Studying abroad can be a real life-changing experience for many students. Not only do you plunge into a whole new culture, but you will also need to be competent enough to support and sustain yourself independently. The biggest challenge faced by most students living abroad is planning their budget and cutting back on expenses.
We have compiled a few money-saving tips that students can follow to help make this transition as stress-free as possible.
Plan and budget your finances
It is always best to plan your budget in advance and stick to it because without a budget; you’re likely to go through money much faster or end up overspending on things you don’t need. Budgeting your finances will help you to keep track of where your money is going so that you won’t have to worry about running short on cash.
To ensure that you do not exceed your budget, you can try tabulating your weekly expenditures with the help of a spreadsheet or any free budgeting apps to notify you when you are close to exceeding it during a given period.
Your budget should help you plan for all your expenses, including rent, food, and transportation expenses. It is always best to have some spare cash which you can use for any medical emergencies or unplanned expenses that may come up.
Before you travel, you will need to research and prep for your intended travel date; this includes looking for the cheapest or shortest flight route to your destination, familiarizing yourself with the recent travel guidelines and checking for flight fares. Also, think about which travel agent or airline you will choose.
If you want to travel on a budget, make sure you book well in advance, as early bookings will allow you to save a considerable amount of money. Consider using Wego, for example, to open up your travel possibilities and find the cheapest flights and hotels close to your destination.
Some airlines also offer flash sales, seasonal prices and special student fares. Emirates provides discounted fares for students of up to 10% on Economy Class and Business Class fares. To access this offer, you will need to present your valid student ID or school acceptance letter during check‑in. Similarly, airlines like Flydubai also provide offers and flight deals worth checking out.
Look for affordable accommodation
Finding affordable accommodation is another primary concern for every international or exchange student. You can either stay on campus or rent an apartment off campus with roommates. If you decide to stay on campus, you can find some reasonably priced lodging which is a safe choice if you’re new to the place. You will have to choose between apartments, dormitories, studios and lofts. University housing is also likely to be close to or within the campus and will help you save up on your daily travel expenses.
To rent an apartment off campus, you will need to keep a few things in mind; these include:
- Choosing accommodation with reasonable rent and deciding on how much of your monthly budget you want to devote to rent.
- Ensuring that your apartment is located in a safe neighborhood. Ideally, choose a location close to where you will be attending your university.
- Understand your lease or contract and read all terms before signing it.
- Decide on whether you would like to share your apartment or room with someone else or not and accordingly choose your accommodation.
- Make sure that the apartment is furnished and has basic amenities.
If you plan on inviting your parents over to stay with you for a short while, you may need to look for suitable and affordable accommodations. A quick online search on Wego can reveal cheap hotels or lodgings in the vicinity, but finding trusted, comfortable and cost-effective accommodations that you can use for every visit will help you take the stress out of hunting for a place to stay each time.
Find a scholarship
Contact several institutions and look for country-specific scholarships where you wish to apply to, you can also try for subject-specific scholarships available from the university. Once you find a suitable scholarship, make sure you qualify for it. The chances of bagging the first scholarship you apply for are slim; thus, it’s always best to apply for more than one at a time.
Merit-based scholarships are provided to students who demonstrate outstanding academic performance. Students who have excelled in sports and extracurricular activities also have a higher chance of being awarded a scholarship. Some universities may also provide need-based scholarships to students who are in need of financial assistance.
Consult your bank
Before you travel abroad, call your bank and check your bank balance because there is a chance that your bank account might freeze if any fraudulent activity is suspected, such as an unexpected foreign purchase. Also, make sure you can use your debit or credit card to make ATM withdrawals abroad.
Knowing your withdrawal limit will help you devise a backup plan that involves an alternate mode of making your payments. If you use a debit or credit card, choose one that rewards you with points, cash, or air miles that you can later redeem and use; this will also help you save money.
Cook your own meals
Eating out often could burn a hole in your pocket. To avoid this, you can cook your own meals at home; this is not only the best way to save money, but it will also help you hone your culinary skills. Cooking dishes in large quantities on weekends will help you sort out your dinners for the entire week and also allow you to customize your diet and lead a healthier life.
Loyalty cards and student discounts
The next time you visit the local restaurants or stores, ask about loyalty cards which let you collect points and get discounts. You can even ask other people if they would like you to shop for them and then collect the points for their purchases to avail free groceries.
Cash in on student discounts at shops, campus events, restaurants, entertainment venues, public transportation and other establishments. Always remember to carry your student ID wherever you go.
Take up a part-time job
Some universities across the globe allow students to take up a part-time job and work for up to 20 hours a week if they are on a student visa. Working part-time can help you generate extra income, which you can use for fun cultural activities, weekend excursions, and shopping. If you don’t want to work off-campus, you can try an assistantship program which entails paid on-campus employment to a student in their field of study for which they will be paid a stipend or tuition fee reimbursement.