Money Matters: How to Budget to Study Abroad

Posted on August 31, 2011

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You’re broken out the  map, dusted off your suitcases and picked a university where you want to study abroad. There’s just one thing you need to consider: how much it will cost.

Budgeting for such an extensive journey may seem like a daunting task, but by outlining costs and getting advice from past study abroad students, you will be able to more effectively assess how much money you’ll need during your semester. This article will provide some tips and advice to help you budget, with estimated costs on everything from travel to leisure spending.

 By Kalynne Coleman

There is a lot to consider when preparing for a semester abroad — but one of the most daunting will be figuring out how much you’ll need for the whole adventure.

But don’t worry! After recently completing my semester abroad, I can share what I’ve learned about how to successfully budget for everything from airfare to a night on the town. These are the basics of what you need to know, with estimates for a 3 month program, excluding program costs and housing rent.

  • International Airfare ($700-$1200): This is the biggest chunk of money most students spend up front. While international flights are expensive, the easiest ways to decrease costs here is to use frequent flyer miles, purchase student fares, or to book far in advance. These flights can cost as low as $700 roundtrip if you book well in advance, but can soar as high as $ 1200 dollars if you wait too long.
    Backpacker Tips: Spend plenty of time shopping for flights to find the cheapest connection. Book your flight at least three months in advance, if not longer, to take full advantage of great deals. Also check out travel agencies that specialize in booking cheap flights for students, like STA Travel and Student Universe.
  • Food ($600-$800): We all have to eat right? Living in Europe makes for fun culinary adventures, but we have to budget accordingly so we don’t use all of our spending money on overpriced meals out! The most cost effective way to eat while living in Europe is to cook for yourself. Whether you’re doing a home stay or living in your own apartment, it’s the best way to go. Once you get the hang of it, between $50 and $75 per week should suffice.
  • Nightlife ($200-$500): This category refers to money spent on night out in your favorite city. Prices vary all over Europe, and everyone can gauge how much they’ll spend as an individual. A drink in a bar can cost from 4 to 10 dollars, beers 4 to 7, and club cover charges up to 20 bucks (although many have free or discount nights).
  • Miscellaneous ($300-$600): From gelato to souvenirs to a special dinner out, extra cash is something you’ll want during your time abroad. A modest budget would garner between 100 and 200 dollars a month.
  • Weekend and Fall Break Travel ($800-$1300): Travel is one of the biggest expenses a study abroad student encounters. Super budget travelers can accomplish weekend trips with under 200 dollars, while bigger budgets can get better accommodation. Spring break travel plans can cost between 600 and 900 dollars.
  • Emergency Fund ($150-$300) This one may seem small, but it’s something no independent traveler should do without. Budget to give yourself some extra cash in case of an emergency, and carry it on your person (not in a bag) whenever you hit the road. This could cover everything from a late night cab ride home to an unexpected health cost or emergency.

Total Range: $2600-$4400

In the end, the most effective way to plan out your budget for your upcoming trip is to simply crunch the numbers. By plotting out expected expenses, for example on an excel spreadsheet, you can get a better idea of how much money you will need for your time abroad. Each traveler’s budget is different, and therefore only you can decide in the end how much money you will need.
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