How to manage your finances when studying abroad


Studying abroad can be a great experience and looks great on your resume. However, it can also be overwhelming financially, as you’ll need to cover tuition fees (international fees are generally quite a bit more expensive than local tuition fees), accommodation, food and general living expenses.

For this reason, if you’re going to study abroad, it’s important to plan for your expenses, and manage your finances well so that your study abroad experience is as smooth as possible. Below are a few tips to help you manage your finances and to make sure that after graduation you are not burdened with a six figure student debt.

Plan a monthly budget

Setting up a daily, weekly, or monthly budget can be a great way to manage finances as a student. Calculate your monthly after-tax income (if you’re working part-time) and divide it according to your expenses. For example, if you are paying your tuition fees yourself, then subtract that fee along with other monthly expenses such as rent and transport costs.

Then you can divide the money that you have left and allocate 70% for any other expenses you have, while saving the remaining 30% or using it to pay off any debts. In addition, always set aside a small portion of your budget for your mental health and use that money to enjoy fun activities with your friends, as everyone deserves to have a break at the end of a stressful week.

Make smart choices

People often don’t realize how small impulse purchases (that daily coffee from Starbucks?) can add up and take up a large portion of their income. This is why it’s important to do a budget and see where you’re spending money. Below are a few ideas that can help you cut down your expenses and save more money:

  1. Prepare preplanned home-cooked meals/lunches rather than eating out every day
  2. Shop in the sales and buy bulk at a discount to last you a few months
  3. Use digital copies of books
  4. Opt for shared accommodation
  5. Take full advantage of student discount cards
  6. Think twice before making any purchase – ask if you really need that product.

Student Pass

Having your student pass with you at all times can be a smart decision as many places/retailers offer discounts to students. You never know where you might get a chance to get a discount by simply showing the pass. Numerous restaurants, cinemas, shopping malls, grocery stores, and transportation services worldwide offer student discounts. So, try to get a hold of your student pass as soon as you start university and save money on daily expenses.

Consider thrifting

Thrifting clothes, furniture, jewellery, home appliances, books, and stationery items can be a cheap and sustainable option for students and can save you a lot of money. Plan a fun day visiting charity shops near where you live with your friends. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can buy unique pieces and high fashion branded items in thrift stores for a fraction of their actual price. Moreover, buying seasonal items such as winter coats at thrift stores can also be a great way of cutting costs.

Look for opportunities to earn extra income

Often, international students are allowed to work part-time while they are studying. Earning extra income is a great way to offset your expenses. Search online for available part-time jobs and be open to do anything, for example dog walking, babysitting, paid online surveys or freelancing, etc. This extra income can help you buy university supplies, household items or pay off your student loan.

Understanding exchange rates

If you plan to study abroad, it’s good to keep an eye on the exchange rates between your currency and the currency of the country you’ll be studying in. This will make it easier for you to put together a budget. Research how much money you can withdraw per day from an ATM in your destination country. PRO TIP: Downloading a currency converter on your smartphone can be very helpful.

Open a student bank account

Opening a student bank account should be one of the first things you do when you arrive in your study destination.  Having a local account will make paying fees and bills much easier and cut down on transaction charges on international credit/debit cards. By opening a student bank account, you may also enjoy other benefits, such interest-free overdraft options.

Have a savings goal

Having a savings goal can help you stay focused on saving money for emergency expenses or for paying off your student debt. This will make it easier for you to resist the urge to impulse buy.

Study hard and apply for scholarships

Various universities and colleges offer scholarships for international students who perform well academically. So, even if you did not get into university on a scholarship, that doesn’t mean that you may not be eligible for one later on. Keep on studying hard and prioritize your studies because even if you are awarded a small amount of scholarship that can make an immense difference to you financially.


Managing your finances while studying abroad can be confusing and stressful. However, following the tips mentioned above can help you manage your money better, and make studying abroad more rewarding and less stressful. Managing money is a great life skill, and these tips will help you in the future with other financial goals.

Contributed by:
Ellie Lott
Ellie is passionate about millennial financial planning and uses her website to help educate her generation on making smart decisions with their money.

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