Money Saving Tips

How to Save Money While Studying Abroad

How to Save Money While Studying Abroad
Written by Irina Vasilescu

Are you a student who’s considering studying abroad? If you really want to but you are hesitating because of the costs involved, remember that a little planning goes a long way. Despite the anxiety that you will experience at first because you simply don’t know what to expect, studying abroad can be very rewarding. Not only will you get to fulfil every traveller’s dream of exploring a different part of the world, but you can also gain valuable insight and knowledge along the way.

Understanding the Cost of Studying Abroad

Let’s say that you have already set your mind to studying abroad. You already have a school and a course in mind. You also did your research about what the local culture is like, and what to expect while studying in the country that you have chosen. The next thing to think about is the costs involved.

Similar to any other endeavour taken on by individuals out of their own country, you would have to shoulder your own expenses while studying abroad. The only exception is if you will study under a grant or a scholarship. Even then, not all your expenses will be shouldered by your sponsor – a percentage of your living needs will still come from your own pocket.

So what are the costs related to studying abroad that you need to prepare for? Take a look at the following list:

Course-related expenses

Since you will be studying abroad, the majority of your expenses will go towards your tuition and other course-related expenses. No matter which field of study it is that you wish to master, most of your budget will be allotted to tuition.

To make sure that this will not take a huge chunk out of your student money, why not apply for scholarships for college students, grants or a similar program? These may not solve all your money woes, but if your tuition will be free, that’s already a huge load off your shoulders.


Naturally, you need to have temporary quarters while studying abroad. During the application process, check if the school where you will be enrolling offers dorm rooms or student quarters. These are usually offered at a lower rate than the commercial accommodations available in the local area.

If you cannot find a spot at the dormitory, ask other students who have been in the country where you are planning to study so that you can see what your options are.


As a student, it pays to familiarize yourself with the public transportation options available in your area so that you won’t have to spend money on car maintenance.

Food and clothing

If you must eat out, know where the locals hang out because these are where the food is cheap and delicious. When studying abroad, it does pay to pack the lightest, most casual clothes that you can bring which are weather-appropriate. Whatever else you lack, you can always hunt for at the local thrift shops.

Entertainment and other expenses

You should also learn where the local watering holes are and know when happy hour is held so that you can save on drinks. Don’t forget to use student discounts when frequenting entertainment establishments, and always be on the lookout for free events like outdoor concerts, music festivals, free shows for students, park events, etc.

Top 10 Ways to Save Money While Studying Abroad

Now that you already have an idea about which aspects of being a student you need to allot funds for, what about the ways for you to save money? When studying abroad, you would not have an unlimited pool of funds coming from your parents. In fact, your parents might put a stricter limit on you when it comes to your expenses because of the already significant tuition fee that they’re paying for your foreign education.

On your end, there are actually many things that you can do in order to save money while studying abroad, including the following:

1. Know what your local banking options are

Managing your money is the number one skill that you need to master as student abroad. The biggest challenge is the international exchange rates that you have to deal with.

Let’s say that you have an ATM account and you plan to withdraw your money from there. If you will use your US-issued ATM card to withdraw money abroad, the money is subject to local exchange rates and taxes. Not only that, but there are also international transaction fees that you have to pay. You don’t want to spend all your money dealing with all these fees, so it pays to know what your local banking options are.

Visit your US bank prior to travelling and ask them if they are working in partnership with a local bank at the country you’re visiting. There are also banks which offer clients the option to withdraw money from international ATMs at a flat rate, through programs like the Global ATM Alliance.

2. Always be updated about the on-going exchange rates

Again, being a foreign student will acclimatize you with the international exchange rates. Depending on where you’re studying, your US dollar can either be stretched out or maxed out easily. The exchange rates at airports and hotels are usually lower so that they can make a profit out of you, so make sure that you already have some local currency before travelling.

3. Take full advantage of the local public transportation options

It will be very costly for a student to maintain a car so taking local public transport is your best option for getting from point A to point B. If the city has a subway, familiarize yourself with its routes. You can also rent a bike, ride the bus or check out the other local transportation options.

4. Always use your student discounts

When riding a public bus, always flash your student ID so that you can take advantage of proper discounts. The same thing holds true when you’re going to the movie theatre, a club where you can get some drinks, diners, restaurants, and other business establishments.

5. Split costs with friends

Again, students need to be a lot budget-conscious so it pays to have friends who you can split costs with. If you’re looking for entertainment options, always go with friends so that you can divide the costs between the number of individuals present. The same thing holds true for similar expenses which can be split between a group.

6. Go online instead of using your mobile phone for speaking with people back home

Use Skype, Google hangouts or similar sites to get in touch with family and friends back home. No matter which major city it is that you are studying in, there’s bound to be easy access to Wi-Fi hotspots. Use online chat and calling systems instead of your mobile phone to get in touch with people back home, so that you would not have to pay astronomical phone bills.

7. Get a part-time job

What better way is there to save money than to look for ways to earn additional money? While you’re still a student, you can learn the skill of time management which comes very handy once you are already working. Apply for a part-time job at a local restaurant, gas station or any other establishment where you can earn money while studying. Make good use of your time to meet the locals as well.

8. Be creative in collecting souvenirs from your travels

As a student abroad, you will be invited to numerous adventures – and you’d want to have plenty of souvenirs to remember these trips by!

Instead of buying pricey, chunky souvenir items which will be merely gathering dust in a display cabinet once you get home, look for other items which can serve as a keepsake. It can be the lowest-denomination coin or billfold in the area. Small ref magnets, postcards, pieces of pebbles or even a snapshot of the airport can serve as creative souvenirs of your travelling adventures.

9. Make full use of budgeting and saving apps

You are working with a very limited budget as a student so you need all the help you can get. On your tablet computer, download apps which help you manage your money or gain access to online coupons or discount vouchers. By using these applications, the money-management side of your time studying abroad will be much easier.

10. Know where to find good bargains

Finally, ask fellow students about where you can get good bargains – for just about anything. Whether you’re looking for a cheap pair of pants for school or if you want to try out the local restaurants, the insider tips from the locals are very valuable because they are tried-and-tested.

Studying abroad is a very exhilarating adventure. By following these tips, you can save money while studying abroad, be able to live quite comfortably while enjoying your journey as a student in a foreign land.

About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our money-saving and DIY expert and also the editor-in-chief as she's always on the lookout for the latest online deals.


  • Being creative in souvenirs is not only helpful for your budget, but it usually creates a more personal souvenir anyway. A friend of mine knew I like local craft beers, so he brought me home a six pack of something local from where he went. It cost maybe ten dollars, and was much more appreciated and personal than a knick-knack.

  • Housing is probably one of my main problems when I was still studying. I didn’t study abroad but I did went out to another city so that’s basically the same as going to another country. Having roommates is the best way you can save up with the rent but you got to watch out for the food supply you’re stashing.

    Also if you’re used to getting the luxury of living in your home handed to you prepare to just leave it at home because if you’re short on cash you might end up doing things that you’d normally not do like go to thrift shops and just be an overall cheapskate.

  • Oh and another one I might want to add is that if you have a friend or roommate that owns a car or a some sort of vehicle that can take more than one person it’s best to make good friends with that guy/gal because having a free ride is going to save you from being buried from transportation expenses and possibly traffic. But that’s only if your school is miles away from your house. And if you think you walk the distance, just go for it.

  • I picked my college in part based on study abroad options, because I knew that was an experience I wanted to have. My school actually gave out of state students the in state tuition price while they were studying abroad, which helped a whole lot. The program I chose traveled a lot, so for several weeks we were changing hotels every 1-3 days. They arranged all of the hotel and travel for us (aside from flights to and from Europe), so those costs were out of our control. Even so, my tuition plus program fees (including hotel) was about the same as it would have cost me to stay on campus and take a full course load over the summer. I didn’t really factor in the higher cost of food while I was gone, because I’m not used to eating out for every meal and many of our hotel rooms didn’t have a fridge to store drinks or yogurt or leftovers. I would definitely count on food being more expensive than at home, especially if you aren’t staying in one place the whole time.

    I really agree on the splitting costs with friends point. There was a group of four people on my trip who would rotate who used their credit card at restaurants. Not only did that person get the reward points, but it helped a lot with ATM fees. Cash would circulate around the group as the reimbursed whoever paid for that meal rather than going to the business owner, so they didn’t have to go to the ATM nearly as often as the rest of us.

  • I have gone through your article and it’s just an amazing article . I am studing in Canada and it will help me a lot in many ways.

    Thanks Irina Vasilescu for posting such a wonderful article.Keep posting.

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