Top 5 Money Management tips while studying abroad
Managing finances is one of the hardest things while you are studying abroad. You are in a new financial system, with new currency and different pricing methods.
If you think that living and studying abroad is a step closer to being an adult, then you should perceive money management as your initiation process in that direction.
It involves self-awareness, persistence and a great deal of personal restraint.
So, here we will give you top 5 tips on how to improve your money management when studying abroad and avoid distressful situations such as borrowing money or sitting at home with no plans for weekend due to lack of money!
Make a budget
This is probably the most important thing. You should know how much money you have over what period of time. Include everything that you could think of as this will reduce the chances of unexpected spending.
First, you will need to get used to the local currency and the exchange rates. Try not to compare your domestic prices with the prices abroad. Rather, try understanding the general standard in the town you are residing and convert the currency in your head. If it’s easier for you, you could make a list where you indicate the equivalence between the 2 currencies (for example 10 USD =?; 10 euro = ? )
This is necessary as in the beginning spending money won’t feel like “real” money in your head. This is especially true when the inflation is big and you have to deal with bills of hundreds and even thousands. For instance, $10 is equivalent to 620 Russian Ruble. Spending such an amount doesn’t feel like spending $10, so it’s easy to get carried away because you are not used to the actual value of the money yet.
Once you get used to this you can proceed with the budget.
Prioritize your expenses and keep a difference between what you need and what you want – First, you should pay your rent and utilities. This way,no matter what happens, you know you’ll have a roof over your head.
Other expenses may include food and meals, health insurance, books, transportation, clothes, personal expenses, recreation and travel.
Knowing what you need will help you anticipate how much money will be necessary for the following month. This way you’ll even be able to save some amount for the next month.
By knowing what you want, you will be able to include money for leisure and fun, without compromising the rest of the budget.
First, check if your bank has a local branch or a partner and what are the conditions they work with each other. If your financial institution doesn’t have one, you’ll need to deal with ATMs, which often belong to a private company or another financial institution. In this case, along with a withdrawal fee, the ATM will also charge you a percentage of the sum that you have withdrawn.
In order to avoid that, you should open a local bank account and have your money transferred directly to it.
You should also use online banking. It will help you follow the money transactions and your balance. You will also be able to transfer money without any additional fees.
If you have a debit card, try using it as little as possible. This is because you are not dealing with real bills and it’s harder to keep track of your spending.
If you have a credit card you should research on any additional fees that might be charged by your credit card company. It’s also wise to warn them about your travels. Otherwise, purchases made from a foreign country may trigger the warning system for frauds and the card may get frozen.
It’s possible for merchants to charge you an extra percentage for using a credit card. Be sure to ask about these fees.
In addition, if some merchants offer to charge you in your home currency, it is usually the best to decline, since they use higher conversion rate, and it doesn’t necessarily negate the foreign currency fees of your credit card.
Spend like a local
Being an expat has its advantages but one of biggest downsides is getting ripped off by local merchants. Different regions have different buy-sell culture so it’s important to get familiar with these traditions for effective money management.
For instance, if you are studying in the Middle East there’ll be a great deal of negotiating and bargaining. This is due to the fact that merchants put prices on their items, which are not static. It’s up to the customer to determine the value of the goods and consider if the price is reasonable or not.
So, acquaint yourself with a local person and ask him/her about preferred local shops and services located outside of big malls and shopping centers. Check for any open markets for fruits and vegetables.
In Europe supermarkets like Lidl, Carrefour and Kaufland often have great deals and they offer their goods at reduced prices. Thrift shops are another great way to find clothes and interesting items that may be useful.
You could save on travel costs by checking for transportation options in your university.
Get a prepaid voucher SIM card for your phone because in most cases you don’t need a fancy contract offering internet, free minutes,etc. If you sign a contract for a mobile phone plan, it will charge you a monthly fee and will include features that are not necessarily important to you. It will also be harder to keep track of how much you talk.
It is wise to spend as less as possible in the first months of your stay, so you could see with how much money you could get by. It’s also a good idea to apply some self-observation in order to gain perspective on your spending habits.
Managing social activities
The scourge of your life abroad will be managing your social interactions and miscellaneous adventures (from financial point of course).
Most of the situations are totally unpredictable and you will need to deal with a lot of new information, unexpected adventures and random interactions with friends. Due to this it’s very hard to keep track of your spending. It’s even harder to try and anticipate how much money you will need in the first place.
In the beginning try to reduce going to restaurants, expensive bars and cafes as much as possible. Instead of eating out, you could cook for yourself and then save a portion of the money, which you will otherwise spend in the restaurant. That way, you will have some to spend when you get invited by colleagues.
If you feel like socializing but you don’t have money to do it – invite people over or go to their place. You could establish a total budget for groceries for the evening, where each of you will contribute a small sum. Then go to a local supermarket.
You will be surprised how many things you could prepare with minimum investment.
Organize an additional income
If you are good with basic Economics you could convert your savings into investments or put them into a bank account and gain interest. You could also get a part-time job. It shouldn’t be something fancy or ambitious since your main concern is your studies.
Universities often have established programs for international students where you could get a part time job within the university’s body (library, campus, administrative task etc.) It won’t pay much but the best thing is that it is coordinated with your studies.
Another option is to take a freelance project. There are a lot of great sites, such as upwork.com, offering numerous possibilities in various categories – Web & Software development, IT & Networking, Writing & Translating, Sales & Marketing, Legal, Accounting, etc.
Usually, after the second year of university, you will also be able to enroll in paid internships and trainee-ships.
As a conclusion, make the most of your student status as this is your primary attribute and can help you with money management. Ask everywhere if there are any special discounts for students, starting with your university. University will be able to find basic information about pretty much everything.
Proper budgeting is essential when you go abroad; however, try not to get too much involved with the financial aspect. It can regulate your funds but it may also decrease the value of your stay, so plan and spend wisely.
Money management definitely helps you cut down on unnecessary expenses and everyone should try to implement the above tips during their student life abroad. Also, you should not miss the other opportunities of financial assistance like scholarships as these will greatly reduce your financial burden. Use our resources at WeMakeScholars.com and make sure you don’t miss any scholarship opportunity!