Studying abroad will be the best few months of your life, but it will also most certainly be the most expensive unless you start prepping for it now. Once you’re abroad, you’ll probably want to travel every weekend, either within the country you’re studying in or around the continent– or maybe you’ll just want to have fun and explore your new hometown. Either way, that is the beauty of studying abroad; there is so much to see and so much to do. Unfortunately, it costs quite a bit to live the study abroad dream. Begin saving early and be frugal for a few semesters (or years if you can!) before you leave, and you will thank yourself when you have fewer financial worries while studying abroad.
Do you have friends and relatives who would love to see you fulfill your study abroad dream? Through cash-raising websites like GoFundMe, you can explain your cause and raise money online. I was skeptical about this form of fundraising at first; I didn’t think that people would fund someone gallivanting around Europe for a few months. Then I noticed that one of my friends received over $2,000 in donations from family and friends through one of these sites.
Think this may not be taken well by your friends and family? Try structuring your study abroad around giving back! If you’re raising money for a cause other than your own, more people will be able to reach down into their pockets. Ask your professors if they know any volunteer programs that you could get involved with while abroad, or find a local organization that would help you fund your dreams while also helping others out in the process.
Ask for Holiday Cash
When either the holidays or your birthday comes around, you might be hoping for a new iPhone, a pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on for a while, or a gift card to your favorite clothing store. But if you’re saving for your study abroad experience, ask for cash instead– and store it away so you won’t be tempted to use it till you’re off.
Does having a stash of cash burn a hole in your pocket? Ask for your cash gifts in the currency of where you’ll be studying! That way, one more step is taken care of in your study-abroad prep (no currency exchange needed!) and your friends and fam will be excited to give you some cool, colored foreign currency.
Be sure to use a bit of that cash to grab your gifters a little souvenir while abroad. It’ll make them realize how much you appreciated the gift!
In the first half of each year, many working Americans get a tax return check from the government. No matter how much you may receive, try not to spend these checks. Sure, it’s tempting to use that money for your spring break or go crazy at the bar on Thursday night, but just think of how wonderful it’ll be to go skiing in the Alps or rent a boat to cruise around the Mediterranean with that cash instead. Putting aside your tax return money for a couple of years can make a huge difference. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
Become a Workaholic
The simplest way to save money is to have a steady stream of it going into your bank account. Plan on putting aside a percentage of each paycheck you receive in a special study abroad fund and you’ll start to see your savings add up. And during the summer and/or semester before you leave, pick up extra shifts and hours whenever you can– every dollar counts! Walk the dogs in the neighborhood, babysit for families in your neighborhood, and keep an eye on Craig’s List for odd jobs that will pay cash. The long hours will be rough, but they will be worth it when you’re abroad. Again, just remind yourself how great it will feel when you’re not being upset about drink prices at the clubs, think about skydiving in Switzerland, ziplining in the rainforest of Costa Rica, hanging with kangaroos in Australia – and that extra hour at the cash register or behind the desk will fly.
To keep your motivation flowing, post pictures of where you’re planning to go at your workplace to remind you of what you’re working towards. Make goals each week and keep pushing toward them! Once you have that account full of money, you’ll wish you had started working towards this goal sooner.
Another simple way to save money is to STOP spending it on frivolous things. Don’t go out to eat or to the movies, no matter how tempting. It’ll be worth it to have that extra $20 you saved when you’re abroad. Do whatever you have to do to stop spending- put notes in your wallet to remind you of your goal and bag lunches instead of buying! Do you really need that Starbucks every morning? Calculate your daily spending and see how much you can save if you eliminated that $5 every day. Instead of swiping your credit card for your daily latte or the Saturday night cover charge, throw it in your study abroad fund instead. Plus, you won’t find many Starbucks outside of the US anyway – so you might as well start weaning yourself off now!
Photo sources: epSos.de via Flickr, @Doug88888 via Flickr