the same thing. Bars typically charge three times or more for drinks you can get at a store and take to a party, a date will likely appreciate effort and creativity more than an overpriced restaurant meal, and it’s not impossible to color your own hair at home.

The point is that denying yourself any form of pleasure is not a good long-term strategy. Eventually, your desire for a steak, a night on the town or a new laptop will become strong enough to overwhelm your financial sense – allowing yourself little treats can stop this from happening.

 

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