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How To Save Money When You Study Abroad

Congratulations! You’re going to study abroad in a great city. You’ve taken care of all the paperwork and arrived at the airport in a foreign country with just your suitcase and a head full of excitement. What’s next?

In a few months, you’ll have made new friends and learned a lot about a different culture, but you won’t have any money left. Like, broke, broke, broke. You’ve had to sell almost everything you own, so you’re not even sure if you can pay for the plane ticket home. How bad is it?

Everyone should have the joy of going on exchange to a new country, but it can also be one of the most financially difficult times of your life. You want to see and do everything, but it’s hard to make a budget when you’re thinking in a foreign currency and everything is so shiny and new.

So, before you reach this point where you can’t go back, take a look at the list below. If you follow these tips, you might be able to have the perfect, stress-free time studying abroad.

Open a bank account in your own country to save money.

One of the worst things about studying abroad has to be having to pay conversion fees and ATM fees just to change your money into a different currency. To get around this, open a bank account as soon as possible at a local bank. Then, at the same ATM, take out your daily maximum from your home bank and put it right back into the local bank account. By keeping more money in your local bank account, you’ll only have to pay the ATM fees once and you’ll be able to spend money in the local currency. Do the same thing when you need more money instead of just taking out $20 at a time.

Eat local (and healthily)

Before I went on exchange, my parents told me about a friend’s son who went to college, ate nothing but pizza and beer for a few months, and got scurvy. Yes, the disease of the pirates! People, this is what happens when you don’t eat enough fruits and veggies.

It’s tempting to just stock up on pesto pasta, but you’ll do much better if you go to the local markets. Buy food that is in season and look up some local recipes to find out how people there make it through the winter. Then, make enough to have leftovers and save money by taking some to school for lunch the next day.

The right way to leave

You can’t stay home every night to avoid spending money on drinks with your new friends, so be ready for nights out to be the biggest money pit you’ll face. Do some research on free museum days, open-air movies, street festivals, and other cheap events to cut down on how much you spend. This way, you can still enjoy culture without going broke.

Also, bring your student ID card with you everywhere and check Groupon or local versions for discounts or other ways to save money. When it comes to nightlife, it can be fun to have a few friends over or have a picnic under the stars instead of going to expensive nightclubs.

Get a bike

Another reason you might be sad and stuck at home is that you can’t afford to take the bus to the city center. It goes without saying that expensive taxi rides weren’t made for broke students, and sometimes even public transportation can seem pricey.

Get a used bike or join one of the public bike-sharing systems that are popping up in more and more cities around the world. This is a great way to see the city on your own terms. You’ll never have to worry about missing the last train, and you’ll be free to explore all the cute side streets you might not have seen otherwise.

Spend less on books.

When you’re making plans for your time abroad, it’s also easy to forget how much money you’ll need for books. These costs can add up, so check to see if you can buy your books used or find them online. Literature majors can use Gutenberg Online, which is a growing database of books that are no longer copyrighted because they are too old. Most of the old books are there, and you can read them for free.

Make some pocket change

What can you do if, no matter how hard you try, you still don’t have enough money at the end of the month and your study abroad visa doesn’t let you work in this country? Well, you can easily make money while you’re on exchange if you tutor, translate, or watch children on the side. If you don’t want to make such a big change, check out the psychology labs at local colleges. They often need people to take part in studies and will pay you to spend an hour taking a survey or doing something else that doesn’t require much thought. A little spending money should keep the wolf away for a while.

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