Studying abroad doesn’t have to cost a fortune – there are lots of smart money hacks for international students…
We’re about to let you in on the 10 best tips to help you save money when studying abroad. You can thank us, and maybe even buy us a coffee, later!
1.Learn to budget
Learning to make a budget – and sticking to it – is perhaps the most important skill you’ll need to manage your money abroad. Even if you’re moving somewhere with a low cost of living, you could still find yourself short if you don’t keep a handle on where your money is going.
If you receive loans and funding at the start of each term, it can seem like a lot of money. But making it last can be hard, so add up all your income, then deduct all your essential outgoings, such as rent and food. Whatever is left, you can spend on other things.
Budgeting can be daunting at first and it’s easy to get things wrong or to forget to factor in some costs. Fortunately, the UCAS budget calculator tool makes this easy, and will help you to budget for all possible expenses before you leave.
2. Make the most of student discounts
The ISIC card gives you UNESCO-endorsed proof of your student status. With this card, you’ll have access to over 150,000 student discounts across 130 countries.
You can get discounts in accommodation, entertainment, food & drink, cultural attractions, services and sports. Make sure you order your card early, as it will take 3-4 weeks for delivery, depending on the postal system in your home country.
3. Call home for less
If you’re trying to settle into a whole new culture, calling home regularly can be reassuring. However, international calls can rack up huge phone bills. Save money by buying a local pay-as-you-go mobile SIM card. Local mobile calls will be much cheaper and you usually won’t be charged for answering a call.
4. Master public transport
When faced with a daunting new public transport system, you can easily find yourself overpaying, or taking the easy way out and travelling by taxi. Research monthly and annual passes, and the cost of one means of transport versus another.
Taking the time to understand how to get your travel costs down in your new city can make all the difference to your overall budget. Depending on where you study, you may be able to use the Citymapper app to calculate the cheapest and quickest routes while you’re on the move.
5. Find part-time work
Working alongside your studies can be a great way to earn some extra money to fund luxury spending. Most students can manage up to 20 hours alongside their studies, so it’s worth researching what kind of work other students living in your new city do, then spending some time applying for positions when you arrive.
Be sure to check the conditions of your visa before looking for work as some countries do not allow international students to take on work outside their studies. Information can be found on government websites.
6. Learn to cook local dishes
One of the highest costs for any student is food. It goes without saying that you should avoid eating out too much and cook at home whenever possible. But depending on where you study, getting hold of the food you eat at home can be tricky and expensive.
Why not use your time abroad to learn to cook some local dishes? By living off the same essential foods as locals, you’ll save money and get a taste for the country’s cuisine. What’s more, you can get your new friends and classmates involved and host dinner parties together.
7. Pick a city with a low cost of living
If you’re open to studying in a variety of places, you can give your finances a boost from the get-go by choosing to study somewhere where the cost of day-to-day living is low. For example, a Big Mac in New York will cost around $8, while students in New Mexico could enjoy one for just over $4, along with rent prices that are around 80% lower!
Higher education data specialists QS compile an annual list of the most affordable places to study, and you can use the Numbeo website to compare prices in cities around the world, based on data provided by people already living there. If you have your heart set on one particular country, you may find that different cities in that country can have dramatically different rent or travel prices.
8. Open a bank account
Unless you want to find yourself swimming in bank charges, it’s a smart idea to open an account in your new host country and get a credit or debit card to use. Most countries require an initial deposit, your passport and proof of residence to open your first account; while others will require additional documents, such as a second form of ID, and/or a statement about why you require the account.
If it takes you a while to get your account set up, be smart with your ATM usage in the meantime. Withdraw more cash at once to minimise charges, and find out if your current bank has any partner banks in your new host country – you might be able to use these for free. Remember that credit card companies will also charge you to use your card abroad, so stick to cash where you can.
9. Holiday with friends
Taking trips and holidays while studying abroad doesn’t need to cost a fortune. If you have other friends studying abroad, or family in nearby countries, aim to stay with them and have a break without the expense of a hotel.
You can benefit from making lots of new friends in your host country too so you can couch-surf when you travel, or even travel together to save on accommodation costs.
10. Make use of apps
Make the most of your smartphone: there are plenty of apps that can help you save money with minimal effort. Use the XE Currency Converter app to make sure that currency exchanges aren’t ripping you off, and the MoneyWise app to track your spending and help you understand where your money’s going.
Budgeting apps to help manage your money are also plentiful: Goodbudget uses the old-fashioned ‘envelope’ budgeting technique to compartmentalise your spending, while Savings Goal will help you to put money aside for whatever you’ve got your eye on.