9 Things to Factor Into a Study Abroad Budget

By Lorena Roberts on November 7, 2017

If you’re planning to study abroad in the coming months, hopefully you’ve taken time to sit down and write out a budget. If you haven’t, you should definitely get started on that. If you have, then you’ll want to look over it a few times to make sure it makes sense.

I remember a lot of unintended costs that I encountered while I was out of the country. My roommate encountered even more. I didn’t factor in things I thought were unnecessary; but those things I thought were unnecessary actually turned out to be pretty essential. Check over your budget to make sure you have these on the list.


1. Toiletries

Believe it or not, I was actually going to try the “no-poo’” method while I was abroad. I was pretty content with washing my hair with baking soda and vinegar while I was out of the country. Plus, I would save money on shampoo!

Yeah, that didn’t end up working out. I made it to about day three before I was dying to have clean hair and for things to be semi-normal. I remember finding the equivalent of CVS and going crazy. I wanted more toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, the whole nine yards. Even the soap I’d brought with me didn’t last very long. I didn’t prepare myself very well. I needed a new razor about halfway through the trip. And, of course, I ran out of foundation.

2. Food

I thought I could eat cheaply — and I did for a while. But then I realized how much I was missing out on. There were so many great foods in great places that I didn’t try simply because I was afraid to spend money. I’d budget in extra money for food. It’s not just buying groceries — it’s the experience of eating in Paris and Switzerland that makes it worth it.

3. Your cell phone

Whether you buy an international plan or not, keep this in check. It can really screw up your finances. If you don’t buy an international plan, try turning off receiving texts. Or, turn off texting all together and use Viber. It’s an awesome app (for free!) that you can use to stay in contact with your family. It calls off of Wi-Fi, so that’s a pretty cool perk as well.

But speaking of the internet …

4. Internet expenses

When I went abroad, I was told that internet would be provided. Yeah, nope. I got there and had an absolute MELTDOWN. I had been awake for over 35 hours and I just wanted to call my mom and tell her I was okay. Except I couldn’t. Because I didn’t buy an international plan. Because I thought I’d have Wi-Fi so I could FaceTime, etc.

Budget in $50-100 for internet costs. I had to buy my own “rooter” and install it in my apartment. Pain in the butt.

5. Laundry

I was going to try and save as much money as possible by just not doing laundry while I was on my short study abroad program. It was only about five weeks. I started out re-wearing a lot of my clothes over and over. But then it got pretty hot. And I was sweating — a lot.

So in the end, I caved and spent $20 at a laundromat to launder all of my clothes. Even the clean ones. Everything stunk. I was disgusting.

6. Pub money

If you’re into the night scene, that’s great for you. But it’s going to cost you extra. Make sure you know how much you can spend weekly (nightly?) when you go out with your mates. I didn’t typically frequent this scene, so I saved a good amount of money. But from what I hear — it’s a good way to spend everything in your wallet without even realizing it.

7. Extras

I remember wanting to go to an amusement park and to a movie. I remember that there were so many options while I was in Europe! There was a symphony in a cathedral that I could have just died to go see. But the 40 Euros seemed like too much to me. So I didn’t go. And I’ll probably always regret it.

8. Shoes

If you’re walking a lot, you’ll probably end up buying more shoes. I guess I don’t really walk much in the U.S. because when I was in Europe, I went through like four pairs. The soles seemed to just fall right off! I made sure I had some extra money in case I ended up buying another pair (which I didn’t). Pack some tennis shoes! Maybe two!

9. Transportation

Take note of whether or not this is included in your study abroad package. I lost my bus pass and had to shell out another 50 Euros for a replacement. If you were caught on a train with no pass, you were thrown off or charged a large fee. Ridiculous.

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a BA in Honors Psychology. She is currently interviewing for PhD School Psychology graduate programs across the country and hopes to research early math curriculum and instruction. Along with writing for Uloop, Lorena is a preschool teacher, K-12 substitute teacher, and math tutor. She enjoys taking her Whippet mix, Gio, to the dog park and drinking hot chocolate in front of Netflix. She's known for her strong opinions, busy schedule, and obsession with cute dogs. If you want to reach her, email her at grober18@vols.utk.edu

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