10 ways to save money while studying abroad

One of the main concerns while studying abroad is how to save money. Analyse your cost of living, courses and visa fees to work out possible savings.

Aspects such as the exchange rate, the cost of living and potential ways to save money are questions that you will be asking often. At the end, this will define the success or failure of your experience. Here we offer you 10 tips that will help you to take care of your pocket while having a great study abroad experience.

1. Keep track of the exchange rate:

The exchange rate is the amount of money you get when you change your currency for the currency of another country. Check the rate before making any changes for large sums of money, especially before your trip and at the beginning of each month. Analyse whether the rate benefits you and think twice if it's worth waiting a couple days and maybe get a bit more of money.

To constantly monitor the exchange rates is easy, use websites like http://www.oanda.com/ in which you can search in seconds the daily exchange rates for all currencies around the world.

2. Enquiry about banking fees:

Before your trip, try to talk at your bank branch and ask about all related costs associated with transactions overseas. Costs can range from minimum fees per transaction, commission rates for the currency conversion and even include fees for using cash points abroad. Before you know it you could be incurring in a high cost for each transaction and if you make several per month you could be paying a large proportion of you monthly budget in bank fees. Our advice is to set a budget including the number of transactions that you think you are going to make per month, include this cost in your monthly budget and try to minimize the number of transactions.

3. Withdraw money just when necessary and use your debit card

Limit the frequency of visits to the cash point and use your debit card for purchases even small ones. When withdrawing the cash needed, try to make a single transaction per month. Keep your money in a safe place and take the necessary safety measures to withdraw cash, accompanied by friends when withdrawing large sums and if you're paying for accommodation, transport or phone bills do it by money transfers or by making all payments the same day to avoid having cash with you all the time, in addition there is the temptation of spending the money on drinks or shopping with your monthly budget when you have cash all the time!

An advantage of using credit cards is that some of them offer different types of rewards, from points to redeem at hotels and airlines, to travel insurance coverage or even freebies such as travel accessories. If you have a credit card ask them before your trip and maybe you will get a pleasant surprise.

4. Plan and budget

The easiest way to save money is to plan ahead and stick to the budget. Knowing the associated bank fees when overseas and the cost of living at your destination, all you need is to keep a simple diary of expenses based on your budget. Remember also keep a small fund for unexpected overheads in case of an accident or an emergency during your trips.

5. Travel with Low Cost Airlines

Once you have started your course or program, an exciting part of your experience is the opportunity to travel to nearby towns and go sightseeing outside the country. An advantage of large cities around the world is the number of daily flights and the wide range of low-cost airlines that offer special deals all the time. However, before travelling we advise you to review in detail other aspects such as excess baggage costs, transportation, fees for additional services for food and fast-boarding, plus do some research about how to get to the airport. Remember: sometimes cheap is expensive.

6. Prefer hostels or stay with friends

Hostels are the best choice when it comes to budget, but be prepared to share with people from different backgrounds and routines, in most of the cases you will have to pay for additional services such as internet, toiletries and still water and share the bathroom with strangers. Be careful with your belongings, use a padlock in your suitcase when you leave the room and do not leave valuable items or cash in the room.

My personal advice is that before organizing your trip; ask relatives and friends if they know someone who can offer accommodation when travelling. Surprisingly, most of the times you will find friendly hands that will offer you free accommodation and those who also know the city and will give you valuable tips to make your trip a pleasant and affordable experience.

7. Always use your student card

Wherever you go, ask for student discount. You will be thankfully surprised of the many establishments that offer student discounts and in some cases freebies like free tours, city guides and maps. In most cases you could get 10-20% discount. Always check the expiry date of your student ID and ask at your university or college if they issue a special student discount card.

8. Choose souvenirs wisely

Every time you travel you will be inclined to buy a souvenir for your relatives, friends or even yourself. You will be tempted to buy all sorts of items: masks in Venice, lucky charms in Ireland, chocolates in Belgium, Beer glasses in Germany etc.  However, bear in mind your budget, you are returning home after your study abroad experience and the cost for excess baggage!

Here are some ideas for souvenirs that don’t take much space and almost cost nothing: collectables such as maps, subway tickets, restaurant menus, postcards, museums maps, cup holders from most frequent bars, beer bottle labels and wine corks are few ideas.

9. Travel in low season

If you want to save money it is best to travel during the week and after half term and holiday periods. Although it may be difficult to organize your trip together with the academic calendar, we suggest you to ask at your school and analyse the possibility of taking vacations with student groups in academic trips.

10. Use public transport or get a bike

The cost of transport is one of the highest in some countries, also note that in some cities the cost of transportation varies widely from one mode to the other, for example in some cities the bus is much cheaper than the underground or metro, leading to the need of planning journey routes and times well in advance to make some savings by travelling in a cheaper but slowest way.

If your journey is not far, go for a walk or get a second hand bike, it will not only save you some money but also it will improve your health and it is good for the environment.