How to Budget for Study Abroad Programs

Studying abroad can be a great experience for students, presenting the opportunity to absorb different cultures. In order to take full advantage of your study abroad program, students need to budget carefully.

How Do You Budget for Study Abroad Programs?

Managing expenses for college isn’t always easy, but creating a budget for your study abroad program doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow this guide to developing a budget while studying overseas:

  • Add up university fees.
  • Understand the total cost.
  • Decide on extras.
  • Calculate your income.
  • Find ways to save.
  • Track your expenses.

Add Up the University Fees

As you start adding up the costs of studying abroad, the first expenses you’ll want to tally up are the tuition and program fees that your university charges. Some universities, such as the University of Chicago, charge the standard undergraduate tuition plus a relatively small study abroad fee, which is around $600. Other universities have separate tuition plans for study abroad students, which may cost much more than continuing to attend your home university.

Don’t forget to include the miscellaneous fees that your university charges, too. From facility fees to the cost of textbooks, you need to anticipate the total cost of attending school in another country.

Research the Cost of Living in Your Host City

Of course, tuition isn’t the only major expense you’ll have to pay while you’re studying abroad. You’ll need to purchase plane tickets to get there and back, and you may need to pay to ship extra clothes, books, electronics, and other belongings.

Next, check with your study abroad program to learn about your living options. You may be able to take advantage of affordable on-campus housing, or you may be able to room with a local family during your semester abroad. Be sure you understand your meal plan options, too. Do you have to pay for a plan, or will you be on your own for meals?

Unless your new town is remarkably small and accessible by foot, you’ll need to know your transit options, too. Find out if a university shuttle is available or calculate how much you’ll have to spend to take the subway or bus to class.

Decide How Much to Spend on Extras

Just like when you’re studying at your home university, you’ll need some extra funds to spend on entertainment and socializing while you’re abroad. Before you start your program, get a sense of the typical costs for dinner out, a night out on the town, and local attractions. If you think you’ll want to explore the area with your new friends, assess the costs of enjoying a weekend away in a neighboring city or country, too.

Calculate How Much Money You’ll Have

Calculating the amount of income you’ll have during your time abroad can be tricky. In most cases, you won’t be earning an income while you’re abroad, since your student visa may not permit you to do so. Though you may have the opportunity to pursue an unpaid internship for credit hours or experience, you’ll probably be spending all of your time outside the classroom getting to know your new city and taking it all in.

Because you can’t count on income during your study abroad program, you’ll need to determine whether scholarships, grants, or other sources of aid cover part or all of your school-related expenses. Many universities offer special scholarships geared toward study abroad students, so you could be eligible for financial aid opportunities you’ve never been able to access before.

To cover additional living expenses, you may need to have a serious discussion with your parents or start saving well in advance of your study abroad program. For instance, if you have a part-time job, consider taking on additional evening or weekend hours, so you can save up for your time abroad.

Find Ways to Save While Studying Abroad

You’ll undoubtedly want to experience as much as you can while you’re overseas, which may mean you’ll stretch your budget further than you should. Fortunately, there are a few ways to save money while still experiencing your new home to the fullest.

As a student, you’ll be eligible for all kinds of discounts around the globe. From reduced fees for public transit to discounts on attraction tickets to deals at restaurants, seek out all the savings you can. Just present your university-issued ID to take advantage of the discounts.

Whether you use a credit card to pay for most of your expenses or an ATM card to withdraw cash, you’ll be relying on plastic. The foreign transaction fees can add up quickly, especially if you withdraw small amounts of money frequently. Before you head overseas, make sure you know your bank’s fee structure or get a credit card or bank account that doesn’t charge additional fees.

Track Your Expenses and Adjust Your Budget as Necessary

Once you land in your new home for the semester, you might be tempted to throw your budget by the wayside and embrace every new experience that comes your way. It’s important to remember that just because you’ve spent hours crunching numbers and developing a workable budget doesn’t mean it will automatically keep your spending in line.

Instead, you should plan to track your expenses carefully, and on a monthly basis, assess whether you’re staying within your budget.

Free Budgeting Tools

The following tools can help you keep track of your expenses

-An Excel/Numbers spreadsheet*




*Students are eligible for free Microsoft Office software

With the right tools in hand, tracking your expenses can be easy. With just a quick glance, you’ll be able to tell whether your spending is on track or you need to cut back to make up for an expensive month.

Revise your budget

After a month or two of tracking your expenses, take a few minutes to revisit your budget and assess how well it’s working. If your spending in certain categories is much more or less than anticipated, don’t hesitate to adjust your budget for accuracy.

With a new city to explore, new cultures to experience, and new friends to make, studying abroad can get expensive quickly. Consider the costs carefully before you head overseas, and do your best to stick to your budget once you arrive. Make sure you get help with paying for college to keep your costs low during your semester abroad and beyond.

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