By Eli Lederman
So you’re studying abroad? Awesome.
You’ve been accepted into your program. You’ve completed all the painstaking paperwork and endured the process of getting a visa or any other documentation process. You even performed all the financial gymnastics necessary and now, finally, you’ve arrived in Europe or South America or another far away land you’ve chosen to expand your horizons and experience the world.
Unfortunately, the stress – particularly the financial stress – doesn’t end when the wheels of the plane touch down. If anything, it only intensifies.
No matter what it is you’re going to prioritize as you make the most of your experience abroad – whether it’s travel, concerts, theatre, sporting events, etc. – money is always part of the decision. To help you maximize your time abroad, here are some financial tips to live by while you’re abroad, because saving small here and there will go a long way in the end.
Bring lunch, cook dinners
As enticing as it might be to eat out and explore the culinary wonders of your new home, and you should absolutely do that too, making your own food can make a real difference on your wallet. Whether you’re going to class every day or heading to the office for your internship, pack a simple lunch with things you can get at your local grocery store. For dinner, find simple recipes and make a habit of cooking at least 4-5 nights a week. Roommates? Even better. Plan out meals to cook together where you each contribute an item or two to have a quality meal on the cheap.
You might get sick of PB&J’s and the same four dinner recipes you’re too lazy to break away from, but when you’re booking your next trip or looking into tickets to an event, you’ll be glad to have that extra money you didn’t spend.
Hunt for deals
Whether it’s a markdown on your favorite produce, students pricing for tickets or attractions or discounted flights, keep a keen eye out for deals that will help you save. You can save money or see a show or city you wouldn’t have ordinarily just by looking in the right place at the right time. Join newsletters and email list from services that will let you know about new deals or upcoming offers, and always keep your ear to the ground. Many students swear by Student Universe for travel, and it’s free to sign up.
Good deals and discounts are out there, you just need to look for them.
Take advantage of free museums and attractions
Foreign countries and the tourist attractions they have to offer can be pricey. But if you do your research beforehand, you can find free places and experiences to check out that can provide you with just as exciting a time. Whether it’s parks, monuments, public spaces or free museums, these places are out there and they’re cost-effective alternative for when those €18 art tickets to the art museum (that’s $20 USD!) just aren’t worth it. Some countries, like Italy, offer free museum days once a month. Careful planning can time your visit to those free days.
Be smart about timing
Sometimes the best way to save money isn’t to spend hours bargain hunting or to cheap out with an unreasonably early flight on a not-so reliable airline, but just by having good timing. What do I mean? You can save a lot of money not just by choosing how you’ll travel, but when as well. Want to see Amsterdam? Don’t go on the weekend of the Tulip Festival. Dublin? Go the week after March 17. In the same sense that flights to Berlin, will spike up for Oktoberfest, they’ll drop a week later. Google Flights offers a price chart so you can see if shifting your trip, even by a day or so, will save you money.
Be mindful of not just where you want to go and how you’ll get there, but also when you’ll take trip too and you just might wind up with some extra change in your pocket.
Find unique ways to travel
While flying, particularly in Europe, can be surprisingly inexpensive (and at other times very pricey), search for other ways to get from city to city or country to country. Look into overnight trains or early morning bus rides. If you’re really feeling adventurous, book an overnight seat on a freight ferry and travel to a new city with a bottle of wine alongside 18-wheelers and a group of strangers – I’ve done it and lived to tell the tale!
Also, check one-way fares. It might be cheaper to take the train out, and fly back..
There’s no way of getting around the inevitable financial burdens that come with the abroad experience, but if you work at it a bit and live by some simple rules, you can make your money and your experience go a heck of a lot further.
Eli Lederman is a junior studying journalism at the University of Missouri.